Merida Brass Monkeys – Round 1

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Words and pics by Joolze Dymond…

monkeys

It certainly was one way of marking the start of a brand new event, one that will not be forgotten in a hurry. Pre-entries for this much-anticipated event were full to over flowing and little did we realise the true meaning of that phrase would ring so true. With weather warnings popping up all round the UK, the organisers were confident that this new circuit based at the Rushmoor Arena would stand the worst and it certainly had its work cut out.

calmbeforestorm

The previous night saw water fall from the skies as if someone up there had left the taps on full flow, and the hot one had run out long ago. Hopefully fingers crossed it would rain itself out. The morning started pretty promising, with little rain and indeed a few glimmers of sun. Riders quite literally started pouring in from 8.00am ready to get stuck in at 10. Well that was the plan. The uptake was so overwhelming that queuing for your race number took a wee bit longer than anticipated resulting in a 30 min delay for the first race – the 2hr enduro, followed 10 mins later by the 4 hr riders with the Fun riders quite literally bringing up the rear.

As the last back wheel disappeared into the distance it started to rain. Just gently at first, nothing too major and then it came in bucket loads. I can honestly say that had to be the wettest daytime enduro I have had the pleasure to stand around in this year and probably ranks in the top 3 of all time for sheer wetness!

wet

Still, the hardcore riders just got stuck in, thrashing, slipping and occasionally swimming (I hear some of those puddles were pretty deep) completing as many laps as they could before they lost all braking or just lost the will to live. The course itself did indeed hold up pretty well despite all that was thrown at it. Though the sandy base just turned into a fine grit that swiftly ground down all brake pads, still there were enough trees to provide ample tree hugging moments to stop yourself from going a bit too close to the edge.

There was a true British Bulldog feel out on course as young and old just did the only thing they could and pushed on, overcoming the challenge put before them. Some unfortunately were forced to retire due to mechanicals but most just did their best and ploughed on through the never-ending deluge.

Out in the 2hrs Scott Forbes looked like a man in a rush to get to a warm bath as he made short work of the race. George Budd did his best to stay with the Pedal On rider but slipped back on one section and Forbes just kept pushing on, trying hard to dodge the rain drops. Four laps later and Forbes claimed the victory with Budd trailing in over 8 minutes later. The only other man to complete 4 laps in the 2 hour was third placed Paul Troughton just 9 mins later. In the Veteran’s race Little Dean as he’s affectionately known as, braved some pretty deep puddles, and very nearly swapped his SPD’s for a set of flippers to take the win with a comfortable margin ahead of runners up Paul Isaacs and Danny Coote.

Dean Morgan
Dean Morgan

Samantha Jones battled hard with Joanne Middleton and Elizabeth Gilmour, all 3 clocking up 3 laps taking them nearer to 3 hours rather than 2. After 2 laps just 30 secs separated Jones and Gilmour, but through the last lap Middleton with Jones pushing on overtook Gilmour. Jones eventually took the win with Middleton hanging onto 2nd just ahead of Gilmour. In the 2hr Vet’s women’s race experienced rider Lydia Gould was obviously feeling pretty chipper giving the rest of the field a healthy head start, as she pelted off in chase mode after turning up late. However, her late start had cost her the race ultimately as she had everything to do and no time to do it in. Louise Parker took the win with 3 laps and over 3 hrs of riding with Gould settling for 2nd.

Sam Jones
Sam Jones

The 4-hour race was real hardcore and a true battle of attrition as hail joined the rain and in some cases found themselves mixed up in a local hunt. It also provided one of the closest finishes of the day as only 62 seconds separated the 3 top finishers in the Vet’s race. As the race unfolded the lead seemed comfortably in the hands of Craig Dolwin, with Daryl Cavill and Colin Smith trying to keep a close eye and get on terms with him. Then in the closing stages it was all change with newcomer to the Vet’s field, Paul Howard surging through on his trusty singlespeed. Dolwin saw his lead slip from his grasp, as Howard pushed on and by the end of the 4hrs, with a healthy if not soggy 5 laps later Howard took victory while Smith came in to take 2nd and Calvill 3rd. Dolwin limped home in 4th after a mechanical mishap saw a podium position slip from his grasp.

Jo Munden
Jo Munden

Meanwhile in the senior race, elite XC rider Tim Dunford powered on for 6 strong laps to take the win nearly 30 mins clear of 2nd placed Ed Rose, while enduro specialist Anthony White came home for 3rd.

