The Rivette QUESTars Adventure Race Series

The Malverns Q2 Adventure Race

 

Race Report

This was the first time in Questars’ 14 year history that a Questars adventure race had been held in the Malverns, so the area was new to both regular participants and first-timers alike. The area is dominated by The Malvern Hills that are aligned north-south in a 13km long line, overlooking the Severn Valley to the east. The hills are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and are part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which contains several Scheduled Ancient Monuments and Special Areas of Conservation so it was a real treat to be able to hold an adventure race in this area.

The Three Counties Showground provided an excellent event base both in terms of its central location and facilities onsite. Situated at the foot of the central section of the hills, on the eastern side, the showground gave good access to both the northern and southern hills as well. Onsite there was plenty of flat space for parking and camping, a decent sized toilet block with showers and a large room where everyone could sit down. Inside food and drinks were available from the event caterers and participants could get a sports massage courtesy of Stokes Sports Therapy.

Split into four stages over two days this Q2 adventure race was a real test of both physical and mental endurance for all participants irrespective of their ability. At the pre-race briefing participants were told that they needed to make tactical and strategic decisions about what they did, when they did it and how long they spent doing it. They were also given a heads up as to what was to come in the latter stages so they could make an informed decision as to whether to concentrate on the running or biking in the first stage.

Stage 1 & 2

Stage 1 and 2 were combined into a single stage, at some point during which teams had to take a minimum break of at least one hour. All the Masters, and a good number of the Novice teams, took their compulsory break midway through the stage when they switched over from running to biking or vice versa. Most of the other Novice teams took their break at the end of the stage to give themselves more time to rest and recover before the night stage, whilst a few elected to take their break right at the start so they use the hour to look at their map and plan their route.

The trail run took teams over and around the central and southern hills, with the furthest checkpoint on the Trig point on top of Chase End Hill at the southern end of the Malvern Hills. There was some lovely running to be enjoyed along the ridgeline and across the commons, which showcased many of the features that shape and characterise these hills including Iron Age hill forts, disused quarries and of course the wells and natural springs that the Malverns are famous for! With a minimum distance of 28 km and over 1000 m of ascent it was a big task to visit all the run checkpoints (400 pts), but 2 teams achieved this, the fastest to do so being Campbell Walsh in a quick time of 2:36:55.

Teams cycled to and from the kayak transition visiting mountain bike checkpoints both on the way there and back. The most direct route via two bike checkpoints was just over 9 km which the top teams did in under 30 minutes.

The kayaking took place on the River Severn around Upton on Severn where this big river is some 50 m wide. Weeks of little to no rain meant the river level was low and moving very slowly. Thus teams had to go right to the bottom of the slipway - aptly named as it was steep and slippery – to reach the water. Ropes had been fixed in place for participants to hold onto and to haul their kayaks up and down. On the water the breeze seemed to come in different directions on different parts of the river making paddling down river just as difficult as paddling upriver on occasions. Most teams headed south from the kayak transition first to bag the high value kayak checkpoints before returning and only heading up to the northern kayak checkpoints if they had both the time and energy. Five teams visited all the kayak checkpoints (300 pts) with ladies pair Nicki Adams & Helen Murphy recording the quickest time of 1:34:33. A special mention also goes to Stuart Jolly, the only Novice participant to do so, who clocked the second fastest time (1:38:03).

The mountain biking was more a means to get teams to and from the kayaking as opposed to being one of the main disciplines of Stage 1 & 2. That said there was plenty to keep those who prefer two wheels over two feet busy with the bike checkpoints positioned to make best use of the quiet country lanes and bridleways around the hills. It was a gentle introduction to the hills with 540 m of ascent over the 35 km that needed to be covered to visit all the mountain bike checkpoints (300 pts). Thirteen teams managed to do this with the overall stage winner, Campbell Walsh, doing so in less than 2 hours with a time of 1:57:36.

Campbell’s incredible score of 975 pts was 110 pts more than Kris Smith who finished the stage in second, 15 pts ahead of third placed Warren Mason. Joanna Wilson & Alisdair Mason beat rivals Carol & Andy Yarrow by just 1 point to finish the stage top of the mixed class with 743 pts whilst Nicki Adams & Helen Murphy were the top ladies team with a score of 745 pts.

