27 Aug 2013

12:12 Torq In Your Sleep Race Report

7 RAF riders raced the Torq In Your Sleep 12 hour race over the August bank holiday weekend, held at Minley Manor annually the event is growing in size each year and pairs superb organisation with a brilliant course and great atmosphere.

The RAF contingent was made up of 2 mixed pairs (Fie Innes & Russ Holman, Lou Robins & Martin Pearson) and 3 solo riders (Mitch Webster, Si Harrison and BJ Doherty).  With the event growing in size so the quality of the field had increased, in particular the mixed pairs category looked particularly strong.  Following their superb podium last year Fie and Russ were looking for another good result and Lou and Martin were hoping to also be in contention.

The Army Cycling Union who had helped set up the course had reserved us a trackside spot near the arena and we arrived Saturday afternoon to sort our camp and pre-ride the course.  The weather was mixed with heavy showers but the sandy soil meant the course drained well and with a better forecast for Sunday everyone stuck with dry weather tyres.  Saturday night saw the team gather for  a BBQ and carb loading session before an early night for all.

The RAF Camp including Vicky one of the masseuses hard at work. 
Sunday morning brought with it dry weather, following a solid breakfast everyone ensured their bikes were serviceable and prepared their nutrition for the 12hrs ahead.  At 1145 everyone headed down to the start line to get a good position for the usual chaotic mass start.  1200 came and following a brief neutralised section behind a quad bike the race was on!

Russ and Martin on the start line.
All the RAF riders got good starts with the solo riders staying out of trouble and the pairs riders starting hard to set up the remainder of the 12 hours.  BJ and Si decided to ride together for the first few laps and were aiming for a similar number of laps overall.  Both the pairs had opted for different strategies with Russ and Fie changing after the first lap while Martin did a double lap to start before handing over to Lou.  It would be 4 or 5 hours before all the different strategies unwound and a clear picture of overall placings became apparent.  We were fortunate enough to have 2 sports masseurs available in the form of BJs wife Vicky and Sarah Patterson who had previously supported the team at Mountain Mayhem, although of no assistance to the solo riders the RAF and neighbouring Army pairs teams used their services in between stints.

Vicky and Sarah the two masseuses were kept busy by the RAF and Army riders
As both pairs were involved in a fierce battle both with each other and the rest of the field, the solo riders continued to put in consistent laps.  BJ and Si rode together for the first couple of laps refuelling each time through the pits.  Unfortunately on the 2nd lap BJ crashed while taking a drink and badly bruised his lower back, this caused him to retire on lap 4, disappointed but glad not to be more seriously injured.  Mitch taking part in his first solo endurance event continued to put in consistent laps supported by wife Laura.  Having only started XC racing this year entering a 12hr solo event represented a big step up but he maintained a measured approach throughout.

The RAF Synchronised Pocket Fumbling Team - Si and BJ refuel
Mitch refuels in the middle of his debut solo 12
Approaching halfway and the RAF riders were in strong positions, Si was holding 5th in the Solo male while Lou and Martin were 2nd in the very close mixed pairs category, Fie and Russ just 9 minutes behind in 4th place.

Unfortunately while on his 6th and the teams 8th lap Martin got baulked by a slower rider into a technical section this caused his chain to jump off and destroy the rear mech, chain and mech hanger.  Being only 3 miles into the 8 mile lap this meant a long walk/run back in stiff soled race shoes.  This would eventually result in a 90 min lap (compared to 40 min previously) and the loss of a lap and a half.  With blisters on both Martins feet Lou was forced to do a double lap to allow some repairs to both body and bike.  Lou completed a steady 2 laps but towards the end of the second suffered a recurrence of a long term chest injury and her race was over with still 4 hours of darkness to go.  Martins 29er race bike was irreparable meaning he had only his 26in rigid singlespeed.  He opted to continue and put in 5 consistent laps to bring the team home in 8th place with 15 laps completed.  A good result but disappointing as without the mechanical they would have been in podium contention.

The misfortune of Lou and Martin elevated Fie and Russ into the tight battle for 2nd place, with 4 teams separated by less than 15 minutes.  In only her 2nd year of racing and with limited night riding experience their strategy was for Fie to do a double lap at dusk finishing at about 2030, Russ would complete the race with a 4 lap stint in a replay of their podium strategy from last year.  Fie put in 2 solid laps to keep them in contention and then handed over to Russ with the team in 3rd place.  With elite riders ahead and behind, Russ had a tough task ahead of him.  Russ once again impressed and showed his suitability to endurance races with 4 superb 43 minute laps, despite being in touch with 2nd place he  couldn't quite match the final lap pace of Fully Sussed rider Jay Horton and came home in 3rd for the 2nd year running.

