It’s a week later, and I, like most, have only just dried out properly. The Ard events are pretty well known for being, well… Ard, often to the demise of the unsuspecting weekend warrior; this year’s Ard Moors event set a whole new benchmark.
A week of biblical rain in the week leading up to the race meant that the majority of the carved out moorland trails had reverted back to a primordial soup, somewhat undoing the hundreds of man-hours put in by the team at Ard Events. Still, we’d already traveled hours north up to the motherland so it seemed a waste to skip out on practice at least.
Similarly to the slightly longer (and considerably dryer) Ard Rock race, riders were allowed to practice half of the stages on a significantly shorter loop. After a short warming spin and a few friendly stone stairs to push up, we were met with the first morale-sapping decent into chaos. What few riders had already passed over the stage had turned it into a rutted river of sludge offering little-to-no grip to any rider risking anything other than full on mud spikes (maxxis minions need not apply!).
The following two stages were met with similar conditions, with a truly horrendous transition between the second and third practice stage forcing some riders to skip practice and head back to their respective tents to lick wounds and clean bikes. These two stages offered up similar insurmountable conditions frequented by fallen riders and mid-stage queues removing any possibility of maintaining motion to clear rutted drops and spin mud-caked tyres.
Base camp provided riders with typical Ard-style entertainment, with great food, live music and a much-needed beer. Rumours circulating the camp of, at the very least, 1 stage closure, or worse still, the entire race being called off, weren’t quashed by the ongoing rain; with some riders spirits being defeated causing an early withdrawl from the race. This combined with persistent downpours overnight meant only the hardiest riders remained in the fray which would at least minimise the wear on the stages and the queues at the start gate.
It may seem somewhat counter intuitive to talk little about the race, but really, there was little to report. The stages were as expected (somewhat rideable with a degree of tripodding and falling over) with thankfully no mid-stage stoppages other than the front wheel ploughing axle-deep into bog forcing bike and rider into an emergency stop, (much to the amusement of spectators and marshalls alike). After the race, times were checked and as predicted, times were distinctly heavy on the side of mediocrity when compared with the physics-defying elite riders, somehow finding traction where others found none!
Huge credit goes out to the organisers and marshalls who magically kept spirits high in some truly horrific conditions and braced some of the foulest weather to grace our hillsides. Although I suspect the trails would have been stellar in dryer conditions, it at least left everyone with an overwhelming sense of achievement with a great story to tell. Huge thank you to Joe at Starling Cycles too for making a bike that will even stand up to the worst that Yorkshire can throw at it and keep riding, and Simon at Albany Cycles for building a wheel that STILL won’t die, no matter how hard I try to kill it!
It may have cost a couple of jockey wheels and at least a set of bearings, but am I glad I stayed the course – you’re damn right. That was Ard. Cheers!