Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Endurance racing shouldn't be this much fun
This photo taken by Lisa, all others by Joolze Dymond
A full showing of the Southern VCM were out to fly the flag for this year's Gorrick Enduro (Phil, Gareth, Lisa and me). The event is a great way to get a long race under the belt relatively early in the year, but unusually, also gives entrants plenty of options to ride shorter distances too. While the course changes subtly each year, the format remains much the same; a 10 mile course around Swinley Forest on the southern edge of Bracknell in Berkshire featuring a fun mix of singletrack, short, sharp ups (and downs), some fireroad to get your breath back and the type of riding that you'll be coming to ride just for fun all year round. Choices run to opting for 2, 3, 4, 5 or 7 laps.
The weather had been kind leading up to the event, leaving the trails dry and dusty and the day was looking like that perfect mix of being warm, but not hot, with some broken cloud, but enough sun to give the thick, pine forest a gorgeous dappling just when you needed distracting from an achy back or crampy quad.
Now, some more specifics on those trails; as mentioned, this is an ace place to ride and the Gorrick organisers always manage to put together a seriously fun course whether for this event or the shorter XC events that they run. Chatting afterwards about what our favourite parts of the course were found that we didn't all agree; mine was a section of Thetford-ish rollers that lead into a fast-as-you-dare descent while others preferred another descent with linked berms and table-tops. The myriad of exposed roots gave plenty of small drops and a choice of line and some well-crafted trail armouring in the shape of the so-called 'ginger-trails' (due to the content of orangey sand) gave miles of distracting singletrack. Also worthy of mention is The Tank Run; a narrow gulley with a swooping trail curving from one side to the other for a few hundred yards in the manner of a toboggan run.
Chat and banter on the start line left those VCMers who were 7 lapping accidentally at the front along with eventual winner Ian Leitch (who has recently been beating the likes of Tinker Juarez in the US at enduro events) and friend of VCM, Steve Webb of Singular, who has been smoking the Masters category in the Gorrick Spring series.
In a field of 82 riders, and a day when nearly 600 riders would hit the trails it was odd to find yourself with just one or two other riders or entirely alone for long stretches - the benefit of a fairly long lap, I guess. I can only speak for myself, but I felt that I couldn't have pushed much harder; stops were kept to little more than a bottle change and snatched gel and distracted glances through those afore-mentioned sun-dappled woods kept the spirits up when legs started going a little wibbly. The advantage of doing all those laps is that you get to know the course and it all starts to flow better as tiredness begins to seep into the limbs. Not that this helped Gareth who wandered off-course mid-race and lost a chunk of time before finding his way back! It didn't stop him from finishing in a strong 4th place though, right behind Phil in 3rd. I was happy with 14th and Lisa pulled in a magnificent 3rd in the 3 lap race. Other friends filled podium spots across the categories; all-in-all a fun and successful day!
It was especially nice to put the bike away with it's coating of dust and globs of gel on the toptube from hastily mis-aimed refuelings. More please!