Land of Nod, Headley Down Surrey
Sunday 2nd October 2016
For those old enough and with long enough memories the name Pedalhounds will bring back memories of Southern-based Mountain Bike Racing at its best in the 90’s and early 00’s. The races were the proving ground for some of the South’s best Mountain Bikers in both Cross-Country and Downhill. The Pedalhounds Races were where many of the South’s top names caught the racing bug and started life between the tapes.
Paul Hunt hung up his organising shoes in the mid 00’s and it was only when the Enduro Racing bug bit that Paul thought about coming back to race organising. Racing Enduro’s across the UK with his long time partner in crime Ian ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson, Paul knew that the venues he’d found back in the day would be perfect for the format of Multi-Stage Enduro Racing he had in mind.
Paul’s take on the ‘Mash Up’ Enduro format was to get riders to ride a lap made up of a number of stages, four at the Land of Nod in any order, before returning to the Race HQ checking in their timing chips and finding out how they’d got on. Then heading out again with the fastest accumulative time through four stages over three laps taking the honours. The other big change was to ride the stages blind! With no practicing before the Stages go live on race day. With the aim of levelling the playing field and giving those without the time to practice the course, an equal chance on race day.
Well, roll the clock forward 6 months and the Pedalhounds Team was back. Promoting the first of its Multi-Stage Enduros at the Land of Nod in Surrey. Familiar to many as the venue of many of Paul's early Pedalhounds Cross-Country and Downhill Races with some riders sharing memories of the early Rockhopper South Races at the popular venue from back in 1992!
The Land of Nod is a Private Estate and a hidden gem, boasting blocks of woodland and open farmland with the rolling hills that enabled Paul and the Pedalhounds Event Crew to design and build 4 very different Stages.
Stage 1 saw the riders complete the longest of the 4 transitions and head out to the top of one of the original Pedalhounds Downhills. From there the start of the course quickly dropped into the Pine Trees weaving it’s way through the ferns before snaking it’s way out onto the steeper section of the hill where three ‘bus-stops’ greeted the riders, the last of which, and the largest, dropped the riders into the final shoot across the tree roots and camber and into the stage finish.
Stage 2 gave the riders lungs and sprinting legs a real workout with a flat out sprint across the top section before picking up the loam through the snaking turns under the pine trees, then a quick blast into the tight and rooty section before being spat out of the final turns into the finish. The lower section of this stage was where the time was really gained or lost. Lots of line evolution took place throughout the day with the corners cutting in, along with some roots coming out to catch the weary racers off guard.
Stage 3 had another fast open start before plunging out of the light in the field into the dark of the woods. No time to let your eyes adjust as it was straight into the multiline corner. Then as the pace quickened again one of the toughest corners of the day, a 180 degree right hander through the tightest of trees. Keep the bike rolling through this one and you were guaranteed to put some time between yourself and the competition. From one of the worst corners to one of the best, the final turns cut in a treat as the day wore on and left riders wanting more of the same as they burst out of the woods to cross the finish line.
Stage 4 had a short sprint from the start before the riders left the forest road heading into another virgin section of trail. From here a series of turns that had riders dodging the tree stumps that lay in wait between them. Back onto the forest road and another short sprint, then into the steep turns where line choice was critical. Everyone seemed to be struggling to carry good speed through these turns but that was soon forgotten as the track opened up into a fast short downhill section carrying riders down to the finish line.
Obviously racers of a certain age weren’t going to miss the return of Pedalhounds Racing and it was great to see so many familiar faces. Some who have been racing for years and some who were dusting off their old bikes or strapping a number board to their new one for the first time to make a comeback! It was also great to see so many Enduro regulars and new faces trying Enduro for the first time with good numbers competing in both the Women and Under18 categories.
It was also great to see Brendan Fairclough, literally riding from home in the next village to race. A great opportunity for Brendan to stretch his legs before heading off to Utah for Red Bull Rampage. For Brendan it was also a return to his roots as he was one of the many Southern based riders that got into downhill racing through the Pedalhounds Series.
