The long race was to the north of the previous 2 days, characterised by very steep sided valleys and spurs and a complete mix of track ride-ability from flat out to a shoulder carry. After my middle epic of over 90 minutes I was prepared for a long one out in the hot sun – with my camel back full and even a couple of bars tucked away just in case.
We started down hill, the full sus bike was a great platform for map reading at speed but even then I could only take snatching glances, the track was really sketchy. I cut through the trees to #1 and rode well to #2 but missed the tiny turn off and had to cut through the woods after turning round. At #3 I was lucky that a stray dog took off after another rider, rather than me and at #5 I missed a single track and ended up running down a slope, digging my heels in. It was so steep if I had simply dropped the bike it would have ended up at the bottom. The climb up to #6 was awful, the map says 60 meters straight up but it felt like soo much more with the sun on my neck!
The big route choice legs that are the hallmark of the long course then began as we worked our way around the valleys before dropping down at high speed for a couple of kilometres losing 8 index contours (200 metres). Trouble was I knew from looking ahead I’d be coming back up it later!
After a couple of controls in grassland, in the valley, the climb back up was brutal. I was careful to keep well over to the right in case someone was rattling down but ended up off the bike a walking a couple of times and Peter Simmonds who started 6 mins after me came storming past as we crested the hill. We turned for home and the decent back to the finish. I opened up the suspension lockouts and managed to just catch Pete on the finish line but he had beaten me by 6 mins and I was down in 5th.
Surprisingly it was not too long in the end ( more of a middle long) and I was only out for 99 mins but the winner took 25 minutes out of me!
A hot afternoon brought us back to the same start as the middle earlier in the day. We watched as most starters turned right up the 60 metre climb and wondered how ‘sprinty’ the event was going to be. Apparently the organisers bounced in and out of permissions to use the touristy parks which would have been amazing but in the end we ended up back in the same forest as the middle race.
The route to number one had me off the bike, pushing and then the bike up and on my shoulder as I negotiated a really steep rocky gully. I was drenched in sweat at the top! The course was fairly straightforward with a lot of climb but there were some good route choice options including #5 to #6 where I took the ridgeline, a fantastic singletrack, whilst fellow Brit Pete Simmonds took the southern route. The decent into 7 was sketchy and fun before the road crossing onto the last couple of controls before the finish. I had to pause at the junction to double check the route out and then made a little error forcing me to cut through the trees for 50 meters to #13. I think with so much doubling back in the last few controls, if there were more competitors, it could have been dangerous but it was fine.
I finished well, enjoying the SI Air contactless punching which saved significant time on some of the legs but was 17 seconds down on Pete who won.
The numbers were low but the M40 and M45 age classes were combined and we were surprised at the prize giving that we qualified for the Polish Masters Sprint Championships – Brits taking Gold and Silver…. The medal is lovely, almost a piece of artwork.
Not really a sprint, more of a short middle – but enjoyable all the same!
The start overlooked a classic central European wooded valley with the town of Polanica-Zdroj nestling in the bottom. From there it was straight up – 65 metres of climb off the bike and pushing 🙁 but once up it was a reasonably dense track network with lots of route choice around steeply sided valleys.
We were allowed to ride (or carry / push) in the forest too so a few of the legs saw me diving into the trees (mostly downhill) cutting through between paths rather than riding round. I think this worked for me sometimes and not others.
I was riding OK, struggling with the physicality (500 metres of climbing) but eventually blew up at 3/4 distance, sweat in my eyes and not thinking straight a made a stupid mistake at #18 losing about 7 mins. I was really tired and hot after that and continued to lose a few seconds here and there all the way to the finish.
The decent into the finish was fun but it was a long one for me – 100 mins….
I arrived at a hot and dusty Castleton fairly late as I’d been to pick up an ebay purchased toolbox for the man-cave on the way there. I know the area around Castleton, Hope and Edale well from years of visits on foot and on bike and was looking forward to a cracking nights riding.
I decided to get the climb out of the way early on and headed out via Hope and up on to Dirtlow Rake. I seemed to be riding well and felt reasonably strong (strange as I have been mainly running recently) on the climbs. I got up on the top with a route planned and then for some reason made a stupid decision to go and grab a little 10 pointer as an in and out on the way down Winnats pass – bonkers, what was I doing, it was almost at the bottom. I’d lost all my height gain… Well what to do – go in and hour early or climb back up. I did neither, I took the even more stupid decision to go all the way down and then back up the old road to Mam Tor…. Looking at my watch I’d realised I’d blown it and decided to just enjoy a ride and views along the top to Hollins Cross and then just trundle in. Stupidly again I thought – ooo there’s a 15 pointer just down the track into Edale – the riding was quite technical to get down which I enjoyed but it was slow going and again I lost far too much climb and ended up struggling back up even more losing time.
