QECP Trail Collective Day and Night Enduro

By Charlie Mortleman

Bit different this. In the new style of MTB Enduro, it comprised 4 timed, predominantly downhill stages, and untimed liaison stages, by definition, predominantly uphill – you just need to make sure you make the start of your timed stages on time. The event was held in Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Petersfield, and the QECP Trail Collective did a great job of setting out a challenging course and generating a fun atmosphere, with free camping and a bunch of trade stands.

The twist, however, was that whilst practice was in the day, the actual race was at night…..

Very bright – collection of mountain bikers or explosion in a Dulux factory?

So I registered and was quite pleased to see that there were only about 15 of us in the codgers class. I was also pleased to see a distinct lack of anyone on turbo trainers! Then off to practice and it was clear that stages 1 and 2 would be the tricky ones: steep, switch-backy, rooty, loose and off camber, with lots of trees. Stage 2 added an A and B option: B was steep, A was steeper, but faster, assuming you didn’t lob off (quite a big assumption). Stages 3 and 4 were longer and faster – more “pedally” in Enduro terminology.

840 dawned (dusked?) and I was off, with riders going at 30 second intervals. To keep us out of the way I assume, the codgers were off last. Trouble was, this meant the most visually impaired would ride in total darkness.

Stages 1 and 2 went okay, with one minor tumble, and I started to focus on stages 3 and 4, where I hoped to put the finely-tuned Paul- Butler-trained mighty-Mortleman-legs to good effect. 5 second countdown and I grabbed the big ring (well – a 38) and with Paul Butler’s words ringing in my ears (“what’s the worst thing that could happen?” – well plenty actually, I tore a hamstring here last year) I yelled a Jens Voigt-esque “shut up legs” and sprinted like mad, and promptly nearly took a wrong turn………. Into the woods and singletrack, and it was clear I was “underlighted” for 20 plus mph in the woods as I tried to find a route through the gloom.
Then I found myself bathed in glorious daylight. A few thoughts ran through my head:

  • Armageddon
  • It was an epiphany – there was a sneaky tree around the next corner and I was off to meet it and thereby my maker
  • I was about to be abducted by aliens, ET stylee
  • I was about to be mown down by Colin McRae in his WRC rally car

The reality was somewhat more prosaic – it was Phil Payter (eventual codger class winner) bearing down on me. “Blimey” I said to him as we rode up to stage 4, “how big’s your w***y?....... I mean how many lumens have you got?”. “2 x 2000 on my bars, and another 2000 on my helmet” (crash helmet, not the other kind)….. put my 450 to shame….

Stage 4 passed reasonably uneventfully – no Martians, apparitions, or rally car drivers – and into the finish area for a nice cold one thanks to Hargroves cycles. Quite pleased with my first ever podium – albeit 5th place in a small field!

Thanks to QECP Collective and everyone else involved for a great fun event.

Err – where do I go now?