Stage 3

There was a chasing start between 20:00 and 20:30 for the night stage with Novice participants setting off first in reverse order followed by the Masters. Teams had up to two hours in which to visit checkpoints on foot but with points for whole minutes not used there was an incentive to finish early and save some energy for the fourth and final stage the following day.

As darkness descended so the temperature dropped. A chilly wind picked up and it wasn’t long before spots of rain started to appear. Despite still feeling the effects of Stage 1 & 2, participants were keen to get going and warm up. The checkpoints were spread out over the central and northern hills and most of the top teams headed north along the flat, disused railway line first. After finding the checkpoint situated in the roof of the tunnel under the railway line the climbing began, gradual at first but increasing in gradient with altitude. Seventeen teams made it to the checkpoint on top of Worcestershire Beacon, the highest point on the Malvern Hills (and in Worcestershire), from where the lit streets of Great Malvern could be seen shining brightly below. It was a steep descent off the top to a flooded quarry for the next checkpoint, which was quite eerie in the dark. Then it was on to the activity point where a cerebral puzzle awaited those teams that wanted a break from the physical side of things before continuing south along the hills and back to the finish.

Campbell Walsh visited all but one of the checkpoints to win the stage with 310 pts whilst Magnus Mill collected 280 pts to finish second, 4 pts more than third placed Kris Smith. It was very close at the top in the Novice category with just 1 point separating the top three teams. Men’s teams Wii Not Fit and The Dharma Initiative were first and second respectively, both with 226 pts and separated by only 27 seconds whilst the Martock Massif mixed team were just 1 minute - and 1 point - behind.

Stage 4

Mountain biking was the main discipline for the final stage on Sunday morning but there was also a trail run over the northern hills and an activity in the flooded quarry to test teams decision making skills. The trail run took in Worcestershire Beacon again giving those that wanted to, the opportunity to visit the highest point in daylight and take in the spectacular panoramic views from the top; of the Severn Valley on one side and the hills of Herefordshire & the Welsh mountains on the other. There were only three points-scoring checkpoints on the trail run but they were separated by big distances so there was lots to think about in terms of which route to take between them. Eight teams visited all the trail run checkpoints (200 pts) with Campbell Walsh covering the 15 km distance, with 600 m of up and down, in a fast time of 1:29:21.

The mountain biking was a hilly one with the main concentration of checkpoints on the northern hills. However, these checkpoints were placed to make use of the best bridleways that contoured along the side of the hills, giving some excellent riding with views over the town of Great Malvern and the surrounding area. Outlying checkpoints were placed far and wide enticing participants down off the far side of the hills, from where they would have to either climb back up or go a long way round to get back to the finish.

Anyone wanting to visit all the bike checkpoints (450 pts) would have to cover at least 49 km with over 1500 m of ascent and descent. Three individuals managed to do this within the four hour Masters time limit, the quickest of whom was James Lea-Cox in 3:42:08. James was the fastest of three teams who all scored 470 pts to come 2nd in this stage, but it was Campbell Walsh who won the stage with 510 pts to complete a hat trick of stage wins.

And so it was no surprise at the prize giving when Campbell Walsh was announced as the overall race winner with a combined score of 1795 pts for all the stages. Kris Smith (Team EnduranceLife) came second with 1591 pts, 7 pts ahead of top veteran Kevin Stephens in third place. With class wins in both stages 3 and 4, Carol & Andy Yarrow amassed 1390 pts in total to finish top of the mixed team class. Meanwhile Nicki Adams & Helen Murphy completed a clean sweep, coming first in their class in all three stages, to win the ladies class with 1360 pts.

There was a lot more change in the Novice category where none of the teams that won their class in the first stage remained at the top their class come the end. These honours went to Anthony Warner in the men’s class (1218 pts), the mixed team of Craig & Jo-Anne Purchase & Phil Hyland (990 pts) and Nicky & Izzy Desailly (886 pts) in the ladies class. Stuart Jolly finished as top veteran just 13 pts behind Anthony Warner the overall Novice category winner.

Likeys prize vouchers were handed out to the winners along with goodies from event partners MuleBar, Muc-Off, MapDec & Stique. Well done to everyone that took part in this challenging two-day adventure race and completed on average 12 hours of running, biking and kayaking.

The next race in the 2015 Questars Adventure Race Series takes place on the first Saturday in June in Cannock Chase – the first there for over 5 years! Like all Questars adventure races, it is suitable for both novice and experienced teams of 1, 2, 3 or 4 people. There aren’t many places left so enter online now

 

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