Elaine Burroughs battled through to take the Vet’s women’s 4 hr with 4 hard fought laps from rival Viv Hazelton.

The women’s 4hr saw a surprise entry from Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Romero, taking part in her first mtb race, so all eyes were on this accomplished athlete to see what she would do. A couple of laps in she had to come in for a bit of a mechanical but the gutsy lady went back out and racked up 4 incredible wet laps to finally finish 6th just 6 minutes off 4th. However, it was Jo Munden who went about the winning business pretty much undisturbed, recording 5 soggy laps in just over 4hrs 30mins. Second spot went to Kathy Beresford, while a big shout has to go to 3rd placed Sam Hart who smiled the whole way through and despite coming home with just minutes to spare before the cut off was desperate to get out and do a final lap!

Rebecca Romero
Rebecca Romero

It was indeed an epic; both in terms of the amount of water that came down and the way that riders just got stuck into the event and there were smiles underneath all that mud, with everyone I spoke to saying it was indeed rather good fun. Seven miles of fast flowing singletrack that in places was just fast flowing didn’t deter the riders, so a big well done to you all.

Let’s hope that round 2 just after Xmas (the 28th Dec to be precise) is a bit kinder, just in case I’m asking Santa for a wet suit and snorkel this year.

Rider Comments:

Lee Steane – 2hr

”There are two of us riding from Portsmouth Uni today; the other guy is Stefan Gehne. This is our first MTB race, we’ve really enjoyed it despite all the mud and we can’t wait to come back and do it all again. We liked the idea of a challenge and this looked ideal, we just hope that we can now persuade everyone else at Uni to come and join us and promote fitness along the way. “

Scott Forbes – 2hr Winner

”I reckon most of my season has been in preparation for this today, it was unbelievable out there. My brakes went in the first lap, my will to live went on the 2nd lap and my legs went in the 3rd lap! I have to say that ranks as one of the hardest races I’ve ever done.

It wasn’t that hilly out there and it wasn’t that muddy, it was just really draggy the whole way round, so you just had no momentum. You came into corners and you just couldn’t accelerate out of them. Sometimes you get conditions where it is so bad it’s actually really good fun, once you look past all the hardship.

I had to go from the gun, I was so cold, it was the only way I could get myself warm. George Budd rode with me for the first lap, then I decided to go hard from one section and he dropped back a bit and I thought I’m not gonna wait. It was just too cold. The puddles are knee deep in places and I was using trees to stop me in places, as I had no brakes, what a day. I gotta say a big respect to the 4hr guys; anyone who completes this is epic that is truly hardcore!

It’s one of those days where you’ll look back, after the bike is all fixed and the kit is all clean and I’m warm again and say yeah that was a brilliant race. It was good fun, but what a day. “

Dean Morgan – 2hr Vet Winner

”That was grim but nothing compared to all those doing the 4hr! Respect to them anyone who finishes that, fair play to them that is truly hardcore.

It was a good course, pretty hard, with the weather making that much harder, but it held up pretty well. I rode Bordon a couple of weeks ago and that was in similar conditions, but that was just messy, compared to here. The ground conditions although not clogging your bike just sucked all your strength from you, you just felt drained, but despite everything the weather could throw at us, a really good event.

Winter seems to be going pretty well for me now, I’ve won my last two races, I obviously like it in the mud! There were some pretty deep puddles at one point I nearly found myself underwater and on the second lap some of those puddles got even deeper, I thought I need to take oxygen out with me on the next lap in case I was underwater for any time. At the end of the day as long as it’s still fun then anything else is a bonus and that was truly fun.”

Tandem

”We were on for doing the 4hr but we’ve no brakes left and it’s pretty treacherous out there with no stopping power especially with the tandem. The tandem is fun and I guess different and at least you get someone to talk to all the way round. Its good fun and we just want to promote how much fun it really is. The course was good but got a bit too slippery for us, the drop-offs were great but it was the off camber stuff that proved tricky. That was enjoyable despite the weather much better than sitting at home. “

Rebecca Romero – 4hr

”This a bit of a different aspect of cycling for me, so much mud. I wouldn’t get this on the road would I? And I definitely wouldn’t get this cold and wet on the track. I’ve decided that I’ve done my track work and got to where I did and now I just want to broaden my experience as a cyclist, work on my skills and challenge myself in other ways. I’ve been riding plenty of trail centres all round the UK and having fun. It’s good to have something like this to work on and watch as it develops as supposed to just producing power. This is so much fun and doesn’t feel like training and the hours just go by really quickly. So I’m looking really at mountain biking through the winter as part of my training. It’s good for power development and good for learning bike handling skills and it’s a bit different for me, a bit of a change.

