Gorrick Southern XC
Yateley Heath
Sep 3rd 2006

I had been back on the bike for a year after a 10 year lay-off. Most of my miles were on the road but with plenty of MTB trips as well. Whenever we went riding off-road (and on-road too come to think of it) there was always a bit of competition between me and my friends as to who would be first up the hills, down the singletrack etc and one day talk turned to the prospect of doing a proper race. Unfortunately there are very few places to race in Kent but a quick bit of googling soon turned up Gorrick MTB Racing. This looked good. Most of the races were over at Bracknell, only 60 miles away, you didn't need to be a member of any club and they had lots of categories for riders of all abilities.

And so it was that, one mild Sunday morning in September 2006, I found myself entered in the Fun category for a 2 lap race around Yateley Heath Wood. I turned up with my friend Darren (who was injured so he couldn't race), signed on, then set off for a practice lap. This turned out to be well worthwhile as the direction of the course was a little confusing in a few places and I missed out the final section (the infamous Corkscrew) completely! There were also some fairly technical sections that were good to have previous knowledge of. All this took about 40 minutes at a leisurely pace.


More nervous than I looked!

20 minutes after returning from practice I was waiting at the start line and feeling nervous. In fact I was feeling really nervous! A quick glance at my heart rate monitor showed that I had 120bpm when I was just standing still, around double what it should have been! I was a bit worried about being knocked off at the start as there was a quick downhill section of a few hundred yards which then went straight in to a singletrack section. As we started I held back a bit, running around the middle of the field, and didn't try for any overtaking down the hill, maintaining a nice straight course in case anybody was coming past me. We all barrelled in to the singletrack and, sure enough, there was carnage with people down all over the place. I managed to avoid everybody and then it was just a single file procession for quite some distance. It was at this stage that I realised how important the start had been because I was cruising along, unable to pass anybody as the track was so narrow, and I could see the leaders slowly pulling away.


Through the singletrack

Soon we cleared the first bit of singletrack and I started to push harder, passing quite a few riders. The course was a mixture of wide open tracks and an equal amount of narrow singletrack where passing was impossible. Most of the surface was quite slippery as the open tracks were frequently covered in vegetation and leaves while the single track was loose, sandy soil. During the race I think I fell off about 4 times and each time the bike slipped out on a corner and I went down before I could even get my feet off the pedals! Fortunately the ground was soft and none of these crashes hurt.

The thing that really struck me was just how tiring it was! I'd done a '10' before on the road but that was less than 30 minutes of effort. When riding offroad with my friends we push very hard in places but there is always a chance for a breather as we re-group after each bit of single track etc. This was just relentless, the only letup being when you got held up behind a slower rider on the singletrack, and it was a bit of a relief to get a slight breather!



At last the end of the second, and final, lap approached. I had been slowly catching two riders for a long time and they were now within striking distance. The run in to the finish was up a long steep hill. As we reached the hill I gave it everything I had and slowly started to reel in the guy in front. He kept looking over his shoulder and he was also catching the rider in front of him. As we all bunched up to within a few bike lengths my heart rate was up to 191 - not bad for a 42 year old! The rider I had been catching put on a final spurt and passed the person in front. I gave it my all but I was spent and I just trailed over the line on his back wheel. Just 4 seconds covered the 3 of us.

It was a great day and I made plans to compete in the last 2 Gorrick events that year. Unfortunately other commitments got in the way and I wasn't able to do either race which was a great disappointment.

Result: 12th out of 53
Time behind leader: 4m 36s
Distance: 12.0 miles
Time: 1h 2m 41s
Ascent: 221m