Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

QECP Trail Collective Enduro – 27 July 2014

Posted by Dandy | July 29, 2014 | 7 comments so far

Dandy jump at the QECP Enduro

Photo by Alex Holden Photography

How do the guys at QECP do it? How do they run such a perfect race, I mean?

I’m not talking about the course, though the four stages were fast, flowy, and fun. I’m not talking about the organisation, though that worked very well, too. I’m talking about the hotline to the weather gods that ensured we had rain on Friday to dampen down all the dust, then a baking hot Saturday to firm the course back up again ready for Sunday’s race.

Six of us, loosely affiliated with the Moles & Diary groups, made it to the Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Petersfield, as part of the 150 competitors for the second running of their Day Enduro event. The inaugural event was last July, which I also attended (see my QECP Enduro 21 July ride report). They also held a Day/Night event back in May, which was again great fun.

After the 9am riders briefing, we all headed off for the first of many climbs up the hill to the start point for the stages. All four stages begin from the same location, so during the race it’s quite a sociable meeting place as you chat with the competitors around you.

With a queue for Stage 1, I started my practice runs on Stage 2, leaving Stage 1 until last. I found this second stage the most technical of the four stages, and had to stop and retrace my tracks to attempt a few sections a second time, as my first attempts were even less impressive than usual. With most people riding Stage 1, I was almost alone on the course at this point. The stage had some doubles and some rollers, along with many of QECPs ‘signature’ off-camber and rooty corners. I made a mental note that if I had enough time, I would ride this stage again. The transitions between stages were a comfortable 20 minute climb, and being fresh I had no hesitation in deciding to attempt all 4 stages in practice, unlike last year when we only practised two of the four stages.

Andrew at the QECP Enduro

Photo by BigMacPhotography

Stage 3 was a longer and less technically challenging stage, but it was hard work. My ‘semi-fat’ Surly Instigator (I was entered in the ‘hardtail’ category) is not the lightest of bikes at around 33 lbs in weight, and it was a tough job to keep accelerating out of the corners in an attempt to get it up to a decent speed for the many flowing sections. Generally all stages have lengthy pedalling sections, it’s definitely an Enduro race, not a Downhill.

The signs that exhorted you to, “Pedal – it’s a race” were amusing at first, but with quite a few of them dotted around the course the joke began to wear thin on those of us not renowned for their pedalling. This stage also had a tricky little drop off a fire road, which I pushed back up and attempted again to find the better line.

All I could remember of Stage 4 from the previous year was the very sketchy, steep and rooty section at the end. Other than yet more rooty and off-camber corners on the way down, this final section was the real challenge. I rode it reasonably cleanly in practice, despite the distraction of a few fallen bodies and bikes that seemed to be dotted around the periphery of the course. By now, on my fourth climb of the day, and with the time now approaching 11am, I decided that I’d seen enough of Stage 2 on my first run, and ‘ticking off’ Stage 1 was going to complete my practice session. Other than a section where you can choose either a gap jump or a tabletop, there were no major obstacles on this trail; though as with many of the trails, there were quite a few step-downs over fallen trees to contend with.

Andrew and Baron at the QECP Enduro

Photo by BigMacPhotography

Although by now it was not long past 11am, I decided it was coffee and bacon butty time; even though my start time was not until just after 1pm. This should give me plenty of time to digest the food, and recover my strength after the mornings exertions of climbing 450m or so. It seems like Niall, Rob and Andrew all had the same idea. Tony D and his mate, Simon, were off to practise another stage, as their later arrival meant they’d only one run under their belt.

On their return, as they’d not ridden Stage 3, we went and had a look at the fire road drop again which was only a short pedal away from the car park area. Luckily we found an even faster line very close to the fence, so had an extra practice at this section which was the line I took during the race. With the many categories (Masters, Veterans, and Hardtail) we all had differing start times, with mine being the last. During the wait for the start, and we all start from the Race Village, I got chatting to another Fat Bike owner, who was competing on his On-One Fatty. He needs to give me some fat bike riding lessons as he got that beast down 2.5 minutes faster than me.

