Test Valley Tour - Hot Challenge 9th June 2013 by Tom
Gorrick have been running the Test Valley Tour for the past 16 years and I have taken part in at least four of those. The event starts from Vernham Dean Sports Ground which is ideally placed, in easy reach of the great trails in the surrounding countryside of the Test Valley.
With route options of 30, 50 and 80 km there is a suitable route option for most people. The weather running up to the event this year was fantastic, so I was looking forward for some great riding on dry dusty trails.
I have always found the TVT events to have a very friendly atmosphere, and this year was no exception. A real mix of riders and bikes, and everyone was out to have a good time.
The 50 km route started with a gentle road section, before entering the first off road trail which took us over a small hill, before dropping down back to the road. From here it was a long drawn out climb to the top of Coombe Hill - I am sure most people where pleased to see the top of this one. We picked up the Wayfarers Way for a couple of kilometres; this featured a few short climbs, flinty descents and amazing views. At times I regretted not packing the camera. At 14km we got to the first drinks station, immediately followed by the first proper puddle, no way around this one and time to get the wheels wet.
Shortly after this I heard the very unwelcome sound of hissing from my rear tyre, somewhere along the way I had managed to put a split into the sidewall of my tubeless tyre, and there was no way it was going to seal. Why does this always happen when your tyres are wet and muddy? So I stuck a tube in and carried on. A mile or so later, in a strange d�j� vu moment I heard the same hiss but this time from the front wheel, somehow I had managed to tear this in exactly the same way... Luckily I was carrying two spare tubes. I wouldn't do a long ride without two, but this was only the second time I had used both on one ride. So having already practised this once I was able to fit a tube without too much trouble. At this point it is fair to say it wasn't my best ride of the year, two torn tyres in the first hour is never a good start, surely things could only get better - and they did.
The second drink stop was at around 20 miles. I used this as an opportunity to borrow a track pump and get my tyres to a decent pressure. After this came the best bit of the route, namely the Collingbourne Woods singletrack, this was around 5 miles of pretty much non-stop narrow twisty trails through the woods. Riding this made me forget about the earlier punctures and I just enjoyed riding the dry woodland trails. The woods have had some forestry work over the past few months, despite this Gorrick had managed to find an amazing route through the woods. A few sections were hard going with baked dry forestry tyre tracks, creating lots of little stutter bumps, very glad I was on the full suspension bike for this.
All too soon the course popped out into the open and we were climbing again. This was the final climb on the 50 km route and started with a gentle, but bumpy, uphill bridleway, this gradually got wider, and steeper, and after a bit of effort we were at the top. Then followed a long smooth downhill track back to Vernham Dean. At this point I noticed the fairly strong headwind, I think we had missed this for most of the route.
Tantalisingly close to the finish (I think I could even smell the BBQ) the 80km route was sign posted left and onto the start of the 30km route which immediately took an uphill route through Vernham Row to rejoin the 50km route. This gave us chance to enjoy Collingbourne Woods for a second time, luckily for me missing out on the tyre shredding first 10 miles. Once again all too soon the course popped out of the woods ready to complete the final climb, followed by the long downhill to the finish. The head wind was still there!
Stats from the ride
Moving Time: 4:28
Ride Time : 4:45
Overall a great day out. A real mixture of bridleway and singletrack riding. The weather was perfect on the day, generally sunny but not too hot. Let's hope we get lots more days like this over the summer.
Thanks to the team at Gorrick for putting on another excellent event.
Can we please have the same ground and weather conditions for the Cool Challenge in November?
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