In the week Dad mentioned there was a MTB XC race at Inside Park. Inside Park at Blandford, has been used extensively over the years by the local orienteering club primarily for foot-O but also for MTBO. After years of running there regularly, I know the forest well. In recent years the woodland has developed and a XC course has been put in by the local bike shop Off Camber Bikes.
Off Camber Bikes run a winter series always using the same course – at least with minor variations. There’s usually an event each month and luckily the 3rd race of the series fell on a free weekend.
I rode half the course with Dad to warm up, but got stuck on an off camber root drop. In the end (after eating dirt several times) I decided I would run this section in the race because I had to get back for the start and couldn’t spend any more time practising the line I wanted. Towards the end of each lap was a rocky short sharp climb over an earth bank, and a rock garden leading into a rock drop. I rode the rock climb in the warm up lap, and took one run at the rock garden so didn’t need to keep practising as it was ok to ride here.
A small rush to make it to the start after my warm up, but as always there was a bit of waiting. The format for the race is a mass rolling start. Everyone bikes steadily together for the initial tarmac section, although the speed bumps provided some entertainment! As per usual, the speed of most male riders was high on the first fire road climb, so I spent the rest of the first lap overtaking them on the single track. Running the off camber root drop gained me several places so it was a good plan. I also ended up running the rocky climb in the race to over take riders who had slipped their back wheel and were attempting to clamber off their bikes. Running up the inside gained me places.
Into the second lap and I was grateful I had paced the first well by not getting caught up in the mad rush at the start. I slowly picked off a few more riders, but ended up in a game of cat and mouse for the next two laps with another guy. I was better on the climbs, but he always gained time on the single track descent. In fact, in the final 1/4 of the course he was fast enough to quickly become out of sight on the twisty course. In the end he beat me by 20 odd seconds, as the final part of the course suited him more than me. The rock garden was interesting: the pictures flatten it out somewhat, but in reality it was a jagged drop initially before going onto some uneven slabs.
My lap times were fairly consistent: 28.10, 28.18 and 29.23. Women actually only had to do two laps, but I was enjoying it and feeling good so I took in one more just for fun. The final lap, I eased off a little bit. I knew there was no-one behind me as I hadn’t seen anyone on my looks back on the climbs, so I took it a little steadier.
I won the women’s race by a few minutes. Second place was a teenage girl who was 2.5 minutes slower per lap. I had a far better experience than last week, despite the course being more technical. It was twisty and rooty with many slippery root sections in the corners. The rock garden sections just added to the fun. I hope the Off Camber crew can continue to develop the course as it can only get better and more exciting. A few more technical sections (with chicken lines for those new to the sport) and the course will be absolutely superb. I really enjoyed the balance of the course actually. A nice mix of fire road, singletrack on the flat, rollers, fast descents, twisty singletrack, fun singletrack descent with jumps, log jumps, a bombhole, and the rock gardens.
I only fell once, when I misjudged my handlebar width going through a narrow tree gap. I caught the left end as my wheel slipped on the root and ended up colliding with the tree.
All the photos on this website are taken from the Off Camber Facebook page – thank you. (I hope the other photographers photos will be online soon, hopefully getting some good air over the jump!).
Thanks to all the race marshals, organisers and course builders for a great morning out.