Mix fairy lights and glow sticks, some banging tunes, a bridge to nowhere and a magical grotto for around 12 hours, pour in liberal amounts of dust and a soupçon of water, oh and not forgetting the most vital ingredient – 500 Lycra-clad mountain bikers – and you have the makings of more fun than you can shake a stick at.
TORQ in Your Sleep was in town and the party atmosphere was bubbling over. The folks at Gorrick had spent months mowing, tweaking, shovelling and planning a spiffing eight-mile course at Minley Manor near Yateley with the help of the Army Cycling Union, and now it was time to put it to the test.
On the lead-up to the much-anticipated event it seemed that the trails would be a soggy, muddy mess as the rain came down in bucketloads.
But much to everyone’s surprise they were greeted not by heavy, soul-sapping mud but soft, loamy dust that formed soft peaks on the corners, grabbing unsuspecting wheels as they sped past.
Wiggle’s Matt Page won the men’s pairs with team-mate Lee Williams
The track was running fast, despite the apparent looseness, and sub-40 minute laps were soon the norm as the fast boys got under way.
In defence of their title from the previous year were the Mountain Trax team; up against them were TORQ 1, the Progression Fitness boys and not one but five Pedal On teams.
As the race got under way this was looking to be a battle royal, and throughout the categories there was some close calls as margins were made and closed, lap in lap out.
And they’re off! Riders leave the start line and begin the 12-hour TORQ in Your Sleep enduro
Starting at noon means there are only around four hours to enjoy the dark fun that night riding brings, turning those once familiar trails into adrenalin-filled chutes of mountain bike exhilaration.
The more tired you get, the more your mind plays tricks on you, the more adrenalin surges through your body and the more you think there are ‘things’ out there to catch you out.
At TORQ 12:12 to add to this experience riders could hear a steady beat as they neared the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ and when it exploded into view their senses were overloaded with bright lights and loud music.
A rider encounters the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’
Soon after, a much more soothing experience was to be had as riders entered the Blue Grotto, a magical tunnel of singletrack dotted with glow sticks and a few twinkling fairy lights. It was enough to bring a cheery smile and take minds off a smattering of rain that kept threatening to increase, though thankfully never did.
By this time, Torq 1 had already stamped their authority on the men’s race, taking firm control and picking up the win, leaving last year’s winners in second spot, while Progression Fitness denied the Pedal On boys any access to the podium.
However the women, who took a commanding win in their race, upheld Pedal On honour. With TORQ girls Lydia and Maxine taking a confident win in the women’s pairs, all eyes were now on the TORQ mixed team – would they, could they, complete the hat-trick and make it three wins for the event sponsor? The Lufbra AllStars proved to be stronger on the day, with TORQ 2 having to settle for second.
TORQ girls Lydia and Maxine took the women’s pairs title
One of the closest battles had to be for the mixed pairs titles, with just a smidgen over 10 minutes separating the top three teams. In the end it was the Tunnel Hill Trolls pairing of Jason and Louise Robinson, putting local trail knowledge to good use, who took the win, leaving Xcracer pair James Hampshire and Nadine Spearing to duke it out for second with Beyond the Hill’s Nick Evans and Rachel Fenton. They they narrowly succeeded, with just 13 seconds to spare.
In the men’s pairs, Wiggle boys Matt Lewis and Lee Williams seemed to be taking on the four-man teams as the carved their way through the trails, very nearly matching the TORQ1 team on lap counts but coming up just one lap short with 20 laps to take a comfortable win in their category.
Forty-eight hours previously, Kim Hamer-Hurst had been sipping cappuccinos in France, preparing to ride the Master’s Cross-Country World Champs. She was having a blinding ride and looked good for a medal until mechanicals put paid to her race.
Kim Hamer-Hurst took the solo women title
Her dreams in tatters, what better way to take her mind off that and give something back to her sponsors than to drive hundreds of miles back to Blighty to take part in her first solo 12-hour?
She took to the challenge with gusto, quickly opening up a five-minute lead which she steadily extended, taking the win with 15 laps under her belt.
In the men’s event, Steve Webb put his singlespeed through its paces, spinning smoothly over 18 laps to take the win from gear-crunching Gerald Tudor, who by just 31 seconds pipped Adi Scott to second place. John Brooks scooped the veterans’ solo race win with a strong 16 laps.
Solo veteran winner John Brooks takes on some woodwork
As the witching hour inched ever closer there was a contrast as riders either belted hell-for-leather for the transition, eager to get another lap under their belts, or huddled expectantly at the top of the hill, ready to stream down when the hooter sounded, more eager to get their hands on a steaming cuppa or something stronger.
Hundreds packed into the marquee to cheer those who had earned their moment of glory on the podium and some healthy prizes to boot. And thanks to the generosity of the many supporters, spot prizes were awarded, with riders picking up unexpected holiday breaks thanks to Saddle Skedaddle, along with track pumps and Dirt Worker pressure washers.
Keep an eye out for some exciting news from the Gorrick over the coming months. Winter could be a whole lot of fun – especially for Brass Monkeys!