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  • Writer's pictureLBD

20 Feb 23, Green Dragon



As the clock ticked past 17:30 yesterday afternoon, I was anxiously sitting in a meeting in Southampton. You know, one of those meetings that really could’ve been a zoom call. I’ve only got myself to blame really – these weekly meetings were my idea – but this was 2.5hrs in, getting a little bit confrontational, achieving nothing, and it can be an hour's drive back to Liphook in rush hour... on a Tuesday... a SHABI Tuesday. So, if you think the pace was fast last night, there were two contributing factors to why that might’ve been.





Reason One – I had just driven home at a lunatic speed, thrown some oil on my chain and some already muddied clothes on me, and launched myself out the door to make it to the Dragon in time to lead the SHABI pro tour. So I was already pretty revved up.


Reason Two – Tonka, Lekky and I had judiciously scoped the route – well, most of it (more about that later) - on Monday afternoon and concluded that the full loop was risky, possibly unachievable... okay, utterly ridiculous in the limited time available but, you know, had some fun elements – none of which deserved to be swerved. And, your honour, the conditions on Monday were bordering on torment level eight whilst Tuesday promised to be about as good as it can get for smashing those Strava segment PB’s and being generally, you know, heroic. Oh, and our host last night was the Green Dragon who typically adopt a refreshingly relaxed attitude towards punctuality.  


So, you doubters sitting at home watching The One Show last night, yes, we covered some miles. Yes, we were rapid. Yes, we were amazing... and yes, we were very late for dinner! 


 


Oh, the ride... 


 

 

Well nine bicyclists mustered in the Dragon car park including new recruit Kieron and someone calling himself ‘Lieutenant Dann’ who looked familiar. And off we went, respectfully riding through the Canadian memorial graveyard, a bit less respectfully down the church steps, and onwards towards Ludshott Common and the shamefully self-indulgent whistle-stop tour of all my favourite singletrack trails that lay ahead.


First up, Cathedral Gully, Gentles Copse and across the road into Hilland Woods via a tricky little section which might be fun to ride in, say, July. It wasn’t July. So far so good. I recently discovered a jump-line in Hilland Woods. Well, I didn’t discover it – I think Kate did – but I was surprised to see it on one of his CSL rides. The landowner has now prevented access to the jump-line with some deviously impenetrable hazard tape which, you understand, is the only reason we didn’t all ‘send it’ in a Red Bull Rampage’ manner, instead opting to take perhaps one of the few singletrack trails that circumvents the feature and, in so doing, circumvents the inevitable queue of nine muddy cyclists at the door of A&E.



So, we then emerge unscathed in Headley, across the grass and down the road to where the ridiculously muddy ‘broken bridge’ trail heads up and up into Broxhead Common. There we add some sand to the mud and clay caked on our drivetrains – that's always fun. The next feature of note is that lovely little steppy trail down to the big concrete slab – another one that I was introduced to by Kate. Actually, now I think of it, I’m wondering if this entire loop was maybe a little bit, you know, stolen... Ah well, that’s a great little cut-through with some fun features including a series of concrete steps and it flows really nicely. Well, it would’ve, if some little rascals, bless ‘em, hadn’t built a gap jump halfway down it which, until Monday, had no rollable alternative. Tonka, Lekky and I redesigned the feature making it a bit less gappy and thus, thankfully, it claimed no victims this time.



This was decision time. I had a route in mind that, from there, would’ve headed back into Bordon Inclosure, Deadwater Valley and onwards to Liphook in a timely manner. That would’ve been the sensible option... However, a glance at the watch and it was only 19:30 so assuming there were no mechanicals like, say for example, a loose headlight – Mrs Doyle – just saying – and we avoided the temptation to play on the pump track (we played on the pump track, of course!) we could potentially go to Martinique... no, not that one, obviously.  



 


Martinique is [Google, Google] a rugged Caribbean island that’s part of the Lesser Antilles. An overseas region of France, its culture reflects a distinctive blend of French and West Indian influences. Its largest town, Fort-de-France, features steep hills, narrow streets and La Savane, a garden bordered by shops and cafes. In the garden is a statue of island native Joséphine de Beauharnais, first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte... but this isn’t THAT Martinique.


It’s very much like that in many ways I’m sure. However, for our MTB enjoyment, it is criss-crossed with loads of really fun flowy trails. And a wall. Don’t knock it – it's a magnificent wall and really, you know, um, big. Probably the best wall we saw all evening. I pride myself on being quite quick on the bottom section of that descent – I know it well. I was on my limit trying to shake off a fellow SHABI who, it turns out, was Smashy, hot on my wheel... until he wasn’t. I heard him squeal but didn’t see him discovering his own limit – and going a bit beyond. Full commitment... and mercifully the only fall of the evening. He was fine! 

 

So that was Martinique, and a lot of fun it was too. The route then required a section of road past The Shed and into Bordon Inclosure – the one bit of the loop that we hadn’t scoped. We couldn’t have known then that the path to the pump track is now, not only very muddy, but completely blocked by an elaborate fence made of holly! A short retreat to the path we probably should’ve been on in the first place and a chance for everyone to try ‘Gavin’s Ring’... Oi, stop it – that's the Strava segment name for the pump track.  

 


So that’s pretty much it. Yes, there was more riding including that lovely singletrack trail from Walldown Road to the ranges perimeter track (also borrowed from Kate’s back catalogue of secret trails) but it was already 20:25... Where did that hour go...!?


So, it might’ve been amazing, I don’t know – it was now just a time-trial paced blur as we raced anxiously to place our food orders before the kitchen closed at 21:00. We pulled into the Dragon car park at 20:55! 


There you go then, that’s about it. A lot of boxes ticked and I for one really enjoyed leading you all on that particular loop.  

 

Don’t go changing... 

 

Slash 



Slash



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