QECP Day & Night Enduro 17th May 2014 Race report
QECP Day & Night Enduro 17th May 2014 Race report
“You need to drop in wide and then you’ll make it…”
Looking over the lip of the drop, I wasn’t sure about this piece of advice at all. A reasonably sized drop down a steep bank into a fresh-cut loam trail, with a sharp left hand turn presented itself before me. There was a tempting option of trying to straighten the run next to the (un)helpfully placed tree on the inside of the turn, but trees mean roots, and already there were signs that these were slick enough to pitch a front or rear wheel straight down the fall line of the bank…
A moment’s check and a little word with myself, I was rolling in, keeping wide… land the drop, sliding into the turn with the back end attempting to overtake the front and away! Turn made, just all the other ones to negotiate now…!
This was my first practice run of the first stage at QECP Trail Collectives’ night of far more significant firsts: The first competitive bike event to be held in Queen Elizabeth Country Park, a real boost to the trail building efforts the Trail Collective have made in the past few years to restore the areas as a premier southern riding venue; The first day/night enduro to be held in England… (No biggie then…) and the first bike event where the stopwatch on your final stage would only be stopped when skidding to a halt and a free beer was safely thrust in your hand… at least that’s how I understood it..?
Built on the back of Hargreaves’ cycles Cyclefest weekend, the grassroots support from QECP riders meant this was always going to be a special event. Gifted riders and a fair amount of local knowledge would ensure that the racing promised to be tight, technically minded and competitive. Which it most definitely was.
The event was blessed with a golden-lit evening for practice, with the warmth and trail conditions more expected for enduro in Provence than Petersfield and this was clear from the good natured banter on course. The shared start area for stages 1-3 meant for a plenty of opportunity for riders to chew the fat, compare course notes and the variety of chosen bikes- Hardcore hardtails next to burly 6” full-sussers, next to carbon 29ers… Plenty of fuel for kit evaluation alongside the questions of the course; that drop on Stage 1- the rock garden on Stage 2, that horrible fireroad climb on stage 3…
As the race proper got under way, the light dropped, lights came on and minds became more focussed. Stage 1 started with a steep bank of clear cut loam, weaving down the hillside into fast, sweeping singletrack, and ‘that’ drop in. Safely negotiated, the sting in the tail was the rolling sprint to the stopwatch which meant even the fittest legs were tested into the finish.
Stage 2 traversed the hillside in another line of unsurfaced, loamy dirt, but at this point the challenge of the night race after the day practice became evident. The cool of the evening had brought condensation to ground level, resulting in slick roots and damp earth. Compounded with the darkness, the challenge of the run was on. Again, the course design proved nothing if not engaging- the infamous rock garden, helpfully (!?) signposted by someone’s leftover Xmas lights, was transformed into a dark chute, where only those willing to thread their way through the centre of the rocks would find the fastest route to the finish.
After two demanding runs and transitions, Stage 3 set the challenge of an initial section of twisty woodland singletrack, demanding finesse in, and power out of numerous tight turns. The drop into a short fireroad sprint seemed sadistic, but the sweetest section of descending, narrow singletrack descent was to follow, with only the rider’s caution into the turns holding them back.
In practice, Stage 4 had seemed straightforward- the last descent of the red trail in the park. In the dark, with tired legs and heads, this was another matter. A flat-out pedal was followed by a series of staccato, high speed lines over roots and chalk into the twist of the bermed finish, rebuilt for the night.
Any rider unsure of how close the finish was by this point in no doubt, ringed by heckling, cheering support. Rider’s efforts were met by the noisy swell of an appreciative crowd to add a little more power to their legs. Once out of the berms, a sprint into a flat, wet grassy turn was the final challenge- the last effort into the light of the finish, riders locked brakes, some in relief and some in a moment of crowd-pleasing bravado, taking hold of those well deserved beers and joining the crowd themselves…
Quietly savouring a cold one afterwards, I reflected on my own race; I’d turned up solo, having only raced a handful of similar events and only a ridden a couple of times in this part of the country, but I’d had a great race (placing 17th in Sport, I discovered later) and I’d met a great group of riders around me. Despite no lack of hype and hyperbole around the idea of enduro, it seems to me that this is ‘mates racing’ at heart. The varied course and atmosphere built by the QECP Trail Collective are a great reflection of this and an indicator that enduro is well and truly here to stay in this particular corner of England.
1st Oliver CARTER Cube UK / Ride.io
2nd Rob FRANCIS 3 musketeers
3rd Benjamin MARKS Cycleworks
1st Mark BAKER Team mog
2nd Neal RUSSELL Team mog
3rd Andrew GARDINER Gravity Project / Labyrinth Bikes
1st Anthony PRIOR DWR
2nd Gareth MARRIOTT
3rd Rick LEWENDON Avec Fromage
1st Ruairi PHELAN Kreek Racing Team
2nd Tom DAVIES Crank Cycles
3rd James HENDERSON Kreek Racing Team
1st Joanne LEWENDON Avec Fromage
2nd Rebecca BOOTH fatcreations / Geared Bikes
3rd Tania BARROW South Downs MTB Skills
Pics: Big Mac Photography
Words: John Woodings (Sport, No.123) Winner of a £250 paint job from fatcreations.com