Well what a difference a month makes. From brilliant sunshine at the Long Mynd last month to rain, wind, snow, hail, thunder & lightning in brutal winter conditions at Bacup, Rossendale. This event was a little different to the standard Open5 as guest planner, Emma Van Der Gucht, produced tough but well thought out run and bike score stages on the moors and quarries south of Bacup.
The first drama to unfold of this event was that the transition was relocated at the last minute. This was due to be high up in the dramatic location of Lee Quarry itself with its many sculptures,MTB pump tracks, trials and skills areas. But on inspection the day before the event, James Thurlow (event director) asked for the location to be changed. The reason being that high winds whistling through the quarry would be too risky for competitors and event staff manning transition. So further down the quarry track in a field it was to be. Competitors were notified of the change at registration the following morning, but some either missed this announcement or failed to take in the change and thought the transition was still in its original location. This lead to some confusion during the event while navigating to nearby controls.
The weather forecasts of low temperatures, rain (falling as snow on high ground) and winds also lead to lots of pre-event information being supplied to competitors regarding conditions, clothing and mandatory kit. Until now Open Adventure have been fairly relaxed about checks for mandatory kit, but after observation of kit checks during a recent trip to the World Champs in Tasmania, James decided that more emphasis should be placed on competitors carrying mandatory kit. It certainly proved useful too as many competitors seemed reluctant to carry extra kit out onto the course prior to starting.
So on the day around 270 competitors arrived at Futures Park in Bacup, Rossendale to register in the plush surroundings of the Mayor of Rossendale's Chambers! There was lots of pre-event anticipation as competitors had been supplied with some clues as to what to expect on this one both before the event on the web site and in race information supplied inside their race packs.
They would already know before the event that the twist in this one was the inclusion of some technical singletrack control hunting around the Lee and Cragg Quarry red routes. Usually competitors know the location of all the controls when they receive their maps at registration. This time some of the controls on the technical single track were not marked on the map, meaning that competitors would either have to ride the whole of the red routes in Lee Quarry(8km) and Cragg Quarry(6.5km) or hedge their bets and guess where they may be. Competitors also knew what feature the control was on and how many points they were worth.
Lee and Cragg Quarries are just two of many quarries in this part of Lancashire. The area has been heavily quarried and some are still active. But most are now disused and have been converted into a mountain bike playground. This work is mainly undertaken by dedicated volunteers in the area associated with Pennine Mountain Bike Action group (http://www.pmba.org.uk/).
The remaining controls on the bike stage were spread from the Peel Energy owned windfarm in the west to the Whitworth valley in the east. The main route linking these controls centred around the Pennine Bridleway which is also shared by the classic 47 mile Mary Towneley loop. Sustrans cycle route 92 also made a good link along the Whitworth valley avoiding the busy A671.
Run controls were located both in and around the quarries. Between the quarries there are quite good access tracks. But in between these the moorland is very boggy and featureless. Competitors were warned about stepping off good tracks prior to the event and all except the hardiest seemed to take this advice on board.
With an area rich in man-made landscape alteration it is not hard to find plenty of great control locations. However, there was some controversy as one control placement, in Lee Quarry, was at the foot of a 100 foot quarry cliff. This needed fine navigation to locate and several competitors searched for this at the top of the cliff! After checking the control description they realised it was at the foot of the quarry wall and a scramble down steep banks was needed to get to the correct location. Karen McDonald, pleased with her win in the female solo category, commented "That was a really tricky control to find. It was quite scary looking for the control near the edge of a big cliff."
The winter weather had really taken its toll on some competitors on arriving back at transition after their run/bike. In deteriorating conditions, some decided to call it a day and retire to the warmth and comfort of event HQ at Futures Park to get a well-earned cup of tea and food, courtesy of The Meal Machine. There were even some competitors who were near hypothermic and the quick thinking of planner Emma Van Der Gucht and other marshals spotted those that were clearly in no fit state to continue and pulled them out of the event. Emma commented "I know how it feels to be on the verge of hypothermia and in that state you are not thinking straight and it needs someone to do the thinking for you". Post event feedback from one competitor (who needed assistance) wrote "Absolutely brilliant your staff were great, I hate having to give up but was in no real state to carry on and your guys helped me. Thank you to them all. Would I do it again definitely YES!"
Due to weather conditions scores were generally lower than normal, but there is still everything to play for in order to get a good series result as things continue down south in the Quantocks next month on Sunday 8th January 2012. A good chance to affirm your new year's resolution to get out and play in the hills!
Female Pairs Club Points
Fiona McBryde/Fi Spotswood For Goodness Shakes! 442
Rosemary Byde/Marie Meldrum BBNT Podium Girls 437
Sarak Keast/Dawn Westrum 375
Female Solos Club Points
Karen McDonald 435
Fiona Poulter The Starchie Crew 340
Vanessa Harding 310
Simon Enderby/Alistair Morris For Goodness Shakes! 495
Tom Gibbs/Mike Poole 491
Andrew Hellowell/Paul Hill Wrekin of Ale 400
Kim Collison Team Inov8 506
Tom Cubbon Bill Nickson Cycles 460
Timothy Kie Martin Loughborough Students 460
Jake Morgan/Sally Ozanne PlanetFear.Com 441
Heather Burrows/Chris Hepponstall Lakeland Orienteering 420
Sarah Bruce/Alan Hartley 380
Thanks - Rossendale Borough Council for use of the Kingfisher Centre and kindly allowing us to re-produce the Lee Quarry trails map section, Lancashire County Council for use of their land and in particular Tony Lund (environment officer) for his guidance and invaluable information, Peel Energy Ltd for use of their wind farm and the many local landowners in the area, United Utilities for use of land around the reservoirs and The Meal Machine for providing event catering. Thanks must go to all the hardworking marshals who give up their time so you can have a good time. A special thanks to Emma Van Der Gucht for planning another excellent Haglofs Open5 event. Lastly thanks to all our sponsors, in particular Haglofs, in helping us bring the Open5 events to you and providing some great prizes.
All Images - James Kirby
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