There is a lot to like about the Torq In Your Sleep 12 Hour event, held at Minley Manor, home of the Royal Engineers for the last five years and organised by the experienced Gorrick crew. Ranking high amongst those highlights are the superb course, friendly atmosphere and the fact that the venue is only a few miles from my home. The course was doubly praised this year for its ability to handle torrential downpours as during the preceding week and at numerous times on the day before, monsoon like conditions battered the venue. But true to form, the local sandy soil sucked up the moisture and left us a largely dry race track which got dryer, smoother and more fun the longer the event went on.
Despite swearing I’d never tackle the Pair’s category again after a brutally hard Torq 2 years ago in which myself and Dave Collins of Hope Factory Racing battled with the 4 man teams for the overall lead, I relented and managed to convince fellow Exposure Lights supported rider Josh Ibbett to join me. After the dismal summer he wasn’t too keen on another mud bath, so it was a relief to see both the Sunshine and the arrival of my teammate on Sunday morning.
A quick spin around the first half of the lap revealed a course already drying rapidly and in remarkably good shape. This would just get better and better as the sun shone and many thousands of wheels wore a smooth line into the wooded singletrack. I’d agreed to do lap one and lined up behind the quad bike which was ready to lead us around the camping field before launching us into the new section of singletrack on Olympic Ridge. The start itself was a bit of a disaster, the decorum that serves me so well in passing lapped riders worked against me in the start loop melee and I found myself muscled out and having to make a big effort to move up once the race proper started.
Thankfully, the open nature of the course provided ample passing space and I soon settled into a fast moving group vying for 6th position overall and followed wheels for half a lap to get my breath back. By the time we’d cleared ‘Banksy’ I was feeling good and raised the pace on the climb from ‘The Bridge to nowhere’. Only Scott Chappell came with me and together we tested the best of the two line options at ‘Duck or grouse’ (Duck was fastest by the way) and in ‘Minley Maze’ (the left line was a shade quicker) before flying down ‘Crusty Sponge Bob’ and back to the arena to hand over to Josh.
Josh was certainly not hanging around and I quickly remembered the challenge of racing as a pair – you have to ride as hard as the teams and you only get a little over 30 minutes to warm down, grab some food, warm up and be back at transition ready to go again. But it was great to get back out on track, this time hitting better lines and pushing it harder through the singletrack sections. Lap 2 was probably the smoothest of the event with little traffic and fresh legs, but the leading pair were already well ahead so I concentrated on riding smooth and building a solid gap over the intense battle for 3rd which was raging between the Army, RAF, Wafe and the Racing Snakes. Despite the ammunition on display, 2011 pair’s champions Lumicycle were to pass all of these teams and come closest to catching us.
The afternoon passed in a blur of trees, lactic acid, hurriedly consumed carb drink and brief social encounters back at camp. In total, we had five teams and two soloists so add to that numerous friends, family and supporters and we had a huge crowd hanging around camp enjoying the sunshine. I think this is one of the great draws of this event, the friendly atmosphere and fun yet accessible course make it great for the experienced and new riders alike.
Back to the racing and josh and I continued to knock out pretty consistent laps, although the relentless nature of the course, the short rises and limited chance for recovery were starting to take a toll on my legs and I wasn’t feeling as sprightly on the two main climbs to the high point of the course as I had been earlier in the afternoon. I was very impressed with Josh’s consistent lap times, fuelled by rations of jelly babies and rice cakes – the food of champions!
By 7pm it was already getting dark in the trees but this is where we came into our element with Exposure lights fitted to the bikes, the goal was to get in as many laps as possible before midnight. The Lumicycle pair had upped their pace and established themselves in 3rd position. We had a good buffer over them but needed to pay attention to make sure they didn’t sneak up on us and spring a surprise attack. But we were dealing with civilian adversaries and that final ground assault never came. Josh got back at 11:55pm to send me out for one last full gas lap which I completed in less than 40 minutes to secure 2nd position a lap ahead of our rivals.
The crew had a glass of sponsor Longdog Brewery’s Hampshire Ale ready on the finish line to toast another great Torq In Your Sleep. As I said, there is a lot to like about this event, that’s three years in a row I’ve been on the podium, better come back year next year for another go. If you like the idea of a top event on an ace all weather course, you should too……
Thanks to the following people:-
Josh Ibbett for braving the weather and laying down some great laps to get us onto the podium.
Exposure Lights for lending me great lights the race.
Sean Wratten from Bertie Maffoons Bicycle Company for helping to keep my bike rolling.
Jon Lucas, Paul Howard and the rest of the Gorrick Crew for putting together an ace event. I’ll be back next year.