Sunday dawned dry but a bit cloudier and we had the advantage of starting directly from the campsite as the day’s lap was in the Cropton Forest. Refuelling of bikes was not allowed on the camp site but on the end of the field where the Parc Ferme was located. Luckily for me this was about 20 yards away from where I was parked.
The lap started and Dave and I headed off up the road, then through the forest on tracks and fire roads before reaching the first checkpoint of the day. We then has a short ride up the road through one of the fords we had passed through the day before (this one almost dry) albeit in the opposite direction and then back into the forest. Again it was pretty uneventful with a mixture of terrain until we reached the special stage. Starting once again with a sighting lap, it started well with a long descent on a fire road to a sharp hairpin bend that took you back up hill, all very fast and pretty straight forward…. And then we hit the first forest section!
This was brutal with twin parallel ruts along a narrow track through the trees, it was just a question of pushing, shoving and manhandling your bike through the mud. A short respite from the ruts didn’t last long and you were into another section of muddier and deeper ruts where it was a case of everyone pitching to help each other get their bikes through. A twisty single track descent through the forest followed where the mud was so slippery it was more a case of going where you went, rather than where you wanted to go. On this stage I actually managed to run into and fell a small tree!
Dropping out onto a fire road gave another short respite before more but thankfully easier ruts then a another descent through a less dense area of woodland, again where steering was more luck than judgement and into the final stage round the perimeter of two large fields of waist high grass, through which a wet, slippery and very rutted track had developed to finally finish the stage.
The course continued with some tricky sections but was largely uneventful apart from the occasional tumble on some of the slippery sections and the problems caused by my right hand footrest getting bent in the ruts which made it difficult to stand up on the pegs but I survived until the campsite was reached. A quick refill of petrol and a run back to the truck to retrieve a 4lb hammer and the footrest was “persuaded” back into shape!
A bite to eat and a drink and we were ready to go again for lap two, this was relatively straightforward until the special.
I fired the bike off down the fire road and went into the hairpin far too fast but somehow managed to slide my way round, hitting the bad ruts was a nightmare and I got stuck behind another rider, he got going again but I was stuck! Luckily another rider whose race was over due to a snapped chain came to my aid and got me out of the rut. I slipped, scraped and dragged my way through the ruts and then had a big crash on the slippery descent and then again at the bottom landing up in the ditch at the edge of the fire road. Luckily it was nowhere near as deep or as wet as the one I found on the Keilder. I managed to complete the special stage only to crash big time at the finish as the ruts across the field were becoming unridable, luckily I crashed after the timing lights.
Dave finished soon after and we carried on to find one particularly bad rocky descent had been bypassed for big bikes, something we were both grateful for.
A repeat of the process at the end of the lap, refuel, hit the footrest with the hammer (bent again), eat, drink and off to the start again.
By now Dave was missing his number plate and I had managed to snap the end off my clutch lever but otherwise we were doing alright.
The last lap was a repeat of the second and the special was no easier, this time the organisers were diverting the big bikes up the side of the rutted track, i.e. one line of trees (in the parallel planted forest) to the left that they had cleared of fallen branches etc, this was great but didn’t last long. Back into the ruts the rider in front of me decided it was a good idea to get into the parallel route again even though this section was a bit overgrown, he was doing OK and myself and several other bikes followed until he hit a root and stalled. Unfortunately he was on a Honda XR…. So no electric start! And anyone who has tried to kick start a big single when it’s hot will know it’s no easy task. After a wait that seemed to take forever but was most probably no more than 30 seconds, he gallantly laid his bike over to one side and we were able to ride over his tyres to continue.
Soon back in the ruts I was doing OK until I came across a rider trying to get out of the ruts as he had got hung up on a root but had got stuck at right angles. I stopped and stepped off my bike, which remained sitting upright in the rut. I helped him get his bike off the track and round a large tree and returned to my bike, started it up and got hung up on the same root!
Luckily the rider I had just helped had reached the end of the ruts, parked up and came back to help me. Once we were both free I tackled the slippery descent. Dave had passed me stuck in the rut and I had then passed him on the slippery descent, I didn’t see him again to the end of the stage that I managed to slide round without falling off or getting stuck again and then waited about five minutes for him to appear at the finish line. I was able to get some photos of him as he rode in across the rutted field;
All that remained was the straightforward ride out and back to the campsite, the bikes got packed away and we all headed for home, for me that was a five hour trek down the A1 to home, not bad for a Sunday night.
Next instalment we are back to Wales for the first time since my DNF at the RallyMoto Sprint and a rather long wait for the results of the Rydale.