Another astounding turn out meant the trails at Swinley Forest were awash with hundreds of happy riders who had decided to take part in the renowned Gorrick Gore 100 Challenge, which took place last weekend.
As the name suggests for those greedy for mountain bike heaven; miles upon on miles of punishing climbs coupled with sweet flowing singletrack with 7 laps of the 10 mile course, which tallied up to the magical 100km. For those less hungry for the miles there were plenty of other options, ranging from 2 to 5 lap groups which started at various times throughout the day engorging the trails with wave upon wave of riders keen to test themselves against the clock and occasionally their peers.
The Crown Estate Forest of Swinley is a Mecca for riders with its miles of rewarding singletrack weaving effortlessly around such memorable landmarks as ‘You are Joking’, a sting in the tail stony climb that left all but the hard core dismounting and walking rather than pedalling. Over 600 hundred riders encountered the wall of stone on each lap and as it turned out it was a Ying-Yang type of course, with the first half littered with testing trails, only soothed by the second half which lead to miles of whoop-inducing descents along with fast fire roads to rest and refresh, before being plunged into another myriad of singletrack joy.
International enduro specialist Ian Leitch, full of confidence after returning from an American 24-hour event with the impressive scalp of the legendary Tinker Juarez firmly tucked under his belt, looked as if he was playing out a scene out of the Pied Piper as he danced on his pedals leading out 86 fellow 7 lappers at a chilly 8.30am start. He quickly and decisively opened up a gap on the first lap and spent the next 6 laps steadily increasing his advantage to finally complete the tough 100 km in just under 5hrs 30mins to come home and take his trophy and fantastic Gore jacket as a prize.
‘That was a lovely ride, really enjoyable course, it was so much fun,” Leitch commented afterwards.
In the women’s 7 lap race, Lorraine Staley took early command of her challenge leading out her fellow competitors. However her strong start started to falter and evenly paced Viv Hazleton moved into prime position after 3 testing laps to go on to record 7hrs and 21mins, a time she was more than delighted with having shaved off a considerable amount of time from the previous year as she told us when she finished: “Last year this event took me 8hrs and 33mins so this is a quicker course! Thank goodness I might still be out there now otherwise.”
The 5 lap men’s race was a cat and mouse affair between Dave Collins and Billy Jo Whenman. For 4 laps they worked tirelessly together until the final lap when Collins made his move to finish his challenge in 3hrs and 34mins, having opened up a 1min 30sec advantage on youngster Whenman.
Irene Lachner fresh from a chilled out visit to a Danish adventure race which due to an early stage crash she had to sit out, was more than happy to let rip on the Swinley course racking up her 5 laps in just under 5 hours the only woman to achieve that.
There was another close run in for the 4 lap men’s event with Andy Plewes quickly stamping his authority on the event, however Paul Davies was keen to thwart his progress trying to reel him in. Plewes proved the faster with 4 consistent laps while Davies had to settle for second fastest just over 1min 30secs later. Kaye Patton consistently churned out her 4 laps to finish comfortably ahead of 9 other lady challengers, recording a time of 3hrs 38mins.
Mountain biking can be a fickle sport and can throw a spanner in the works at any time, when you least expect it. This is what Sarah Collins found to her dismay as she floated round the 3 lap challenge looking to all intents and purposes as becoming the fastest finisher. However fate had other ideas and on lap 3 with just a handful of miles left to complete, Collins punctured and then broke a spoke in her wheel, leaving her limping for home.
Sara Randle was the benefactor of the dealt hand, coming in delightedly as the fastest woman, completing the 3 laps in less than 3 hours, while Collins had to console herself with clinging onto second, just scraping under the 3 hours. Randle was not only delighted with her win but was even more delighted with her first ride at Swinley.
Every rider who finished won their own challenge and although they didn’t go home with the impressive Gore trophy they could be content in the knowledge they achieved their best over a demanding course and each received a finisher’s medal to remind them. Next year of course they’ll be back and they’ll be faster.
Many thanks to everybody who said hello to us while we stomped around the course looking for great shots, and especially to the kind individual who dropped their packet of fruit pastels. We did toy with handing them into lost property, but unfortunately we forgot. Now if you can tell us the exact number of green pastels in the packet we will gladly reimburse you…