For those unfamiliar with the Open5 format, competitors have 5 hours to visit as many control points as possible. The 5 hours is split between a multi-terrain bike and a foot stage. Competitors choose whether to run or bike first. They also choose how much time to spend on each discipline. Each control is allocated a value and the person/team with the highest score at the end of the event wins. There are prizes for the top three finishers in each of the 5 categories (male solo, female solo, male/female/mixed pairs).
On arrival at Staveley the weather was a little gloomy with mist clinging to the fells north west and north east of the event centre at the Village Hall. It would test the navigation of those who dared to venture out onto the open fells during the run stage. However this wasn't enough to dampen the spirits of eager adventure races raring to get back to the trademark sprint series that started things for Open Adventure 6 years ago.
There was a buzz of anticipation around registration with old friends meeting new and the exchange of many an adventurous tale, before collecting race maps and numbers and heading back to cars for final preparations. When competitors get their race maps the controls are pre-marked on the map. They can't plan the routes too much though as some of each on the run or bike maps are 'no controls'!
So with final preparations out of the way it was off on a short ride north of the village to the start/transition/finish area. Here competitors leave any spare kit and bikes, helmet, pump etc (if running first) and make their way to the start gantry. Competitors begin at staggered intervals between 9.30am - 10.30am. Timings are done by SI chips and on 'dibbing' racers get the control descriptions and values.
On seeing the queues to the start line, some decided to bike first and some to run. Looking at the results after the event the split between running and biking appeared even. It's mostly personal preference which to do first, some say that it's easier to warm up by running second on a cold day, others that it's better to get a good run in on fresh legs and have an easier time by biking second.
Once over the start line - control descriptions in hand - it's a hasty run/ride to find a space beyond the gantry to mark up the control values and cross out the 'no controls'. For the more experienced, pens are already out to 'mark up' the maps, while those still learning have race packs off and begin rummaging for a pen. With a total of 600 points on offer (250 run/350 bike) there was no time to waste as runners and bikers quickly got their bearings and set off on the hunt for their first control.
Local racer, Ant Cooper of team PlanetFear, is a seasoned event planner having planned two Open5's previously. He did a great job of plotting the control locations to test both newcomers and experienced competitors. All competitors had to think hard about which route to take.
The run controls were mainly positioned east and north east of the village as far as the Brunt Knott fell open access area. But there were another cheeky set of controls worth 60 points in the opposite direction close to the start around the steep-sided Reston Scar fell. This provided an excellent opportunity for novice competitors to gain experience of open fell navigation. Open Adventure usually plan their races near to areas of open access and where permission is granted by landowners, competitors are allowed to travel directly between controls on these areas.
The bike controls were all positioned north of Staveley, either side of the Kentmere valley as far north as Sadgill in the east and Garburn Pass in the west. Most of the high scoring controls were in the Central and Western part of the map with good bridleways. The more difficult bridleways on the eastern side of the map were visited by only the top set of competitors as these controls had lesser values. Control values nearest the start and on easy paths/bridleways are often worth higher points and those furthest from the start on more difficult paths/bridleway are worth less points, that way novices get a good score and the experienced competitors have to really try hard for fewer points.
Competitors continued to arrive and depart from transition throughout the day, some finished a little early if they had run out of energy. "Thats the fastest 5 hours I've ever known" smiled one competitor. One of the last competitors to finish on was solo male, Daniel Halliday of team Accelerate. Daniel is one of the top adventure racers in the country and recently won the adidas TERREX Coast to Coast race with his team in August. On being asked if he'd 'cleared' the course by his teammate, David Spence. He calmly answered "Just missed one control!". He then proceeded to point out scrapes he'd collected from tumbles taken on Garburn Pass while descending the rocky bridleway.
Shortly after prizes were awarded in the Village Hall for the first event of the series, while competitors tucked into Wilf's famous food. There were also prizes for competitors who'd reached 5,000 Open5 points and one for Paul Vousden who has reached an impressive 10,000 Open5 points. Esther Hobson eventually won a Haglofs Endo jacket in the raffle prize after several names had been drawn out, but were not present at the prize giving (you need to be there to win it!)
Winners on the day were :-
Sue Booth/Lousie Hanley(Ilkley CC/Dirtwheels) 465 points
Sarah Keast/Dawn Westrum(Team 29er) 465 points (8 mins later)
Jill Eccleston/Sharon McDonald(Castlebergoutdoors.co.uk) 430 points
Mandy Faint(Big Bear Bikes) 473 points
Rosemary Byde 469 points
Karen McDonald 460 points
Simon Enderby/Alistair Morris (For Goodness Shakes!) 544 points
Ian Mulvey/Pete Rostron (Haglofs Vets) 525 points
John Cunningham/Kev Honeysett (Accelerate) 510 points
Daniel Halliday (Team Accelerate) 588 points
Kim Collison (Team Inov8) 580 points
Al Powell (Arcteryx - Alpine Guides) 567 points
Heather Burrows/Chris Heppenstall (Lakeland Orienteering) 520 points
Ben Turner/Sabrina Verjee (CamRacers) 496 points
Phil Scarf/Jackie Scarf (Calder Valley) 485 points
If you would like to give an Open 5 a go, the next event will be at Church Stretton in the Shropshire Hills on Sunday 6th November.
Further details on the races still to come in the series - http://www.openadventure.com/
All Images - James Kirby
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