Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Dark and White Winter MBO Round 4- Matlock

3rd Place in Category A- I'm Starting to Enjoy MTB Orienteering

I love riding around Matlock. It's a sensible ride out from Nottingham and the roads nearby offer a great gateway into the Peak District National Park. I couldn't honestly count the number of times I've ridden up the Via Gellia over the years although I've only briefly explored the trails nearby so when it was announced that the final round of Dark and White's Winter Mountain Bike Orienteering series was to be based from the town I was pretty happy to have a little bit of area knowledge.

Why Did My Bike Look Dirtier Than Everyone Else?

When I head out on the road from home and want to head for the hills (which is pretty much 99% of the time despite not being 8 stone wet through and one of those envious 'climber' type of riders that looks like they're be pushed into a ditch at the first sign of a decent cross wind. I can head out to Matlock and back in a nice 3 hour winter training ride, be back before lunch and have nailed over 1000 meters of climbing in less than 50 road miles which beats a boring trip out towards Newark or the Vale of Belvoir.

With a starting point at the  impressive sounding Imperial Rooms in the heart off the Derwent Valley there was always going to be plenty of climbing required to grab those important points. I dibbed in at close to 9 AM and was given my course map for 3 hours of what I have been calling 'structured winter training'.

The course map headed West and South-West including the Pennine Bridleway which heads upwards from High Peak Junction up to Middleton Top before meandering along the vast open moors towards Longcliffe and Pikehall. With a 20 point checkpoint on the edge of Minninglow Hill and plenty of high level checkpoints in the vicinity it made sense to make my way in that direction as apposed to heading directly West with the tough and persistant climbs around Winster, Birchover and Stanton in Peak.

From Matlock I headed out towards the ominous Riber Hill Climb. The climb is a real fixture on the hill climb circuit for it's length and sheer difficulty, Fortunately my first checkpoint was down White Tor Lane a few hundred metres into what could have easily been a torturous climb. Ten points in the bag I dropped at speed down to Cromford, home of Arkwrights Mill before cutting up Intake Lane towards the next checkpoint underneath the Pennine Bridleway/ High peak Trail.

From here I had a couple of options. Either head directly up the Pennine Bridleway towards Middleton Top or drop back down into Cromford and head up the Via Gelia towards a checkpoint at just outside Bonsall Village. I opted for the road route up to Bonsall. I've never climbed the Clatterway through Bonsall and I tried to hold eventual event winner Killian Lomas' wheel up the steepest sections but just didn't have enough in my legs. Eventually I turned off up toward Black Tor  for the checkpoint with Killian around 50 metres in front so I'd not climbed too badly.

I dropped back down the the Via Gelia and had planned to climb up to another checkpoint at Middleton Top however it's a tough climb on a road bike and instead opted for the almost parallel climb up to Ryder Point which had a checkpoint part way up  on the way to the Pennine Bridleway.

After heading back on myself down the Pennine Bridleway towards Middleton Top I turned West along the Bridleway picking off another checkpoint on the edge of Longcliffe and the nice 20 point checkpoint out towards Pikehall. I'd never ridden off road along this section before- It's a great familt friendly route and can be used for fast training too. There was barely a soul on the trail too which makes me want to further explore the route. I'm tempted to do a ride along the Pennine Bridleway from High Peak Junction out to Hayfield and back at some point in the summer.

After turning off the Pennine Bridleway near Pikehall after a very interesting section along what appeared to be a walled section of raised trail I headed back East along what initially appeared to be a rough and slightly muddy farm track. The condition of the track worsened to mud bath however I'd managed to get myself rolling in a relatively big gear and was steadily passing rider after rider. I was in the zone, so much I overshot the next checkpoint by a couple of hundred meters and had to double back on myself. The further along the lane I rode the worse conditions got. It was never unrideable but it assured I would be taking some of the Peak District home with me.

After picking up some more points South towards Aldwark I headed North over the rolling moorland to the former cyclists mecca of Elton. When Elton Cafe was still running here people would ride out from miles around for coffee, cake or a cooked breakfast. It must be 7-8 years since it closed but it's still got a place in the hearts of many a local cyclist that made the pilgrimage.

I headed East through Elton before picking up the rugged Islington Lane for some more points. I then climber up to the Miners Standard and along Bonsall Lane nailing some more points along the muddy Blakemere Lane before dropping down the perilous Nailor Lane towards Matlock Bath as time was pressing. I knew there were a few checkpoints in the Derwent Valley that would allow me to make some progress as opposed to heading North amongst some tough climbing towards Stanton in Peak and Birchover.

I picked up some more points along the gated Aston Lane from Oker with some difficulty. Unfortunately the tape indicating a checkpoint was on the Northern side of a hedge. Coming from the South I rode past not seeing any tapes as indicators. It was only when I got to the next gate I realised I'd gone too far and subsequently went back to look for the missing checkpoint.

From there I headed over to pick up another valley checkpoint at speed in Darley Dale before a final climb up to Upper Hackney for another 10 points before a date to the finish. My legs were screaming at me by this point.

I never thought I'd come home with 238 points as I was slightly over the 3 hour time limit returning but that's my highest total across the 4 rounds of the series. From the results I was 3rd place senior male although disappointingly there was no prize for 3rd place. I've been doing the MBO events over winter as some different focus but I've enjoyed them so much that I'll give them a little more focus in future and fully recommend the Dark and White events which seem very well put together and reasonably priced too.

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