I had a few little tumbles out there but just really enjoyed it, it was great training. Plus it was good to be out in all that mud I haven’t really ridden in these sorts of conditions before. It was fun. I had a mechanical and had to sit out for about 10-15 mins on one of my laps. I was really getting into the rhythm but towards the end I think I’d done enough. I feel a bit bad for not going the full distance but as it’s my first real race and I’m just learning the ropes, I think I did okay. Let’s see what happens at the next one. This one was a real baptism of fire. I did enjoy it though can’t wait to see the bruises. It was good you wouldn’t get that type of intensity if you were just out training, that was a forced workout, really intense.

I’m going to see how I go over winter and if I think I can get to any reasonable standard then I might think about having a go at the National XC Series. But XC racing is pretty intense, you’re looking at 2hrs of racing and the racing is lots of efforts, not a constant output of power which is what I’m used too. If I can get enough experience through the winter and I think I can be a decent competitor and not get in the way of others then I’d love to take on the challenge and broaden what I do as an athlete. “

Tim Dunford – 4hr Winner

”That was pretty good fun. I set off with Ben Thomas in the beginning and just concentrated on riding smoothly, unfortunately he ran out of brake pads after 2 laps, that was his excuse anyway. I think he just had enough! It got a bit lonely after that; we had a bit of a gap by the time he pulled out. Towards the end I had no braking power left either so spent my time trying not to fall off. I just went out there with training on my mind, if I don’t come to an event I just don’t get any off roading done in the winter.

The course wasn’t too bad considering how much rain we’ve had and I was so wet that I just didn’t notice it after the first couple of laps. Plus with all the rain it actually got a bit easier towards the end. It was good despite everything; I have to say I enjoyed it really. “

Paul Howard – 4hr Vet Winner

”As I passed you [Joolze] on the way to the finish you probably heard me say that was the hardest thing I’ve ever ridden, and you know me, I’ve done plenty of 12hrs and 24hrs solo and that surpassed everything I’ve done before. The conditions were pretty bad, it went from very damp and mushy to, ah there’s a nice line forming here, to it’s actually quite rideable as rivers formed.

Just to sum it up, the last 3 hrs, which was 75% of the race I suppose! I had no brakes whatsoever so it was foot down speedway style and the occasional tree hugging to slow down. It was a lot of fun despite a lot of mental talking to myself to actually get round the last lap. Today was only supposed to be a winter training ride, which is why I pitched up on the cheap singlespeed rather than trash the Whyte 19c. My Saturday was spent not relaxing on the sofa like many would pre-race day, but walking around the course for six hours laying out the marking tape, fortunately it was at least a pleasant sunny day. So with tired legs already I was going to start at the back and just plod round, and then I came over all-competitive!

All race I didn’t know what position I was in, till the start of the fifth lap someone shouted out that I was in 3rd, which made my heart rate go a bit silly. And I only found out I’d won when I crossed the line, truly shocked. I must have pushed on harder despite a world of hurt and flew past a few people some of whom must have been 2nd and 1st. A great start for the series despite the weather and a good start for my new Vet status. Obviously getting old hasn’t affected me! “

Jo Munden – 4hr Women Winner

”It was cold and wet but actually was a lot of fun. It was rideable all the way round, nearly. I had a great day and I didn’t get rained on all the time. It was pretty good fun for most of it, but the last lap was just a lap too far I think. No brake pads left and the course was just sludge, but you just can’t stop can you? I got a good start and just kept going, it’s a good plan. It was fun, and I’ll be back for the next one.”


Comments (4)

    I was there too. There’s no exaggeration in the race report, it really was that wet, the ground really was that draggy and this week WILL see a surge in brake pad sales throughout the south of England.

    Reading this has just reminded me about the bloke who snapped the headtube off his Kona and had to carry it back in bits.

    All the riders in those pix look surprisingly clean. The rain must have washed the mud off them.

    I saw the chap with the snapped kona, I remember think poor sod as it was less than 1/2 a lap in on the first lap. In hindsight he was probably ever so slightly thankfull.

    Anyone who did the 4 hour will no doubt have some pretty decent repair bills. I certainly did, looking at near £250 at the moment, and that was just for replacement of consumable parts that wore out!!

    With regards to the comment above about the pics, they were taken on the first lap! It got a lot worse for the following 3 hours.

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