The Rivette QUESTars Adventure Race Series

Wiltshire Downs Adventure Race

 

Race Report

Conditions were warm and dry for the penultimate race in the 2015 Questars adventure race series, which took place on the Downs in the heart of Wiltshire. The ground was firm and checkpoints positioned to make best use of the not-so-overgrown public rights of way, which meant the course was on the whole, a fast one.

The course planner had been kept busy in the week’s running up to the event, making changes to the course to avoid the worst of the overgrown rights of way, some of which were impenetrable in places. And many hours were spent cutting back brambles and clearing nettles to ensure participant’s progress wasn’t impeded along the key routes that linked checkpoints together. The unprecedented step was taken to highlight these on the course map. They varied widely from well-laid, wide gravel tracks right through to narrow, incised paths covered in long grass, but all were passable with care.

With all three different disciplines starting and finishing at the event base, participants could choose whether to run or bike first. The kayaking was the only restriction and each team had been allocated a slot during which they were allowed on the water. Those kayaking first made their way straight from the start, under the road bridge, to the wharf where they got kitted up ready to kayak on the Kennet & Avon canal. Participants were advised to use a low step to get on the water as the side of the wharf was quite high, but some chose not to do so and several people took an early dip in their rush to get on the water!

The kayak checkpoints were spread out over a 3 km stretch of the canal, so anyone wanting to visit them all would have to paddle 6 km in total there and back. 25 teams managed to do this within their 60 minute time slot to score 180 pts, the fastest of whom was the men’s team of Mark Humphrey & Tom Davies in 50:13. Nicola Wood was the fastest female to clear the kayaking recording a time of 52:20 together with her mixed team race partner Magnus Mill, whilst the Human Spiders were the quickest Novice team to do so in 54:47.

There was a nice bit of fast flat running along the towpath to start off with before the trail run checkpoints took teams north across the Vale of Pewsey, climbing gradually up to the foot of the Downs. From there it was a short but steep climb up their southern flank to the top of the Downs. The far-reaching views from the top of the scarp face across the Wiltshire countryside were amazing. In particular those from the ancient Martinsell Hill Fort and the ‘Giant’s Grave’ spur which at over a kilometre sticks out from the main escarpment giving a brilliant 360 degree panorama of the area. Once up on the Downs there were no more steep climbs and some lovely trail running to be enjoyed along their tops however it was anything but flat. The furthest checkpoints were located on the far side of the Downs so anyone looking to clear the trail run (350 pts) would have to drop down to visit these, before climbing back up to cross the Downs again on their return. Nine teams cleared the trail run, with the top 3 men’s solos covering the minimum 22.5 km, with some 400 m of ascent all in 2 hours 12 minutes!

Visiting all the mountain bike checkpoints was big task and one that involved covering over 48 km and 700 m of ascent. However it was one that was very much achievable given the fast ground conditions. The furthest checkpoints took participants up, along and over the chalk hills that line both the northern and southern sides of the Vale of Pewsey. And those that made it up both hill ranges could look across the vale at the distant hills on the other side to see where they had been or where they were going. A strong breeze up top made cycling along the Downs against the wind hard work though it did take the edge of the temperature a bit which was welcome. As always the course was designed for all abilities. Hence a good number of points could easily be earned by just visiting those checkpoints in the Vale of Pewsey so those that didn’t want to tackle the hills didn’t have to.

15 teams cleared the mountain biking (470 pts) with the Gary Davies doing so in just 2:41:51. Andrew Shaw was the only novice to do so. A few participants chanced their luck by not sticking to the recommended routes but all regretted their decision, returning to the event base at the end of the day with unenviable stories about battling their way through the undergrowth.

Prizes from event partners Likeys, MuleBar, Muc-Off & Stique were handed out at the prize giving to the winning team in each class. The top two teams cleared all three disciplines to finish with the maximum score of 1000 pts each but Gary Davies (EnduranceLife) did so in 5:52:30 to take the overall race win, some 5 minutes ahead of the men’s team of Mark Humphrey & Tom Davies. They did not have the best of races; Mark suffered a calf injury just 30 minutes into the trail run and were one of the teams who ended up doing battle with the vegetation on the Mt biking. Kevin Stephens was on course to join them but he lost time in the woods trying to find one of the Mt Bike checkpoints which cost him dear. Instead it was Kris Smith (EnduranceLife) who came third overall with 970 pts, dropping just one Mt bike checkpoint. Roy Sievers was the top Veteran with 945 pts whilst 850 pts saw Magnus Mill & Nicola Wood win the mixed team class. Less than a minute separated the top two in the ladies class, but it was Courtney Prestage who collected her 825 pts slightly quicker than Carol Yarrow & Helen Antram to take first place.

The 5 hour novice race was won by Ben & Jack Wallace with a score of 690 pts whilst Jamie Graham & Andy Thorneycroft’s score of 665 pts saw them finish as top Veterans, in third place overall. Rachel Eveling finished first in the novice ladies class with 620 pts and a clear lead of 75 pts over her nearest rival. It was much closer in the novice mixed team class though with Alex & Wayne O’Brien top on 609 pts, just 9 points ahead of Emma & Steve Bentley. Meanwhile 670 pts saw Sid Hardy win the Duo race (excludes kayaking), 20 pts ahead of second placed Tim Cooper & Ben Watts. Well done to everyone that took part, see what some of them said about the race here.

The final race in the 2015 Questars Adventure Race Series takes place on Saturday 5 September in the South Downs. Like all Questars adventure races, it is suitable for both novice and experienced teams of 1, 2, 3 or 4 people. It's proving popular so enter online now before it’s too late!

 

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