Whilst training for endurance mountain bike events it can be quite easy to get bored with the same old routine. Throwing in some interesting outings now and again helps to get motivation up for me. So when two events that I had fancied doing for a while appeared on the same day on the calendar I thought I might as well give them both a bash. With the Heaven of the South (HOTS) 75k xc event starting in the morning 30 minutes north of Bristol and the Day/Night Enduro 2 hours drive away at Queen Elizabeth Country park starting early evening it was definitely doable.
Part 1. The HOTS event was first up. A slightly delayed start time to undoubtedly accommodate those with massive cider hangovers meant I definitely had to get a wriggle on to get round in time to make the Enduro later in the day. An excellently vague ‘rider briefing’ ended with”alright then off we go, now piss off” or something along those lines and so off we went. Although just a big day out in the hills there are always a few of the lycra no backpack brigade out there to give it some beans. Those few including myself found the front pretty quick and headed off in to the hills. The route was a mix of grassy field margins, ace wooded narrow singletrack and some short sharp rocky descents and climbs thrown in. There seemed to be quite a few lengthy tarmac climbs and despite deluges in the week before the trails were mostly dry bar some occasional sloppy traverses. The views were amazing and with the weather booming it was a cracking day to be out on the bike. There was a veritable army of gate openers and marshalls on the first part of the course gleefully encouraging you onwards. A couple of the first marshalls weren’t quite prepared for the pretty fast pace we were tapping out (13mph average) early on expecting a more lethargic cider slowed bunch.
I road with a fast looking chap for the first part before I pulled away from him on a couple of the more technical descents and played the keep the guy behind out of site game putting in a bit more effort to get round the corners and out of sight. There was 50k option and the 75k route joined back with this one at several points causing a bit of a jam in places. Some removed signage at one point meant a diversion off in to the woods and I had to follow some of the 50k riders back on ourselves to try and find where we went wrong. I assumed the guy behind would have gone past during this faff.
Getting back in to things again after frustratingly stood still for a while we plunged down a super fast singletrack descent through the woods with a fun launch jump half way down. Shortly after this I went from master of the trail to epic trail rider fail as my chain jammed at 20mph sending my superman style over the bars. By some miracle I only had a sore hand and a few sore ribs but it should have been a breaker. Fortunately the only thing that did snap was my chain so I popped in a quick link, straightened the bars and headed off again in a bit of a daze. Shortly after another chap appeared behind looking like he was cracking on so we road, and got lost together for a while ending up in some grassy cow fields in god knows where off the route. We eventually got back on track and for the last 10 miles I was like Poirot investigating the signs on every junction in detail before heading off. By this time I had thoroughly run out of water and the last feed station was stocked with cider only, after a bit of confusion of asking why I wanted cider in my water bottle I stoked up and headed off again. By now I had left the other guy behind and despite a few cider burps I rolled in first man back apparently. I assume everyone else had similar issues and had probably gotten even more lost! I didn’t finish my water bottle of cider as I was going to be driving off straight after and the dehydration probably wouldn’t have a good impact drink driving limit! A quick ice-cream, stretch and pizza leftovers I headed off for the night enduro.
Part 2. I had been to QE park a few times in the run up to the South Downs Double ride this winter but only on the South Downs Way. I’m kicking myself now for not exploring a bit more as the trails packed in to a relatively small area are great fun. I just about made it in time to catch the end of the rider briefing then quickly went back to the car to get changed and straight out. I had entered Masters Category as this seemed about right given I only dabble in enduro’s a couple of times a year. My start time was fairly early on in the evening so I buddied up with Francie Arthur to spin round at a fairly brisk pace to at least give me time to reload in between practice and the main event.
There were 4 stages, all of which started from the same point at the top of the hill which worked well. The top was like a mini event area itself with hip hop tunes banging out and Exposure Lights shelters with riders firing off in different directions. I would give a full run down of each of the stages but the main things I remember are a gradual increase in amount of pedalling from 1-4 with stage one being pretty techie off camber and stage 4 including some pretty hard going flat sections. Each were lots of fun and the woods looked amazing in the dying sunlight. I was lucky in only needing to switch on lights for stages 3/4 as the weather was so clear. Nevertheless the Maxx D and Diablo combination on full bore lit up the widely taped lines brilliantly. I had a pretty solid race considering my legs were a bit achey and a sore finger and ribs from earlier exploits didn’t hinder too much once the adrenaline kicked in. The transition climbs were pretty steep though and to keep cramp at bay I kept having to dismount and push, oh the shame! I was held up by catching two riders on stage 1 which was a bit annoying, the first chap was well off the trail as I passed him but chap number 2 wouldn’t budge despite some polite enquires which then turned in to more angry words as he was all over the shop po-going along before I literally had to punt past him as he ground to a halt in a loamy berm. Not quite sure what was in his head to not let someone come by and put pressure on himself by having someone up his arse. I caught another rider on stage 3 and lost a bit more time but nothing major. I ended up a respectable 26th out of 150 riders, not bad!
No crashes and an earlier than expected finish meant I could jump back in the car and nail it home to a warm bed after a long day.
The caffeine gel I sank before the final stage kept the eyes wide enough to make the 2 hour drive back to Bristol fly by.
All in two pretty decent rides. The next day I followed up with some good old fashioned strength work barrowing and hauling rock around the local trails with the Bristol Trails Group. A leisurely ride there and back finish off the endurance training meant it was a pretty packed weekend of sucking in the fresh air!