Pics: Joolze Dymond
Mix fairy lights, add a splash of blue glow sticks, some banging tunes, a bridge to nowhere, a bit of duck or grouse, mix for around 12 hours, pour in liberal amounts of dust and a soupçon of water and of course most vital ingredient – 500 lycra clad mountain bikers – and you have the makings of more fun than you can shake a stick at. TORQ in Your Sleep was in town and the party atmosphere was bubbling over.
Those lovely Gorrick folks spent months mowing, tweaking, shovelling and planning a spiffing eight mile course with the help of the Army Cycling Union, that took you ‘Nowhere’ and beyond in a cunning figure of eight, encountering along the way a few ‘Duck’ moments, whilst seemingly meeting yourself coming back in the ‘Back to Front’ section, if you didn’t get lost in ‘The Maze’ that is!
On the lead up to the much-anticipated event it seemed that the trails would be a soggy muddy mess as the rain came down in bucketloads, but much to everyone’s surprise they were greeted not by heavy, soul-sapping mud, but soft loamy dust that formed soft peaks on the corners to grab unsuspecting wheels as they sped past. The course was running fast despite the apparent looseness and sub-40 minute laps were soon the norm as the fast boys got under way.
In defence of their title from the previous year were the Mountain Trax team; up against them were TORQ 1, the Progression Fitness boys and not one but five Pedal On teams. As the race got underway this was looking to be a battle royal and throughout the categories there were some close calls as margins were made and closed, lap in lap out. Starting at 12 noon meant just four hours to enjoy the dark fun that night riding brings, turning those once familiar trails into adrenalin filled chutes of mountain bike exhilaration.
The more tired you get the more your mind plays tricks on you, the more adrenalin surges through your body and the more you think there are ‘things’ out there to catch you out. At TORQ 12:12 to add to this experience riders could hear a steady beat as they neared the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ and when it exploded into view their senses were overloaded with bright lights and loud music. Soon after a much more soothing experience was to be had as riders entered the Blue Grotto, a magical tunnel of singletrack dotted with blue glow sticks and a few twinkling fairy lights, enough to bring a cheery smile and take minds off a smattering of rain that kept threatening to increase, though thankfully never did!
By this time Torq 1 had already stamped their authority on the men’s race taking firm control and picking up the win, leaving last year’s winners in second spot. Progression Fitness denied the Pedal On boys any access to the podium. However the ladies, who took a commanding win in their race, upheld Pedal On honour. With the women’s pairs being won in confidence by the TORQ girls Lydia and Maxine, all eyes were now on the TORQ mixed team – could they complete the hat trick and make it three wins for the event sponsor?
Unfortunately the Lufbra AllStars proved to be the stronger on the day, with TORQ 2 having to settle for second. One of the closest battles had to be for the mixed pairs titles with just a smidge over ten minutes separating the top three teams. In the end it was the Tunnel Hill Trolls pairing of Jason and Louise Robinson, putting local trail knowledge to good use, who took the win leaving Xcracer pair James Hampshire and Nadine Spearing to duke it out for second with Beyond the Hill (Nick Evans and Rachel Fenton) – they narrowly succeeded with just 13 secs to spare! In the men’s pairs, Wiggle boys Matt Lewis and Lee Williams seemed to be taking on the four-man teams as the carved their way through the trails, very nearly matching the TORQ1 team on lap counts, but coming up just one lap short with 20 laps to take a comfortable win in their category.
The soloists are always the hard nuts of the event and some just like making life even tougher! None more so than both the winners in the men and women’s solo events. Just 48 hours before the event Kim Hamer-Hurst had been sipping cappuccinos in France, preparing to ride the Master’s XC World Champs. She was having a blinding ride and looked good for a medal until mechanicals put paid to her race. Her dreams in tatters, what better way to take her mind off that and give something back to her sponsors than to drive hundreds of miles, quickly back to Blighty to take part in her first solo 12hr… She took to the challenge with gusto, quickly opening up a five-minute lead which she steadily extended taking the win with 15 laps under her belt. In the men’s event Steve Webb put his Singular through its paces, spinning smoothly over 18 laps to take the win from gear-crunching Gerald Tudor who by just 31 secs pipped Adi Scott to second. John Brooks scooped the vets solo race with a strong 16 laps.
As the witching hour inched ever closer there was a contrast as riders either belted hell for leather for the transition eager to get another lap under their belts or they huddled expectantly at the top of the hill, ready to stream down when the hooter sounded, more eager to get their hands on a steaming cuppa or something stronger! Hundreds packed into the marquee to cheer those that had earned the right to their moment of glory on the podium and pick up some healthy prizes to boot. And thanks to the generosity of the many supporters, spot prizes were awarded, with riders picking up unexpected holiday breaks thanks to Saddle Skedaddle through to a track pump or Dirt Worker!
If you enjoyed that and want something more, but maybe a bit shorter then keep an eye out for some exciting news from the Gorrick over the coming months. Winter could be a whole lot of fun – especially for Brass Monkeys!