Sunday October 31 saw the second running of the Dark & White MTB Enduro at Sherwood Pines. The numbers were up considerably on the 2009 event with a total of 184 riders taking part in both the four and two hour events. The course was within the Sherwood Pines forest complex and, at 9.8 miles (15.7km,) offered varied riding on a combination of some superb narrow, winding and tricky single track interspersed with sections of forest rides and wide fire roads to allow for overtaking.
Sunday dawned cool and misty, no bad thing given the level of exertion that would shortly be required from all the competitors. The changing of the clocks didn’t seem to catch too many out and the extra hour of daylight helped the marshals who pre-rode the course that morning to check it out prior to the start. A few hardy riders arrived early for some practice, venturing out onto the course between 8.30 and 9.30 am to familiarise themselves with the route and course markings.
The bulk of the riders were assembled and ready to go by the time of the 9.45 am race briefing but, as always, there were a few last minute arrivals as the ‘Le Mans’ start set-off across the line at 10.00 am prompt. This entailed a short run of a few hundred metres around a stand of trees and served to spread the riders out from the off and prevent mass bunching once the biking started. The run only took a few minutes but the front runners set off at a fair old gallop give the duration of the event and the pace did not let up at all as they headed out on to the course proper on their bikes.
The leaders set a blistering pace as they headed off to the first checkpoint (CP1) in the northwest corner of the Pines, the marshall at CP1 really had his work cut out as the competitors came barrelling in and struggled to stop in time to punch the checkpoint. But, with failure to punch all the checkpoints on each lap to result in the loss of the lap, most people did manage it, but not all. After CP1 there was a short fire road climb before heading off in a southerly direction on single track through the wood. A kilometre of fire road followed to jockey for position before a long tricky central section of single track which was a good two kilometres long.
CP2 was on this section of single track and the pattern of arrival was the same as CP1. Groups of enthusiastic and over excited bikers overran the checkpoint and had to screech to a halt before running back to punch. All the competitors were provided with a map but it seems when they get their heads down the concentration slipped and let’s face it all those trees look the same. After CP2 the single track continued almost all the way to the south western corner of the Pines, where the riders had to negotiate the first of four horse styles requiring them to dismount and carry their bikes. The next section to CP3 was on a wide track through the trees with plenty of opportunity to overtake. After CP3 another section of undulating single track with everything from boggy peat filled puddles to loose sandy corners. This was followed by a fast but uphill run to CP4 before a cracking swooping descent into a valley. Now it was time to head west up the valley before turning north and the final leg back to the start and CP5, just to start all over again… bring it on!
The leaders kept up a frenetic pace with a group of several riders split by only a few seconds after two hours and three laps. At this point the riders on the shorter two hour course began to finish. Seventeen of the 48 finishers managed an inspiring three laps before their course closed after two hours, 40 minutes. The top finisher Colin Peck completed his three laps in 2:02:10.
But the four hour event still had a long way to go and there was no let up in the pace of the front runners. A trickle of retirees now began to appear some just not having the beans to carry on while others dropped out due to mechanical problems, such as a broken derailleur hanger. One intrepid competitor had to abandon on lap three due to a broken seat but, following a quick repair at Sherwood Pines Cycles, he was back out on the course and completed two more laps… what great determination!
The cloud did not lift throughout the race and there was the odd spot of rain – not that many competitors noticed and what little rain that did fall had no impact on the riding conditions. In fact, a little cooling rain might even have been a welcome relief for some but it was not to be.
So to the finish – and what a finish. The first two riders managed six laps in just under the four hours being separated by a mere five seconds. Both riders decided they could not complete another lap before the course closed so Anton Wouters was first in 3:58:09 and Aaron Marshall second in 3:58:14 – averaging close to 15 miles per hour for the entire four hours. Killian Lomas put in an impressive performance in the vets class with six laps in 4:05:09. Notable top lady Mary Wilkinson also covered six laps in 4:29:32. In the vet women’s class Angela Brand-Barker completed five laps in a shade under four hours. The male super wet was Jim Sutherland, six laps in 4:34:24, the female super vet victor was Liz Green-Davis and Roger DeFaye won the male 60+ category.