In the Open Women’s category Katie Wakely showed her intentions setting the fastest time across all 4 stages to record a total time of 13.40.91. Francine Arthur (Bird Cycleworks/Morvelo) came home in second place with a time of 14.36.19 and Chloe White (University of Bath) racing for the first time rounded out the top three with a time of 15.16.45.
In the Elite Men’s category it came as no surprise to see Brendan Fairclough (Scott) at the top of the timesheet. Despite having far to much fun racing with his mates around the stages, Brendan’s time of 12.21.69 was 17 seconds clear of Rob Francis in second place on a time of 12.38.43. Oliver Morris (BW Cycling) rounded out the Elite Podium in 3rd with a time of 12.44.69.
In the U18 Boys Category it was great to see new talent in depth with lots of riders racing Enduro for the first time. There was also a good mix of ages in the combined category with the youngsters taking on the older riders. Henrik Jensen took the win, setting the pace with a time of 13.12.29, underlining that consistency was key with this format by not setting the fastest time on any of the stages but putting together the fastest overall time. Jack Davies took second place with a time of 13.12.60 and Will Smith rounded out the podium places with a time of 13.20.21.
In the Senior Men category Mop Head (RedShortsRidingClub) took the win with a margin of just 0.53 of a second from Sam Potter (AllRideNow.co.uk) with Mop stopping the clock with a time of 13.33.00 and Sam’s recording a 13.33.54. Fredrick Williams also put together some consistent times to take third place on a time of 13.39.82.
The Master Men’s category was by far the biggest on the day with 50 riders looking to take top honours. Dave Valler (bikeactive.com/S4P) came out on top of the time sheets with a time of 13.02.53. Rhys Sutton was just 2.98 seconds behind in second, with a total time of 13.05.51 Marlon Winch rounded out the podium placings on the day with a time of 13.07.40 in third.
It was also no surprise to see so many Veteran Men lined up. Many with fond memories of the early Pedalhounds Races and stories to tell from racing all those years ago at the Land of Nod. Simon Adams (Merida UK) set the pace with a time of 13.07.02 edging Stefan Gleed into 2nd place on 13.09.44 and rejuvenating a life long rivalry in the process. Matt Vezey (Team Manball Enduro Racing) rounded out the podium positions in third with a time of 13.21.71.
For the Grand Veteran Men it was another chance to take a trip back in time. With their memories of the early days of racing Pedalhounds fading fast it was great to see how close it was at the top of the time sheets. Mark Twist just edged out Karl Woodman (QECP Collective) to take the win with a time of 13.59.36, just 0.95 of a second quicker than Karl who stopped the clock on 14.00.31. Ian Howe rounded out the top three with a time of 14.16.92.
In the Hardtail Category John Davis took a clean sweep of the stage times and put just over 30 seconds between himself and second place. With a total time of 13.06.24 John came home 30.21 seconds clear of Jack Wild (Team Miland) who finished in second place with a time of 13.36.45. Harry Veale (Cycleworks) rounded out the top three with a time of 13.51.34
In the Fun Men’s category a field of 24 riders many racing for the first time lined up to take on the Four Stages that lay ahead. It was first time racer, James Oxborrow, that set the pace with the fastest times on stages 2,3 and 4 to stop the clock on 13.26.36. Joe Farley came home in second place with a time of 13.38.64 and another first timer, Torben Cook, rounded out the top three with a time of 14.13.13.
Thank you to everyone who came and took part, with the feedback on the day and on social media indicating everyone had a great time. Thanks to all of our sponsors and event partners; Surrey Hills Cycleworks, MoreDirt, DigiTickets, D&D Cycles, Clever Banners, Block Head Energy Gum, Firecrest Mountain Biking, Fox, Mojo and Sussed Out Suspension for their support. Thanks to The Land of Nod for letting us come back and race again after so many years away. Thanks as ever to the First Aid Staff and of course all of our Course Marshall's who without their support there would be no racing. Thanks to Dave from BigMacPhotography for the great photo's.
The good news is that Pedalhounds Multi Stage Enduro’s will be back in early in 2017 with a Spring Series. Dates and venues are to be confirmed, but the series will be starting in March with races in April and May we'll post more on the Pedalhounds Facebook Page
as soon as we know what's happening.