Karen and I usually try and get 1 or 2 of the Merida Brass Monkey races done over the winter. These are 2 or 4hr lapped races on well-drained courses. Longer than xc, but not too long that you suffer if the weather is really bad.
Perfect winter distance then, and a nice focus in the wet winter months. This year, we both raced the 4hr race at Minley Manor and I raced the 2hr race a Hogmoor Enclosure, Bordon.
Round 2 – 020117 – Minley Manor
This is another classic endurance venue with a figure of 8 course and many distinct and varied sections. Spongy ground is also a feature, along with bombholes and steep descents. The course started dry and with 30something minute laps in mind, I set off quick. Possibly too quick, but I settled down on laps 2 and 3 and felt comfortable at a good pace. Then it rained and the course became soggy. Not a problem I thought as I raced here enough to know it’s all rideable in the wet. But then I started to lose my chain a lot – sometimes every 5 minutes! How can this be? I was running a new chain, new narrow/wide chainring and new cassette. Getting frustrated, I continued, but kept grinding to a halt to get the chain back on. All the riders I had been racing with were long gone. I finally nursed my bike to a finish in 3hrs50. (only laps completed within 4hrs count). 6 laps and 21st place in vet men. A tough, but frustrating day out. I subsequently found out from the chainring manufacturer that the chain I had chosen to run didn’t have the right tolerances… Pah!
Karen unfortunately didn’t have anyone to race in vet women! C’mon – 4hrs in winter – get stuck in vet women racers!! Anyway, determined to have a good ride anyway, Karen rode consistently with no issues and came in on 5 laps in 3hrs 27 for the ‘win’. Karen did a 6th lap anyway, but it didn’t count. But it’s all miles in the bank at this stage of the year, and nothing replicates a race course, like a race course!
Round 3 – 050317 – Hogmoor Enclosure, Bordon
This is a new venue and almost local for us Pedal 2 Pedal riders. This area is sandy and drains really well. A good job too as we’d had a lot of rain in the lead-up to the race. The course featured lots of short sharp climbs, bombhole descents and flowy, often wet singletrack. It also feature open areas of very wet sand, a slog to get through, but better than claggy ground.
I raced the 2hr race. I started back a bit, but made my way through on the opening lap, speeding up as the race wore on. Lines were wearing in too, giving a little more speed. This time there were no mechanicals and I felt I had ridden it reasonably well, coming in 22nd in vet men. An enjoyable race on a fun course. I think it would be cracking in the dry and very fast.
Overall – a great winter series on some of the best winter race courses around. A real highlight in the winter for us.