Race Report | QECP Trail Collective Enduro
QECP Trail Build Collective, or Queen Elizabeth Country Park Trail Build Collective, are a group of trail builders dedicated to creating some of the best trails in the south of England. They put on their first Day/Night enduro on 17th May and it looked awesome! Quite an interesting race report see’s the experience described by a participant with next to no racing experience. It’s quite a fascinating read!
If I am being completely honest I have to say that I hadn’t really thought this through when I entered the event back in April, my racing portfolio reads like this:
- Races won = 0
- Races Finished = 0
- Races entered = 0
- Downhill experience = 0
- Fitness level = mediocre
- Skill level = mediocre at best
So, as you can see, really well positioned to ride the QECP Collective Day/Night Enduro!
The day of the race I didn’t have time to really think about it as I was charging around a Laser Quest venue with a bunch of 8yr olds for my son’s birthday. This was followed by serious carb loading in the form of birthday cake! I got home, packed my bag, put new tyres on, and waited for my lift. Our 40 minute drive to QECP was in glorious sunshine and dry trails were spoken about, wrong, wrong, wrong.
Now earlier you may have spotted that my fitness level was mediocre, this was one of my major concerns for the event and practice was going to take a lot out of me beforehand. My team mates didn’t harbour such concerns, one being in the Navy and one being ex-Navy their fitness levels were a million miles ahead of mine. They dragged me round kicking and screaming and I am glad they did……well sort of!
We need to talk about the trails if for no other reason than to applaud the organisers and volunteers of the QECP Collective. The work they have done on the normal trails at the park has been fantastic, I am always humbled by people who devote their own time for the good of others, and that’s what this lot have done. The work they have done on the Enduro course however is the work of the devil! Steep, loose, twisty, rooty, chalky, off camber, and did I mention steep? Brilliantly challenging but not so hard that it was impossible for the less skilled like me, a hard combination to get right but I think the collective nailed it. The work that has gone into the creation of these trails from hell is substantial, thank you QECP Collective…………I think!
After the long climb up to the start of stages 1&2 we made the decision to miss out stage 1 and do 2, 3, & 4. I set off with a little trepidation but mainly with hope and joy running through my unsuspecting mind, this very quickly turned into fear and panic about a quarter of the way down stage 2 when I went down and round the first seriously steep section to find my team mate lying sprawled across the trail! As it happened he acted as a brake for my own tumble as I made gentle contact with his bike, he had a large section of skin removed from his arm, but hey, he stopped me! The rest of the descent was just comical as we slipped and slid our way down to the bottom, however I made it without actually falling off, result!
Practice on Stage 3 started well and I was smiling through the lovely flowing single track, this is what I know, this is what I enjoy I was thinking, and all was right with the world once more. That was until the section after the fire road, where it became apparent that whichever gene you require to enable you to ride off camber trails; I had been missed off the distribution list. I soon ended up on my backside at the side of the trail as my wheels slipped from underneath me time after time; with growing frustration I watched others ride by with ease. ‘How are they doing this?, why do I keep wiping out and they don’t?’ was all that was running through my head following that stage, I very quickly decided that I was incompetent on a bike and that I really shouldn’t compete later on as it was waaaay beyond my riding ability.
Practice run on Stage 4 was OK as there was very little off camber stuff and I stayed upright which is always a bonus, had a couple of little moments on the twisty berms at the end but survived that bit unscathed but my confidence was in tatters.
My mood hadn’t really lifted at all despite my team mates attempts, and I kept gently suggesting to them that they sod off and leave me behind as I didn’t want to ruin their experience with my state of mind and fitness. But they wouldn’t, and with their reluctance to leave the weak link behind came the realisation that I was going to have to do this thing.
1st thing to put out there is that I stayed on my bike, I actually got from top to bottom without falling off, and my confidence received a mini boost. The route was excellent, there was one section which I struggled with but the rest was great fun and totally enjoyable. As we were off quite early we were still riding in daylight, it would have been a challenge in the dark that’s for sure, especially the little jump ¾ of the way down that could really catch you unawares but in daylight it was a nice little feature. The trek back to the top is best left unspoken.
