Joolze Dymond reports from a ditch or three at the 5th Torq “In your Sleep” cross county mountain bike race where the weather gods finally smiled on the 600 plus riders taking part
Words & photos – Joolze Dymond
After enduring the summer that never was, with virtually every endurance event this year being spoilt by inclement weather, fingers were tightly crossed that maybe, just maybe TORQ in Your Sleep could buck the trend.
Torrential rain Saturday, saw the children’s races take on a soggy hue but undeterred, the plucky youngsters gave it their all over a fun mini course. The weather continued through into the night and led many to believe the weather gods had once again deserted us, but come Sunday morning, 600 plus competitors were greeted by flawless blue skies and a gentle warm breeze.
Perfect, but thoughts now turned to the course and how the recent weather might have made the going soft to grovel.
Worries were ungrounded. One thing we know about the good Gorrick folk who have slavishly toiled over the Minley Manor course over the years, is that they know how to produce a good course that performs come rain or shine! After all they ride and race as well so they’d want the best too!!
As the start time of midday neared, riders started to amass ready to take on the challenges ahead. Thanks to previous weather, leaving the usual camping site flooded, this year’s event arena and course headed over the road, providing an excellent set up and of course a new start to the race which headed out around the campsite perimeter lead by the pace setting quad, a bit like the derny on the track, winding the speed up for the fast boys, with the rest of the field perfectly spread out ready to be unleashed on the miles of sweet singletrack that lay in wait.
Delights that lay ahead in the 8 mile circuit included new sections such as ‘Olympic Ridge’ a sinuous ribbon of singletrack weaving it’s eccentric way through dense forest, popping out onto open land before heading onto to the next exciting instalment of soft loamy singletrack interspersed with energy saving fire road. Any thoughts of a grim slog through masses of mud were soon replaced by huge grins as riders experienced the ‘Gorrick’ effect. Despite the heavy rain the trails were running well with any wet patches soon drying to provide fast flowing fun, as the lap times of many riders proved.
While team mates, husbands, wives and partners were out racing those left behind had the chance to mooch around, before preparing to take over or help feed the riders in the arena with plenty to see and buy, thanks to the likes of Gore Bike wear, Four4ths Lights, Sram, Saddle Skedaddle, Nuflex, 1st Gear Bikes and not forgetting the excellent selection of food and drink from Quaver Catering.
Meanwhile a myriad of mini battles were constantly evolving and unfolding as the hours inched ever forward, riders experience DJ’s, night time grotto’s while placings changed, like a fast flowing tidal river, thanks to mechanicals, fast laps, tired legs, it all made for some close racing.
With many events spoilt or even cancelled by rain, TORQ in Your Sleep attracted a whole host of people who otherwise might have missed it off their calendar, these included endurance specialists such as Matt Page, Rich Rothwell, Josh Ibbett, Craig Bowles along with XC riders chancing their arm at endurance racing for a change. This included Elite racer Tim Dunford, trying out 12 hours solo racing for the first time, his eyes firmly set on the Endurance Series Title. His race didn’t quite go to plan, with a puncture on the first lap leaving him in chase mode, leaving Martin Smith leading from the gun. By lap 5 Dunford had taken the lead, going on to rack up an impressive 17 laps in total, leaving a delighted Smith to take second just 1 lap in arrears. Dunford enjoyed the experience so much he’s now looking at chancing his arm in the UK12 hr solo Championships early next year!
In the vets solo race, Rich Rothwell was always going to be the man to beat, opening up his account with a blistering 40 min lap, he went on to rack up 16 laps to take the win, while Dave Brothers, Martyn Andrews and Stephen Roundhill battled it out for the runner up spots, all recording 15 laps, it was Brothers who took second ahead of Andrews. The women’s solo race was also dominated by one rider with Hanneke Van der Werf tapping out a consistent 12 laps to take the win ahead of Ruth Crawford, while Sally Hall bagged herself 3rd. Special mention has to go to Karen Brammer, who after an on-going battle with illness has got herself back on the bike and rode a smile ridden 6 laps into 5th spot!
In the women’s pairs race, the Saddle Skedaddle A team containing Iwona Szmyd, runner up in the UK 12hr Solo Championships back in April, romped to a clear victory with a 4 lap advantage over the Barmy Girls, their Saddle Skedaddle team mates in the Women’s team found themselves as a filling in a Dirt Diva sandwich, as they had to settle for second.
Smart money had to be on the outcome of the men’s pairs, which saw usual XC racing rivals, Elite racer George Budd and Endurance specialist Matt Page teaming up. They went from the gun and at one point saw themselves leading all the categories all be it briefly, as they swept through the singletrack. Meanwhile back in the pairs race, main rivals Craig Bowles and Josh Ibbett tried to limited the damage, but Page and Budd were on a roll, smashing out 20 laps which would have placed them 4th in the men’s team race, with Bowles and Ibbett conceding a lap in second. In the mixed pairs it was the ‘Gipping Race team’ that lead from the outset, slowly but surely building a lead taking the win with 16 laps. Just 20 mins separated the next 3 teams, but it was ‘Long Way To Go’ who narrowly took second over RAF CC, who in turn just held off the advances of the Bristol Bike Workshop.
Bob and Beyond could very well have been a new boy band in the making if the race hadn’t turned out so well, as the 3 riders making up the race winning team were just 17, showing a young set of heels to the slightly more mature Milbury Contractors Ltd back in second spot in the men’s team of 3.
In the mixed 4 man team there was a battle royal as team Four4th Lights and Gore duked it out right down to the wire, swapping places more times than than is good for ones nerves. In the end it all came good for the Four4th Team, with both teams racking up an impressive 18 laps, but Four4th taking the win with a 23min buffer. The highly competitive 4 man teams were also fighting another battle of the laps. On the cards it looked as if Mountain Trax and Torq performance were evenly matched and it would be a close run affair. The cards were right, with each team member punching out some fast laps time after time, Ben Thomas throwing down the gauntlet with his fastest lap of the race at 33mins 34 secs. In the end after a leg straining 20 laps each it was the Mountain Trax team that took the honours, just 16 mins ahead of a hard battling TORQ Performance team.
After a soggy year so far it was a relief to enjoy the one of the best of the endurance events of the year under blue skies, the atmosphere was buzzing as riders revelled in the fun filled course and rider heckling, including a number of horns continued well into the night. A packed tent at the end of the race saw riders bag a number of on the spot prize thanks to the many generous sponsors as well as cheer those that had the privilege of stepping onto the podium, the night was of course rounded out by lashing of excellent ale/ recovery drink supplied Longdog Brewery.
See you next year for more of the same if not better!
Endurance Series standings – www.endurance-series.co.uk
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