Beta Alp 4.0

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Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Days 5 and 6: The VINCE

It's hard to write much detail about these days as they were very intense and long. So much happened it's hard to recall what it was! Even after 12 hours riding there was the evening meal and discussion in the bar and so this log was forgotten.
Team Dental Engineers
The VINCE was very well setup: The book of checkpoints and the marked routes were accurate and on the whole any errors during the event could be ascribed to faulty map reading rather than the ICC's mapping or Austin's guidance.

An example of the plaques that were our goal
We started in the 'easier' sector to acclimatise ourselves to the terrain and each other. Here the map reading was easy as the features were large and the decisions infrequent. Once out of Ripoll I made no errors and that created rather a false impression of invincibility. Thus on the second day, when the terrain was more involved and changed rapidly I made a couple of silly errors that required us to back-track (Note that a GPS logger was carried to record our progress and not a navigation aid).

Getting to here was a little more tricky than it appears

Riding on Day 1

Riding on Day 2

The nature of the trails varied from little better than a footpath through trees to concrete road. There were plenty of rocky hairpins to test confidence and trials-turns and also long gravel roads where ones speed had to moderated to avoid accidents. Although I am a very cautious, even timid, rider my experience on ascents such as Bamford Clough and Bluehills made me realise that in may cases the best option is to keep the throttle open. The Beta coped well with everything except washboard tracks. Even though the chain had showed little sign of slackening during the journey here, the event must have taken its toll as it should have been adjusted before setting off for home.

Signs can add to confusion!

Overall we worked well as a team and achieved a credible final result. It is notable though that the top two teams were a league ahead of everyone else in the points. Austin seemed a little surprised by our relative success, I think due to problems with 'Odd couples' previously. The teams had widely different levels of preparation and skill.  The second placed team were riding R12GS and claimed little trail-riding experience but their paperwork was very well prepared.

After a slightly shaky start I did well with the evening meals at the hotel with special orders prepared for me. I'd no read the details thoroughly enough to realise we had half-board or I'd have contacted the hotel beforehand. Well done to them anyway.

The event has reinvigorated my interest in motorcycle touring and trail events and I'll be tempted to sign-up as soon as the 2014 VINCE is advertised.

Our preparation of focussed, laminated maps worked well, but I would enhance performance in future by:
  1. Ensuring that the trail-specific maps have a scale bar - as each had a different printed magnification distance was hard to judge.
  2. Attempt to measure each leg as accurately as possible in advance as it was hard to judge whilst riding. Of course zig-zag tracks are often poorly represented on maps but even an estimate would be helpful.
  3. Setup an A4 map board but ensure that the (an extra?) odometer is visible to check distance covered - see above.
  4. On some sections the altimeter worked well but I hadn't set up spot heights in advance. Trying to do it at midnight after a day on the trail wasn't ideal.
  5. Look at point scores in relation to potential difficulty and distance and decide which route is most efficient. This is perhaps too competitive - after all our plans did focus on Austins's 'great trails' and the score was fine.
  6. Make packed-lunches the day before. Although there are some cafes many villages had nothing, or those present were closed, perhaps due to being late season. The experienced teams had this under control but we were too tired to bother and then regretted it the next day. Nonetheless we did have a good char to other teams at a very entrepreneurial bar in Ribes.

About 200km, probably 150km on the trails.

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