The drop back down into Castleton took longer than expected too and I ended up 7 mins late….. – not a great day at the office. Still the views were spectacular and it was great to be back in one of my favourite places in the Peaks.
Thursday night saw the normal frantic packing and wondering if I’ve remembered everything – one day I’ll do a check list – although to be honest I’ve never forgotten anything to date….
Friday morning found me in Stanstead Airport queuing through security with mostly hens and stags on their way to a European weekend of pre-nuptial debauchery. The outfits at 7.30 in the morning brought amusement to the process with the prize for ‘what can I get away with through security’ going to the chap in the gimp suit, complete with ‘un-done’ mask with second place going to the lad in the GB lycra triathlon suit. Come on girls a custom pink t-shirt and I am going on a hen do sash or a pair of fairy wings is just not good enough any more!
I am flying to Wroclaw and then driving down to Polanica-Zdroj for 2 days of intense competition – a sprint, middle, long and even a party, returning on Sunday night to the UK!
There are quite a few Brits going out – looking forward to a great weekend!
Spring has sprung into early summer and the long evenings bring back the 17th year of Dark and White summer weekday mountain bike orienteering series!
I’ve been doing these for the last 10 years or so – slowly getting to know the Peak District and particularly its steep bits year on year!
This year there are only 3 events 🙁 and I know the series is under pressure for the future if numbers are not up a little on last year.
The events are simple – 2 hours, get as many checkpoints as you can…… and don’t be late!
See you there! If you want to know what its like take a look at an event at the same venue in 2009 and this one just up the road in 2011
- Round 1 | Castleton | 14th June 2017
- Round 2 | Peak Forest | 21st June 2017
- Round 3 | Holmesfield | 28th June 2017
For more details see the Dark and White website or BMBO website
MTBO Camp ultra longs are legendary – mixtures of maps including tourist and google maps are not uncommon and the spring weather in Denmark and Sweden often unpredictable – bonkers hot or windy and sleet! This year in Northern Jutland everything was great, good maps, fine weather and fantastic views over the North Sea.
The Brit masters filled up the front row of the grid for the mass start, banter abounding ahead of the starting whistle as we received our A2 sized maps! We all streamed out turned right and pelted down the road in a large peloton before forking off to pick off the various free order controls which were designed to split the field. I was with a small group on I think a good route choice and I soon scooted round a dense network of tracks between Danish summer houses before heading for the first of the fixed order controls – number 8, feeling I may be out in front runners. On the way out from #8 down by the coast I realised my mistake, why I was on my own! – I’d missed one of the free order ones. I returned to #8 some minutes later slightly frustrated with a mini GB masters train now in tow (me knowing the way for some reason!). I put the hammer down, the red mist rising, trying to claw back some time only to make another mistake, this time putting me at the back of the GB train – choo chooo…. And then I was dropped, my legs couldn’t handle it on the long fire road section. I caught up through the next couple of controls through the singletracks and eventually over-took and pulled away after picking a lucky route choice to some WW2 gun emplacements as we headed out to the point on the coast. There was a route-choice of a long road climb around or a run up what felt to me like hundreds of steps up a sand dune. At the top the view was amazing (I returned later in the car to take it in properly) before I turned for home…. The GB group caught me again on another long fire road section after I had a wobble losing a track and ending up having to ride back around to the control but an unfortunate puncture stopped the train in its tracks and I got away again.
I kept the hammer down as hard as I could into the last section – a move to a 1:7500 maps for the final few controls on single-track.
I really enjoyed the race and it was pleasing that although I don’t have the fitness to keep up with the peloton yet I can at least keep going hard on the longer races (without too much climb)
I rode back from the finish chatting to the legend that is Lasse Brun Pedersen 2008 World and European MTBO Champion. It was good to catch-up but to be honest it was all I could do to keep up with him as he cruised back to the camp – my warm down more of a sprint as I tried to get the words out between breaths!
The Brits as usual sneaked off for a lunchtime café stop nearby following the middle race and a few of us returned to the mornings venue for the afternoon training – map memory.
A blank map was given out to carry around face down on our map boards to act as a safety net, in-case we lost the plot, but essentially there was a 2 leg little bit of laminated map hanging from a tree at each control and you had to memorise your route.
To be honest as we had been there in the morning and as we wound our way round again it was also a bit of terrain memory but excellent all the same. I tried 4 times to remember double legs, ie not stopping for two controls and memorizing the route the whole way. I managed it twice and had to resort to the backup map close to the control on two occasions to finish the leg.
The area is crisscrossed by dedicated MTB singletracks and we had a great time too enjoying these outside of race conditions before heading back to base before heading out for a team meal.