The Muc-Off 8 was an all-new enduro event that took place last weekend in Pippingford Park estate down in East Sussex, and promised to “deliver an unforgettable event experience with top quality live entertainment, first class organisation and free goodies.” Did it live up to this claim? We sent Damian Sell along to ride in the solo category and find out.
The idea of riding an off-road circuit for 8 hours is on the limit of my “this’ll be fun” threshold by at least 2 hours, so it was with a little trepidation that I rocked up to the Muc-Off 8 last Sunday.
At least I had some good company in the fellow MuleBar riders taking part, and we agreed beforehand to ride nice and slow. I even tried to negotiate an hour for lunch but I think I was pushing my luck with that one! So, a box of MuleBars and a lot of electrolyte drink by the side of the trail would have to do.
A practice lap revealed a very testing course with plenty to think about, and at around 400m per lap – hilly! But the worst thing was the mud: I was hoping with the recent dry weather for dusty trails, but the land was saturated and there were some horrendous sections where you just had to dive in and power through, energy sapping stuff!
As it happened, as the race wore on the thousands of tyres splashing through helped disperse some of the water and the course did get faster – I actually ended up loving the lap. Two-thirds in and you were rewarded with some great singletrack running beside some lakes and the timed downhill section was fun.
There were a few danger areas. One was an open descent where you could actually gain some real speed and suddenly without warning hit a low speed ditch, it really needed a sign here and I saw one rider ambulanced away. But mountain biking is meant to be technical and after you’ve ridden a course once you learn the danger spots.
I’m not a fan of being made to run up and down the start finish line to get to your bike, but it did work as there were hardly any first lap traffic issues as a result.
Everyone went off like rockets, but decided to pace myself and the hours dragged out. After 4 hours everything to do with cycling was totally dead to me! I had settled into riding 1 hour-ish laps and, mentally after about 5-hours things got better and better – my plan was working out!
On lap seven I raised the pace but a puncture cost me 10 minutes, and by my last lap I found I still had some reserves and sprinted to the finish. I finished in 8 hours 23 minutes, placing 9th in the senior solo category. That’ll do!
My computer readout indicated 102km of riding with 3235m of climbing. Tired and happy, I think I now need to rebuild my totally abused bike.
A few gripes include paying £10 to camp (per person), and a shower would have been nice. Personally, £40 for a one-day race is too expensive. And two jet washes for 500 bikes, given the conditions, was simply not enough and I queued for an hour after my practice lap – after the race it wasn’t even worth looking.
However, the race was a success mostly due to the weather being dry. If it had rained I dread to think what it would have been like. Still, it was a great location for mountain biking and I’ll be back next year. Thanks to VO2 for a great event.
More info about the event and full results at www.mucoff8.com
All photos copyright Graham Stacey. See loads more of his photos from the event here.