Questars moves to the Chilterns for the fourth race in the 2012 series
The fourth race in the 2012 Questars adventure race series, which took place in the Chilterns on Saturday, was another sell out event. People came from all over the country and beyond to take part. Some travelled from as far as the Lake District, Ireland and continental Europe whilst others returned from working even further afield overseas. This race also proved popular once again with those that don’t drive as the event base was within easy walking distance of the mainline railway station.
Unfortunately the weather didn’t do much to welcome everyone. The cool damp conditions made it feel more like the end of October than the middle of July. Scattered showers came and went during the day, though thankfully the event escaped the worst of the torrential downpours that had plagued most of the country over the preceding weeks.
All the recent wet weather had softened the ground considerably, especially since the previous Questars race in Purbeck at the end of May. The paths and bridleways were very wet and muddy, especially for this time of year. Looking at them you would have thought it was the middle of winter, not summer. Participants had been warned about this and were told to expect to encounter ankle deep soft, sticky and wet mud in places. Tyres and shoes with a decent off road tread were therefore definitely recommended.
Participants started from Tring Rugby Club and could choose whether to run or mountain bike first. Many of the top teams elected to start off on foot and cycle later. However, this was perhaps bit of a gamble given the conditions. The bridleways would surely only deteriorate further and get worse as more people cycled along them. Would they regret this decision?
With the run checkpoints spread out in all different directions from the event base, it was difficult to know where to go first. Some decided to tackle the hills and headed out in both directions along the Ridgeway. Others preferred to ease themselves in more gently by running alongside the Grand Union Canal, which cuts through a natural break in the Chiltern Hills used by other transport links; the London mainline and A41 dual carriageway. There was the option of continuing on the towpath along a disused section of canal around the town of Tring but it was a big loop and fairly committing so it certainly wasn’t for tired legs. Those who made it to checkpoint 4 on the top of Pitstone Hill were rewarded with spectacular long distance views along the Chiltern Hills and out across the Vale of Aylesbury.
Participants kayaked on a sheltered stretch of the Grand Union Canal, which in places is cut deeply into the surrounding countryside. The positioning of the kayak checkpoints together with their values meant there were several key decisions to be made as to which way to go along the canal first, how far to go and when to turn around. Only half a dozen people managed to visit all six kayak checkpoints in the permitted time; several more tried but failed and so incurred a penalty for doing so.
Much of the mountain biking was up in the hills to the south of Tring. After their first foray off road, participants soon realised that they would have to stick to the tarmac as much as possible if they were going to get anywhere quickly on their bikes. However, some of the minor roads were so potholed and covered with debris washed down onto them they were more like being off road than on them. The bridleways at the distant part of the course were particularly hard going. Halfway round, one participant managed to persuade a farmer to hose off the worst of the sticky mud clogging up his bike. Whilst another person said afterwards “I especially enjoyed the mud lakes… very innovative”.
As participants returned to the finish it was clear which of them had made it to the furthest parts of the course for they had mud splattered over them, from head to toe. So it was not surprising that after finishing, many people made use of the warm showers on site and took the opportunity to grab a bite to eat from The Quest Kitchen before the prize giving.
Prize vouchers to spend on adventure racing clothing and equipment at Likeys were awarded to the winners in each class. Veteran Kevin Stephens put in a mighty fine performance to win overall on the day with 795 points, collecting five more points than second place Matt Unsworth (also a Veteran). Tom Davies (Team Tri-Adventure), who went into the race leading the 2012 series, finished third overall to win the Men’s Solo class with 780 points. The mixed class was won with 760 points by Carol & Andy Yarrow. Isla Reynolds won the ladies class with an impressive total of 630 points – 50 more points than Michael & Chris Brown who won the men’s team class.
The Duo race is for those who prefer not to kayak and is therefore an hour shorter. Alan Hartley did incredibly well to collect an amazing 730 points in this time to win the Duo race.
Novice race participants also have an hour less than the Masters, but they do kayak unlike Duo race participants. It was Veteran Kevin Mackenzie who collected the most points to emerge as the overall Novice winner with a score of 545 points. Kevin was very closely followed in second place by Christopher Abel who won the Novice Men’s class with 542 points. The winning mixed team of Robert Lawrence and Lindsay White clocked up 531 points to finish third overall in the Novice category, whilst Julia Fonnereau and Octavia Chambers scored 460 points to win the Novice Ladies class.
The next race in the 2012 Questars Adventure Race Series takes place on the 1st September in the Brecon Beacons and is suitable for both novice and experienced teams of 1, 2, 3 or 4 people. It counts towards the UKAR Championship and is therefore likely to be very popular. There are only a limited number of kayak places available for this one-day adventure race so if you want to take part and haven't got your entry in yet, best to enter online soon.
For further details please see www.questars.co.uk