The Rivette QUESTars Adventure Race Series

Cannock Chase Adventure Race


Race Report

It was another sell-out affair for the third event in the 2015 Questars adventure race series, though that’s perhaps not surprising given the location and the last Questars race to be held on Cannock Chase was way back in 2010. What was surprising though was how far some teams had come for the race. One team from the Royal Artillery had flown in all the way from the Falkland Islands just to take part!

Both the trail running and the kayaking took place from a remote transition point so all participants set off from the start on bikes. Some made their way directly to the transition point picking up one or two MTB checkpoints on the way - an 8 km ride which the top teams covered in just over 20 minutes. The rest chose do the bulk of the mountain biking first and headed off in different directions in search of the other mountain bike checkpoints.

Cannock Chase provides a great undulating expanse, made up of a mixture of woodland and open heathland, for off road running and riding. It was a warm dry day but there was a strong breeze which was largely welcome as it took the edge off the temperature a bit, and the wooded areas offered protection both from the sun and the wind. Many tracks and paths criss-cross the Chase giving lots of different route options. However various restrictions were in place, not least because of a serious proliferation of Phytophthora disease in some areas, so only the main bridleways over the central part of the Chase were used for the mountain biking and these were highlighted in blue on participant’s maps. These firm gravel tracks made both the navigation and the riding easier than normal, and many covered the distances faster than expected.

It was not all easy going though as those that made it to the far side of the Chase then had to make their way round the red (difficult) single-track MTB trails if they wanted to visit more MTB checkpoints. These trails formed two loops that could be linked together to form a figure of eight. At a glance this didn’t look that big on the schematic map, but this was deceptive as it only showed the general route - it didn’t show every twist and turn on the single track. The full figure of eight, which included rocky sections, boardwalks, planks, drops and other technical challenges was some 24 km in length and was completed by nine teams, with Mark Humphrey & Tom Davis doing so in a very fast time of 1:21:06. Five of these teams visited all the mountain bike checkpoints (425 pts) covering over 48 km in the process. There were various short cuts for those participants who didn’t want to do it all or who were running short of time. And many just did the northern loop which at less than 11 km in length took the fastest teams some 37 minutes to go round.

The kayaking took place on a 2 km stretch of the Trent & Mersey canal which followed the contours of the land through the picturesque Staffordshire countryside with the River Trent on one side and a railway line on the other. Limited by the position of locks at either end, the kayak distance was increased by stipulating that the kayak checkpoints had to be visited consecutively, in ascending or descending order starting with either the highest or lowest number. And the checkpoints were positioned such that anyone visiting them all in the correct order would have to do a bit of going backwards and forwards. Exposed to the strong breeze, participants had the wind with them going one way and against them the other. Seventeen teams paddled the 5.8 km required to clear the kayaking (175 pts) with men’s pair Tom Davies & Mark Humphrey clocking the quickest time of the day of 50:14. The fastest solo time was 53:38 set by Simon Proud.

From the transition point, there was some nice fast flat trail running to be had along the canal towpath before the Chase itself was reached. And that’s where the trail run became a whole lot more challenging what with the short sharp inclines, lots of different trails making navigation tricky and no obvious route linking all the trail run checkpoints together. That’s why the top teams all dropped one or two of the run checkpoints but a special mention goes to David Hellard and Sarah Francis who both stuck it out and visited every single trail run checkpoint (400 pts) covering more than 28 km on foot in the process.

With time running out, it was back to the event base on the bikes to finish where hot food, drinks and showers were all waiting for participants. Prizes from event partners Likeys, MuleBar, Muc-Off & Stique were handed out at the prize giving to the winning team in each class. The highest scorers of the day were Nick Gracie (adidas Terrex) and Kris Smith (EnduranceLife) who both finished on 915 pts but Nick was 11 minutes quicker than Kris and so took the overall race win. Mark Humphrey & Tom Davies would have beaten them both if they hadn’t overrun by a few minutes which saw them finish as the top men’s team on 890 pts. First place in the mixed team class went to Magnus Mill & Nicola Wood with 830 pts while 720 pts saw Courtney Prestage comfortably claim the top spot in the ladies class.

The 5 hour Novice category was won by the men’s team of Tom Dale & Shad Sedat who scored 709 pts. In second place with 681 pts was the top veteran team of Paul Fowler, David Husselbee, Paul Walker & Mark Thompson. Jason & Liz Fletcher finished first in the mixed team class with 545 pts while Captain Wraith & Sergeant Kay scored 456 pts to finish first in the ladies class. It was very close in the Duo race (run & bike only) with another tie at the top; the top two both ending up on 635 pts. Matt Smith actually collected the most points but was later finishing which meant Stephen Jobson won by the smallest of margins - some 88 seconds! Well done to everyone that took part, see what some of them said about the race here.

The next race in the 2015 Questars Adventure Race Series takes place on Saturday 11 July in the Wiltshire Downs. Like all Questars adventure races, it is suitable for both novice and experienced teams of 1, 2, 3 or 4 people. Enter online now before it’s too late!


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