Hamsterley Trailblazers 1-2-1 Race
SOC members Mat and Olly are also members of Hamsterley Trailblazers and helped organize a new race weekend in the forest that a number of SOC mountain bikers decided to have a go at and support. The format was a cross-country race on Saturday followed by a downhill race on Sunday, points were given for your position in each race and then added together to get a final result. The twist was that you had to do both races on the same bike, the only thing you could change were the tyres (assuming you had any wide downhill tyres which we didn't). We all chose to ride our full suspension crosscountry bikes (not that any of us have got downhill bikes) but Neil, very sportingly, decided to do the whole thing on a hardtail with only 100mm of travel!
Luckily for everybody we had a dry though cold weekend, Hamsterley being what it is though we still had our fair share of mud but it didn't detract from the racing. Rach, Emma, Baz and I entered the women's race (all in one category as there were only twelve women entered overall out of 107 entries), Phil was in the Masters and Andy J, Alan and Neil entered the combined Vets, Grand Vets & Super Vets categories. The crosscountry course was excellent with plenty of variety including lots of singletrack and a descent of the new Transmission section. We all had to do three laps (except for Phil who had to do four owing to his extreme youth and flowing curly locks) and that took around about two hours (quite a lot less for Neil on his hardtail and somewhat more for me). We then had a chance to practice the downhill course but this was a bit chaotic as nobody was quite sure where it went!
Sunday was again dry though not quite as sunny and it was quite cold as we all lined up nervously on top of the 4X course to start the downhill race. We were all taking this very seriously, Phil had hacked off his curly locks to reduce weight and Neil had added shin guards to his armour plating to cover up the large lump he acquired on a test run. All the girls then stood around arguing about who was going to go first, nobody wanted to get in the way of the person behind them as we were set off at 30 second intervals but nobody had a clue how fast we could ride the course. Eventually we sorted ourselves out and when it was my turn I managed to ride the whole course and although I did both the chicken runs on the trickiest corners, I was pleased with my first (and possibly last!) downhill race. Amongst the boys, Phil managed to bin it on his first go and land on his head, Neil found his hardtail to be a particularly energetic way of doing the race and Andy J gave a cameo performance on the video Orange bikes were making of the event. Thanks to Judith for lending me her full-face helmet, it kept my head nice and warm (and whole). Final results were Rach 3rd (excellent result), Emma 6th, Karen 8th, Sarah 9th out of 12 women, Phil 11th out of 29 Masters men and Andy J 7th, Neil 10th, and Alan 15th out of 16 combined Vet, Grand and Super Vet men. We also bumped into Kathryn (checking us in and marshalling the course), Lucy over from Wales to pick up a new bike and Emma and little baby Heather out for her first mountain bike race (I can't see Mat's daughter being anything other than a great downhiller!).
We're hoping the Trailblazers organize another race next year and I can recommend having a go, it was a great weekend requiring a good mix of stamina and nervous energy and was also very sociable. Thanks to Mat, Olly, Dave, Andy and all the other helpers for organizing us all so well.