Official Race Report
A serious wrist injury that kept me (Mark Mcphillips) off the bike for months and a looming trip of a lifetime has put a very different emphasis on my mountain bike orienteering aims this year. I had low or more accurately no expectations for this year. Once I was back on the bike my focus was on doing as many endurance rides as possible. My endurance has steadily returned but I have been lacking speed as evidenced by my below par performances in the two hour Dark and White summer events.
Such dilemmas meant that this year I have been trying to put much more emphasis on picking the right route for my current fitness. Strangely the success of this strategy was highlighted when me and Maggie rode as a mixed pair in the Summer Polaris to one of my best ever overall results even compared to all my previous solo efforts!
After dibbing in to start the National Championships at Bainbridge I put my new strategy into action and spent a lot longer than normal planning my route. After about five minutes my plan emerged and I headed off to clear the SW corner first due to the cluster of high scoring checkpoints. It also meant I got the most difficult climbing out of the way early on.
After clearing the SW corner I really enjoyed the warp speed tarmac descent from control 15 to 27 and starting howling out in delight as I hit over 50mph. Several other competitors on the way up the climb were cranking their arms round to encourage me to go even faster. I was going so fast and having so much fun I nearly forgot about turning off for control 27, luckily I had not left it too late.
From checkpoint 27 I headed over to the bottom of the ‘buttertubs’ road climb up to control 30. I suddenly had that feeling that the route I had picked was too ambitious and made the difficult decision to miss out control 30. I even missed out control 16 as I realised I needed to work my way over to the east side of the map as quickly and efficiently as possible before heading back into the high scoring area on Thornton Rust Moor and Stake Allotments. The next few hours were spent fighting to make my route work. The high levels of effort and concentration almost lead to a few wrong panic decisions but on each occasion logic won through and I avoided any big mistakes.
As I gradually thought more and more about the finish I knew that I had to complete my planned finishing route to get a good score. My final run in was 10, 22, 21, 13, 29, 24, and 8. The most important of these controls was 29 as it was worth thirty points but it was a rather lengthy in and out. Getting to 29 was relatively easy with the benefit of the strong winds and downhill profile. Getting back onto my finishing loop was anything but easy. I gritted my teeth tucked in my arms and did my best impression of a classics rider on the pave. As I passed checkpoint 13 again I started to worry that maybe I was not going to make it on time. The descent down to control 24 soon banished those thoughts as it was another mega fast descent and the strong tailwind continued to speed me along as the contours levelled out again. Shortly after dibbing into my final control (8), I could clearly see the Event HQ down in Bainbridge. The rest of the swooping tarmac descent down to Bainbridge was ridden with a huge smile on my face and I finished with over a minute to spare.
After everyone had finished their own personal battles with the wind and terrain it was time for the prize presentation. My score of 400 points had been the highest of the provisional results but I knew Will Simmons result had not been included in these. It was with great relief that I heard Will’s name read out before mine by Steve Willis. I had just become National Mountain Bike Orienteering Champion!
Thanks to Steve and all the other people involved in organising this event. The riding was great fun and I am tempted to come back for a weekend and try it all out at a more relaxing pace.
The trip of a lifetime if anyone is interested is the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, 2750 miles from Banff Canada to Antelope Wells in New Mexico. Ben Fogle and James Cracknell are starting the same trip 10 days after us but they are aiming to complete it in 17 days or less! We are planning on completing it in a rather more sedate 39 days, only averaging 70 miles a day! Wish us luck especially with regards to the bears and hopefully we will still have all of our limbs at our next events in the Autumn.