Malham Show MTB Trailquest Report 2006
The best news was the weather. Although it had been a wet week, on the day of the event the rain held off until the very end of the afternoon. Rain isn't good at any time, but on limestone it can be lethal. Once again fully marked laminated maps were available but also ordinary paper ones for those, like me, who prefer them.
In some trailquests the routes are almost self-selecting, the only real choice being whether to go clockwise or anti-clockwise. Not at Malham, There were lots of options and those making poor ones were heavily penalised. Time management was also crucial - no fewer than 51 out of 120 incurred time penalties. This could be partly due to there being some high point controls relatively close to the finish leading to some last minute gambling.
The area was extensive - the Ribble valley to the west, the Wharfe/Litton valley to the east and almost to Halton Gill in the north. There were three possible routes to and from both Ribblesdale and Littondale. The highest scores went to those with the courage (and speed) to go right to the top of the map.
The results couldn't have been closer. First in the men's class A was Neil Atkinson with 630 points which was matched exactly by first Vet, Bryan Singleton but Bryan was fastest - by exactly one second. James Taylor picked up 640 points but his eight minutes late return cost him 11 penalty points giving him a net 629. One minute faster and he would have won by a single point. So after four hours of riding it was all decided on a handful of seconds. James may be regretting choosing a route which saw him having to climb twice out of Littondale.
No other class came close to these. Roger de Faye took the Supervet class with 497 points, 20 points ahead of Steve Willis despite a 13 point time penalty. Roger was the only supervet who dared to go to the north of Fountains Fell and and it paid off.
Karen Heppenstall took the women's class B with 490 points, with a route which took in both Kilnsey and Helwith Bridge at each extreme edge of the map - a high mileage/tarmac option which paid off . Her nearest rival was Airstone Beren with 445. Lisa and James Thurlow also scored an impressive 490 to take the tandem class unchallenged.
First in the Masters (geriatric) class, just 10 points behind Karen, was Dave Watson with 480, comfortably ahead of second placed Roger Birch on 353. 480 points was also the winning score for the mixed team of Helen Jackson and Paul Vowsden, just 20 points ahead of Amanda and Jon Meeks.
There was an easy win for Andrea and Steve Foster (mixed vets) with 430, 220 points ahead of their nearest rivals, Fiona McDougall and David Mainwaring. 430 was also the winning total in in the Generation class - with regular winners John Johnson and son Ben beating Mike and Bath Pickwell by 60 points.
It was a much closer call for the Supervet women with Karen Blackburn (410) beating Clare de Faye by a mere 20 points, despite an accident which saw her carted off to A&E after finishing. Some interesting choices here. Karen chose to bypass the 50 points at control 12, whilst Clare chose to bypass the several relatively easy controls around Malham Tarn. They both just beat the winner of the younger vet women's class Jayne Butterworth who scored 380
The short (2 hour course) was clearly not confined to novices. David Rose scored an impressive 260 points, beating Tim Clarke by just one point. As with James Taylor, Tim would have won had he been only a handful of seconds faster.
All the controls I visited were well described and easy to find. Despite lots of rain in the previous week, the tracks were remarkably dry. Vehicles have apparently been banned from Mastiles Lane and it seems to have recovered remarkably. The new Pennine Bridleway has also led to the improvement of some of the tracks west of Malham although no doubt this hasn't pleased everyone.
Once back at the finish, there were excellent high-carb refreshments and the chance to enjoy Malham Show. So much to see but for me the highlight was the announcer. He has to be the funniest I have ever heard - whatever they paid him it wasn't enough, So not just a great trailquest but also a good day out . Thanks to everyone involved in the organisation - a great team effort.
I'm sure that more riders than usual went home and got out the map muttering "if only, if only". The test of a good trailquest.