Wobbem at QECP Enduro

Photo by BigMacPhotography

On to the race proper, and Stage 1 starts from a wooden ramp, which almost made me feel like a ‘pro racer’. Having ridden this last in practice, it was still fresh in my mind, though I was still over a minute slower than the fastest hardtail competitor. This lack of pace was repeated for all four stages, as I finished 5’ 20” behind the category winner on total time. Of greater concern to me was that I was starting only one minute ahead of the Women competitors. The young lady behind me was riding for Birds Cycles, and a subsequent ‘Googling’ of her details shows Traharn Chidley is a very handy rider. I was very grateful for that extra 30 seconds, as a look at her times shows she would have caught me on three out of the four stages. I did get a chance to chat with her on the climb up to the starts, as she graciously cycled at my pace rather than her own undoubtedly much faster pace.

Having had a high-speed interface with a tree a few weeks ago, I was determined to cycle at an enjoyable rather than a ‘flat out’ pace; but to be honest, I don’t think I would have gone that much faster had I really been trying. With all the downhill being on great trails, and knowing there were no walkers or horse riders lurking around the corners, it made for a really great day’s ride. Stages 2 and 3 were negotiated safely enough, though as soon as a marshall shouted out an encouraging, “Come on Surly” I cocked up the corner and used the fat tyres to bludgeon my way through the undergrowth and back onto the trail.

Dandy at the QECP Enduro

Photo by BigMacPhotography

I got a little worried before the start of Stage 4 as I chatted to the rider starting ahead of me. He was talking about the tricky off-camber section at the top of the course, which I couldn’t remember at all. I realised what he meant when I hit it, as during practice I had to ride it quite slowly as there were a couple of bikes down, and this was why it hadn’t registered. I managed to stay upright, though I did drift off a little too low on the exit. I also managed to stay upright on the final steep and rooty secton, even registering the, “Go on, Dandy” from Rob who, having finished, was cheering on the later riders – or looking to see some blood spilt.

And that was it, finished in one piece. Unfortunately that was not the case for Andrew. He went over the bars into a tree on Stage 4, and after a painful Sunday night was diagnosed with a broken collar bone at A&E on the Monday. Get well soon, even though you still managed a faster stage time than me despite the broken bone! With no injuries to pain me, it was a great day’s riding. Completing all four trails twice (once in practice, once during the race) meant that I cycled about 32km with nearly 1,000m of climbing during the day.

It really was a great day out on the trails, and as ever, the QECP Trail Collective put on a brilliantly organised race. A hearty thanks to all the marshalls and those involved. I will definitely be back again for next year, but can it remain sunny for three years in a row?

Filed under Racing, Reviews, Rides in July 2014


About the author

Having been mountain biking since 1996, you might have expected Dandy to have learnt to ride a bike by now. Several broken bones in the last few years prove the maxim that you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

In between hospital visits, Dandy rides a brace of much-blinged Pace RCs, the 'green themed' 405 and the silver & gold 506. His winter hack is the Moles' favourite, an On-One 456 hardtail, now converted to an Alfine hub He also dabbles in 'the dark arts', keeping 2 road bikes in one of his seven sheds.

There are 7 comments on ‘QECP Trail Collective Enduro – 27 July 2014’

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  1. jonesy says:

    Well done for having a crack at it. Sound like a good laugh, although I’m both surprised and disappointed that you didn’t crash Dandy, given your recent vegetation/tree interfaces.
    The secret seems to be riding with me, so I’ll have to do this next year to egg yo on to ride faster and more on the limit 😉

  2. wob says:

    Nice review Andy. Next year I will use flat pedals, all those very loose off camber corners didn’t inspire confidence when clipped in.
    A great event, well run, highly recommend for all types of rider levels.

  3. KevS says:

    Nice write up D’Andy. Shame that Andrew came out of it with broken bits. 🙁

    Enjoyed your account of the QECP, particularly this bit …

    “Stages 2 and 3 were negotiated safely enough, though as soon as a marshall shouted out an encouraging, “Come on Surly” I cocked up the corner and used the fat tyres to bludgeon my way through the undergrowth and back onto the trail.”

    No change there than! :-))

  4. Karl says:

    An enjoyable read DAndy,
    A nice insight into the day.
    Bike looks good, and I like the shot of you with a wheel up.
    Bad news about Akak.

    Carry on.

  5. Chrish says:

    I was enjoying reading that, until I got to the bit about broken bones. Ouch. Get well soon Andrew.

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