Bucks Off Road Sportive

Posted: May 16, 2011 in 2011, Events

After a sleepless night I woke up at 10 to 5 and slowly levered myself out of bed and wandered, blinking, into the day. I had an hour, I had prepared almost everything the night before so it was simply a case of waking myself up properly, feeding and getting myself to Rich’s house for 6.15. Surprisingly, all my jobs were accomplished without difficulty and I was able to leave the house about 5 past six. A minutes on the drag, Rich was pretty much ready when I got there. Anyway, we left on schedule and had an uneventful journey around the M25 (London seemed not to have woken up). It was a pleasant, dry, day but breezy. This raised some concern about wind direction and how it would impact on the riding.

We rolled up at the event HQ to find it about half full. Signing on was completed in a few minutes so we went off in search of Richard (M) and Kurt who had secured a good parking spot right near the start. I thought Richard had taken his laid back attitude to life to a whole new level of cool when, two minutes before the start, he was inside, sitting on a table chatting. The start it seemed, had been delayed. Rich and I decided to get ourselves prepared even though our published start time was later and 9.00am saw us sitting on the start line during the rider briefing. We assume it was a rider briefing as brief snatches of an amplified voice could be heard now and then, but there was nothing coherent. Other riders confirmed it was the rider briefing but I wasn’t going prematurely deaf so we just waited.

The plan I think, was to set off in small batches to avoid bottlenecks on the first off road section. Well, it didn’t happen, and most of the riders set off together in one massive surge. Rich and I span up through the throng, trying to put ourselves as near to the front as possible. Cue the first queue. At the tight entrance to the initial section of mud (dust really) masses of riders queued patiently. Amazingly, Rich and I stuck together and we joined a long line of riders ambling along an undulating section of track, stopping and starting, stopping and then stopping some more. It was quite frustrating but everyone was chilled out and relaxed as we got to know the rider in front or behind for what seemed like an interminable length of time.

Popping out onto a section of road we pushed on and soon got into a rhythm as we chased down one pack of riders, got held up and then managed to lose them, chasing down the next pack. This was pretty much the story of the first third of the ride. There were a LOT of riders out there. Trails were rock hard, dusty and fast. Terrain was lumpy and sometimes the climbs were quite challenging. The trails were generally (usually) muddy paths, bridleways and farm tracks. Brief excursions into woods gave us shelter from the wind but there was no singletrack as you might expect if you were riding in Thetford. Did I say it was dusty? Some riders looked as if they had been rolling in buckets of the stuff.

Anyway, the first feed station was a welcome sight at 26 miles. These seem to be done really well. Water, complimentary energy drink, energy bars, gels, flapjacks, cake, more cake and a half a jungle of bananas. Bladders were filled (and emptied!), food ingested, shirt pockets stuffed with goodies and weary bodies were eased onto the floor. Being super fit, marathon riders of the highest calibre (cough!) Rich and I didn’t dawdle, we wanted to put distance between ourselves and other riders so we could get a clear run.   Meanwhile, this is where the ride split up. The super hard men (and women) branched off left to do the 132km ride, while the mere mortals who were doing the 100km (us) and the short ride carried on the main route.

It was here that Rich and I started to experience a strange phenomenon. Until the feed station we had been going well but afterwards our legs started phasing in and out. One minutes they were fine, then terribly heavy for a bit, then back to fine etc and this cycle continued all day. This second section went well and we blasted through it; there were few riders on the course and we were able to make good time. Once or twice we went astray as the marker arrows were not obvious enough but in no time at all we were at the second feed station. A quick fill of the camelbak, a hasty banana and we were off.

The last third of the ride was a repeat of the first as we get hitting groups of riders from the short ride. We got lost again, I was beaten on one or two climbs but the end was near. Some of the downhill sections were fantastic. Fast, rooty and loose they funnelled riders down eroded pathways between hedge lines. The riding line often lead you from one side to the next, over stony bits, through rough sections, up the sides and all the time you were gathering speed. The only thing you had to be careful of was the exits which sometimes threw you out directly onto a road. otherwise, they were real adrenaline buzzes. These sections, and the concrete hard ground, made me glad I had taken my Superlight. My back was sore at the end as it was but had I been on a rigid again, or worse my CX bike, I would have been in a terrible state.

The end came too soon, and not soon enough. By the finish, there was still plenty of power in my legs but I needed to take shelter behind other riders to recover from periods of high energy exertion.

We finished the ride after 5 hours 28 minutes (including diversions which took us up to 65.5 miles instead of the official 62). There were no accidents, punctures or mechanicals so all in all a good ride.

Criticisms – they need a better PA system at the start, they need to be a bit more rigorous  about the start. Having 100s of riders leaving at the same time isn’t a great idea. The gps file I downloaded was worse than useless. Finally, the signage, on the whole it was much better than last year but once or twice it could have been better, or it seemed to be missing altogether.

Good bits – everything else really, down to the free cup of tea/coffee and free beer at the end. I’d have loved a tea urn at the food stops but on the whole they were fantastic. A good event with lots of miles and over 5,000 feet of climbing. One not to miss really.

Ride file here:

West Drayton MTB Challenge by slowjo61 at Garmin Connect – Details.

65.5 miles

Average speed 12.2 mph

Max speed 35.4mph

Time taken : 5 hours 28 minutes

Average HR 145

Max HR 171

Tunes of the ride:

  1. Ross Burton says:

    I don’t know why but the thought of a rigid 26er CX bike at speed over rootly gnarly ground always makes me giggle.

  2. slowjo61 says:

    Haven’t seen any rigid 26 inch CX bikes! They are all 700 surely? 🙂 There again, I have never seen a CX bike with bouncy forks either! There were plenty of people who rode the course on CX bikes. Mucho respect but on reflection, they were probably a little bonkers!

  3. Ross Burton says:

    Erm, yeah, of course they are 700c :/ I presume carbon forks are all the rage in the CX world for their small amount of shock absorbence?

  4. slowjo61 says:

    Just like Pace RC31s, Niner Carbon forks and the On One carbon forks for MTBs and yes, they do make a difference, small but definitely noticeable, just like carbon handlebars!

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