The guys at the start of the stage were good humoured; music was pumping, and the throng of bikes, (if that’s the right term for a group of bikes?) was exciting. All this led to a lift in my mood, I went from grovelling round in the trough of despair to a happier place somewhere between acceptance and mild hysteria.
Following the ‘success’ of stage 1 I was buoyed up, from practice I knew where the sections that would bite were situated, I was ready, I was going to nail this. I didn’t, I fell off 3 times, one of which resulted in a spectacular roly poly that my children would have been proud of. The great thing was that it didn’t really hurt, I got loads of cheers due to the falls, and I made it down alive. The bunch of spectators in the middle of this stage were great fun, kudos to them for taking the time to stand in a chilly forest watching people fall off bikes. Anyway that was the tough one out of the way wasn’t it……………..?
It pains me to re-live this one, in fact I am actually in physical discomfort while I type this. It all started so well, had a nice chat with fellow racers before the start, I Fought The Law by The Clash pumping out and geeing me up, hired light was giving me a lovely bright beam of light which wouldn’t have been out of place lighting a football stadium. All was good, and off I went, loving the flowing single track, I even put some effort in to the pedally bit I was enjoying it that much, and then I got to the drop down to the fire road.
The marshals shouted something to me as I was approaching the drop down, I am sure it was something useful but all I could see was a patch of off camber rootage. Next thing I know I am on my back on those roots and my bike is sliding down towards the fire road. That hurt quite a bit, nothing serious though and after sliding unceremoniously down the bank to collect my bike I picked myself back up and rolled off down the other side of the road. The last thing I heard was a friendly female voice shout “are you ok love?” I answered with “not really” and a smile and then promptly fell off again. I really did spit the dummy on this stage, feeling the frustration as per the practice session. The spectators and marshals were great and I feel bad for those shouting encouraging words as I battled to stay upright, my face probably just said ‘go away’ but with swearing. I appreciated all your words, I really did, thank you.
I am done in now, nothing left in the legs and battered and bruised. Stage 4 practice was good though so I knew this stage was doable, what could possibly go wrong……..hmmmmmm. My team mates asked me if I wanted them to go ahead of me to give me an extra few seconds to recover from all the falling off, I thanked them, secretly thinking that they didn’t want to get held up by me on the final stage, which was fine by me. I was soon on my way, lovely trails no off camber silliness, funny how quickly a smile can return when you are on a bike. 2 minutes into the stage and going well, I was first blinded and then plunged into darkness, and then blinded again and then darkness. I ground to a halt behind a tree and pulled myself off the trail to find that the light bracket had shed its rubber spacer and was hanging free on the bars. Oh heck I thought(actually it was a lot stronger than that but not printable) I had no option other than to get an allen key out, remove the light and replace with my cheap back up light, this cost me about 6 minutes and relegated me to last place in the fun category. Despite this incident I have to say this stage was great, I didn’t push it following the lighting incident and this allowed me to appreciate the thought and care that had gone into the route which took in a lot of the existing red but made it very different.
I rode over the finish line to be handed a very welcome beer by another volunteer, where would we be without these folk.
Brilliantly well organised race, great bunch of volunteers and spectators, really well built and thought out trails hard enough to test the best, but just about rideable for numpties like me. I will be back next year to improve on my last place, as Yazz says, The Only Way is Up!
1 – Oliver Carter / Cube UK – 11:45:04
2 – Joel Chidley / Bird Cycleworks – 12:01:93
3 – Rob Francis / Three Musketeers – 12:06:63
4 – Benjamin Marks / Cycleworks – 12:30:24
5 – Alistair Mclean / Fatcreations & Gearded Bikes – 12:34:84
1 – Francie Arthur – 14:35:94
2 – Sarah Bedford / Swarf Cycles – 16:25:02
3 – Beccy Booth / Fatcreations & Bearded Bikes – 16:49:06
4 – Tania Barrow – 18:56:16
5 – Claire Bailey
For more info on the next race, full results and the work from QECP, visit: QECPtrailcollective.co.uk
Words: John Nicholson Photos: Big Mac Photography