Monday, 12 December 2016

Dark and White Winter Mountain Bike Orienteering Event 1 Chapel en le Frith

I thought it would be good to try something different this winter. Wanting to ride many of next years Mountain Marathon MTB Series and other mountain bike events but also adding to winter training I saw an advert a while ago for Dark and White Cycling's Winter Trailquest series which features events all over the Peak District. Now know as Mountain Bike Orienteering the idea of navigation and cycling adds a different element to training.

At the start of my first Mountain Bke Orienteering event. Dark and White Winter MBO Round 1

With event 1 being staged in Chapel en le Frith on the Western side of the Peak District we meandered our way over after an early start. I've only ever done one orienteering event in the past at the Red Bull Robin Hood event so it would be intriguing how well I would actually get on. I didn't have high hopes but it's certainly good to keep things fresh and for a little over £15 an event I can't grumble on pricing.

After picking up my event map I had a generous 3 hours to dob as many checkpoints as possible. After a couple of wrong turns in Chapel en le Frith itself I finally found myself on the right minor road out towards Dove Holes after wasting a good 5 minutes trying to find my way but I had at least my first 10 points in the bag.

When I hit the A6 at Dove Holes a navigational error meant that I followed Doveholes Dale in error by going straight across. Looking for the red and white tape along the road I realised my error when it pulled alongside the railway. A quick right then left would likely have solved this at the A6 but cost me valuable time as I had to go out and back to the checkpoint I was looking for to add another 15 points to my tally.

From here things started to look up for a while and I hit my first cross country section along a bridleway from Smalldale across the side of Lodes Marsh laden with muddy puddles and mountain bikers. More points in the bag before climbing the quarry access route up high above the Donkey Sanctuary to Bee Low to nail another set of points along bridleways I've never before ridden.

Dropping back down to the A6 I thought I saw a road off to the right on the map that would help cut out part of the journey up to Blackbrook but it was actually the map showing me the edge of the Peak District National Park. Maybe it's time Ordnance Survey change the colour scheme as talking back at HQ at least one other person made the same error and ended up going up someones driveway.

I ended up back in Chapel en le Frith before cutting up to Blackbrook up what is known as Peaslows or I think used as the Sparrowpit Hill Climb. I was starting to need some sugars so used this as an opportunity to back off a little and take in a Clif bar whilst I climbed up to around 400m above sea level. I hadn't quite expected the level of climbing the event would have.

After gathering another 10 points at Blackbrook I dropped down to Sparrowpit and on to Perryfoot for another quick and easy checkpoint before settling off along the narrow road towards Rushup Edge that forms part of the Pennine Bridleway. Having never ridden the Pennine Bridleway I wasn't sure what to expect. It's certainly rough in places but ride able and after bagging another set of points there was the option of carrying on for a long section along the Pennine Bridleway or dropping down towards the small village of Malcoff. The section of the bridleway looked to pass through a lot of the contours on the map so despite being a 20 point checkpoint it looked a risk in terms of time so I opted to drop down to Malcoff down a field which turned into a rather muddy, slippery track with a gate that had seized up and needed me to lift my bike over.

My next checkpoint came on the edge of Bridgeholme Green before carrying on along Charley Lane and making a monumental mistake. At the crossroads atop Carley Lane I misread the map and thought I was heading west towards Eccles Pike, however I was heading northwest to the Village of Whitehough. Whilst I was drastically off the course I wanted I did catch a glimpse of an amazing beer garden at the Old Hall Inn so all wasn't lost. This is winter training after all.

I managed to nab a checkpoint by the Black Brook near Buxworth before climbing up towards a checkpoint on the outskirts of New Horwich. If I'd had my wits about me I'd have nabbed the checkpoint near Shallcross Hall Farm Too but I was now starting to get conscious of time as I climbed Elnur Lane which just seems to go on upwards.

I swung left towards the top of Elnur Lane dropping down a narrow road to be confronted by a tractor. A quick slam on of the brakes I fortunately managed to stop in sensible time before speeding downhill towards a quick left and right in the village of Combs which also had a great looking pub

I nabbed another checkpoint on the edge of Combs Reservoir before arriving at the main B road into Chapel en le Frith with about 5 minutes to get back to HQ within the 3 hour time limit. That should have been straightforward until a bus pulled up at it's stop and I was left waiting behind for an eternity without an opportunity to pass. The seconds ticked by as the bus pulled off only to get held up by a parked car on the high street and yet more oncoming traffic.

In the end I rolled into HQ 41 seconds late, losing a minuscule 1 point off my 180 points gathered. I'll take that for my first event and definitely something to work on for future. There was also a lot of road type riding at the event, In some ways I could have ridden a less trail specific tyre or even a cyclocross bike more successfully.

I learnt a few things in my first Mountain Bike Orienteering event

  1. I really need a map board for the next event to save me stuffing my map down my bib tights or simply holding it whilst riding
  2. I don't need to rush to hit the first checkpoint. Learning how to best get out of the HQ would be a better idea
  3. I need to eat and drink more. I only had a Clif Bar during a 3 hour event. I should be nailing 400 odd calories an hour for strong riding over the winter
  4. I carried too much with me. I should really be looking at using the back pockets of a jersey instead of a camelback as it certainly doesn't feel as comfortable for me.
Round 2 is at the Longshaw Estate near Bakewell so a little closer to home and with roads I have some knowledge of which hopefully will work in my favour. I loved the Peak District scenery in the area this weekend and somewhere different keeps things fresh over a long winter.

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