Fie and Russ take 3rd for the second year running
 The solo riders continued to lap consistently taking on food, fluids and the occasional ibuprofen as the race continued.  With the gaps between riders now consistent there were few gains to be made so steady progress secured both Si and Mitch their finishing positions.  Si in 5th place on 15 laps and Mitch in 33rd place on 11 laps.

Overall the event once again proved itself as one of the best endurance events on the calendar with everyone having enjoyed the course and atmosphere at the event.  Another podium continues the bumper year for the RAF CA MTB Team with both established riders and new talents performing to a high standard throughout the season.  A huge thanks to Vicky Doherty and Sarah Patterson for their massage services and to Tiny of the ACU for sorting our trackside pitch.  The RAF riders left the venue discussing pairs and teams for next years event... see you there!


12hr Mixed Pair

3rd - Fie Innes and Russ Holman - 17 laps
8th - Lou Robins and Martin Pearson - 15 laps

12hr Solo Male

5th - Si Harrison - 15 laps
33rd - Mitch Webster - 11 laps
Retired Injured - BJ Doherty - 4 laps

23 Aug 2013

RESULT: Altura Nutcracker XC Round 6 - Dales Bike Centre, Swaledale

Saturday 10th August saw 5 RAF riders compete in the final round of the Altura Nutcracker XC Series.  This was touted as a challenging finale to what has been a well organised series racing on some of Yorkshires toughest terrain.  The event was based out of the Dales Bike Centre in Fremington, Swaledale none of the RAF riders knew what to expect having never ridden at the venue before.  Dales Bike Centre in contrast to many trail centres serves not to service a network of sanitised man-made trails but as a jumping off point into the Dales stunning natural terrain.

Unusually the participants would gather at the bike centre before completing a neutralised transition to the starting grid.  During the pre-ride it turned out that this neutralised section comprised a severely steep 10 minute road climb before popping out onto the hillside where the start was.  The course was as promised very tough, tight rocky singletrack, steep climbs, exposed tracks with strong headwinds and steep technical descents.  Interrogation of the Garmin following the pre-ride revealed a 6km lap with 250m of climbing, it quickly became apparent that consistency and pacing would be key as would careful line choice to avoid having mechanical problems.

The RAF Riders competing were Mick Hardcastle (Vet), Mitch Webster (Sport Male), Fie Innes (Sport Female), Lou Robins (Expert Female) and Martin Pearson (Expert Male).  Russ Holman though injured turned up to provide support by handing out bottles, which on a deceptively hot day proved a lifesaver!

First on course were the Elite and Expert riders, although unsure what to expect following return from Afghanistan Martin got a good start and unusually made steady progress through the groups of riders ahead on the first climb.  Maybe no alcohol, average food and a spinning bike with no power/HR measurement is the way forward!  Despite going out pretty hard on the first 2 laps he put in a consistent performance over the 4 lap race distance and was somewhat surprised to find that he had won the Expert Male category on crossing the finishing line!  

Next to start were the Sport and Vet categories where Mitch and Mick represented the RAF interests.  Mitch continues to improve in his first season racing and his consistent results were reflected in his strong series position.  The tough course required pacing and Mitch rode a strong race to finish 17th and secured 12th place in the series.  Without a doubt though Mitch was the winner of the day when it came to the post race charity raffle, taking home no less than 3 prizes!  Mick had a few technical issues throughout the race losing his only water bottle on the first lap, then tearing a tyre on the first lap which required a lengthy repair and a tentative final lap, despite this he still achieved 13th place... unlucky for some?

Probably the most hotly contested race of the day was the womens race, with all categories racing together there were a number of races within races.  Fie was racing against fierce rival Vanessa Holmes in the sport category, with the winner not only taking the race but the overall series victory.  Although the only expert rider racing Lou Robins would also become involved in this battle with the 3 girls racing together for much of the race.  In the end Vanessa's climbing ability would prove decisive with neither of the RAF girls able to stay with her.  Fie took 2nd in Sport and 2nd in the overall series a great result in her first season of proper competition especially given she is the number 1 ranked Sport rider nationally and won the National XC series this year.  

Lou came home just ahead of Fie to win [sic] the Expert category, and took part in probably the most comedy podium of the day!

Series sponsor Altura provided the generous prizes in the way of clothing vouchers and the Cafe at the Dales Bike Centre provided an array of delicious cakes.  At the end of the series it is worth saying a big thanks to all of those who made the race and series possible, its superbly organised with brilliant courses and has well supported by both sponsors and riders.  I'm sure the RAF will have a continued presence at the series next year, hopefully on the podium!


Expert Male
Martin Pearson 1st

Expert Female
Lou Robins 1st

Sport Female
Fie Innes 2nd

Mick Hardcastle 13th

Sport Male
Mitch Webster 17th