Race Report – Army Cycling MTB XC Series Rd 5 Minley
12 July 2017

Kindly sponsored by Helyx

First person review of AC MTB XC Rd 5 Minley by Irish


The final round of the Army XC series was held on the 12th July at Minley Manor.  This being the final round it was the last chance for points on the score board to count to the series, not only for personnel, but also for the Corps.  Minley is a fairly natural circuit of trails, and I have raced there many times before, but not for many years, so I was looking forward to going back again to hopefully revisit some old trails from the “Torq in Your Sleep” races.  The weather was somewhat questionable, ie. damp, and as I drew the bike from the shed, I briefly thought about cleaning it, but then quickly realised, it’s wet, it’s Minley, what’s the point! 

The team from 8 Trg Bn REME arrived just in time to get a practice lap in! A lovely little circuit, with the quicker riders doing about eleven/twelve minute laps.  There was one word to describe it though after all the weather, slippy! And this combined with the polished roots around the trails made for some interesting riding.  Some of the team members spent more time going sideways than a Tokyo drift racer, this was duly noted and names will be put forward for the next Fast and Furious film. 

Race time quickly approached, and as I took up position once more on the start line the same old thoughts occurred to me, as in, this is going to be hard work, why on earth am I doing this again?  “The race will begin in the next thirty seconds”, bugger, I really need the toilet/throw up/leave the start line now!  “The race will begin in the next ten seconds”, bugger, too late to leave! “Go”, stand on the pedals, heave the bike, feel it surge forward, dammit, but these big wheels are hard to get going.  Why am I going backwards?  Wheels, quick, get them up to speed!  I’m no longer going backwards, good, loads of people got past me in the start though, keep accelerating, dive between the nearest two, must get to the single track in good order, as that first singletrack will be a rooty slippy bottleneck carnage!  The trail, turn in, fight for position, eighth, keep close, don’t lose ground! 

The lead pack are sticking together, this is quick, trails put to the rear wheel, no dust, just splatters of mud.  The first open climb, time to attack, push the wheels, off the line, over the roots, great, in to sixth.  Keep going, don’t screw this up.  Second climb, get the momentum going off the line, damned rut, push through it, up in to third.  We are approaching the little left hand gravel kicker climb at the top, don’t get close, if someone doesn’t make it the pack will stall!  Swing the bike wide, set up for the climb, everyone’s off, everyone’s stalled, dismount, run, remount, pedal dammitt!  We ride on, rolling fast, the lead four pull away, who’s that behind me?  Coops?  He was ahead of me, where is he?  We drop down Sponge Bob, up the bank at the end, right, along the road, drop left on to the track, hard left, short climb, sprint! Sharpened elbows trying to keep fourth place, made it the steep climb, use the gears, and climb, second to first, third to first, but the packs still together, keep going, back out in to the race arena, push hard, hold the place!!

We drop in to the trail again, I slip out, lose the first place riders wheel, say sorry, race on, we get out of the trail, chasing first, but defending second, god these guys are quick, push hard.  Trails are running sweet, slippy but fun, but I still want to stop, weird the way the mind works, get a grip!  Second lap complete, drop in to the trail again, back markers, traffic to work past, but they all let us pass at the call, I’m thankful, but I’ve already lost the first rider. The climb up to the gravel kicker, I’ve eked out a slight gap, but have already lost the rider in front.  OK, I can live with that, but don’t stop, you never know what might happen on the track!

Someone calls my name from the side of the track, encouragement, I’m thankful for it, but confused at the same time, do I ease the pressure, am I about to blow up?  NO, keep going.  The laps roll on, they are short, but sweet, lovely trails, why have I been away for so long?  Loving that last little gully before the finish, turn in , heft the bike, drop the big wheels over the roots and carve left to feel the bike unweight and pop out over the bank in to the finishing straight.  I ride, all concerns at the start line gone, the bike is running well, well, all but the gears (Never mix an ultegra mallet straightened cassette, a short cage 105 mech and a deore paddle shifter with too short a cable, it works, kinda, but they’re never really happy together in their primary role of being, well, gears!). 

Glad I came today, loads of people on the course, slip sliding away, nice to ride roots and mud again.  It’s the last lap, enjoy it, let the bike work and enjoy it, still push, you never know what might happen up ahead, and you don’t want to get caught, but then again, a crash or a mechanical would waste all that hard work!  The last few trails, Sponge Bob again, then down the last few drops, drop in over the bank once more and pop in to the arena, sprint for the line!!  It’s done, happy days, I hate the feeling at the start, I love it at the end, that was a cracking race!  Handshakes and congratulations at the end, the same faces from throughout the series, all so competitive on the track, but friendly off it, this is the racing I miss, hard, yet fun and rewarding!  I dander off to find some tea, time to relax and await the CGS who is coming to hand out the series awards.  The series is done, shame, but I’ll be back next race, it’s a Wednesday afternoon and what else could be better than this as a day in the office!!

Let’s ride bikes!



AQMS Graham “Irish” McConaghy

Single speeder | Fat bike rider | Bodger of gears| Basher of Ultegra | Racer renewed


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