Steve completed the Tough one last weekend doing very well to get around the Wet, Cold, Slippery and very hard course. Steve had the pleasure of Paul Bolton parking next to him, which was cool as he remembered us from last years Red Bull Romaniacs. On Sunday 15th January, the Tough One returned to Nantmawr Quarry near Oswestry for the 8th edition of this unique event, The weather was fine but cold and the amphitheatre glistened with an overnight frosting in the bright mid Winter sunshine. The years have not dulled Course Director Steve Ireland's inventiveness and sense of fun. The complex of obstacles around the quarry floor resembled the children's game of Mousetrap to delight the spectators whilst for the riders the course was a serious business. Tyres, logs and pipes were all examined. The Boulders were walked or more accurately stumbled over and all the time the Pros and Experts eyes were irresistibly drawn to the drop off down the quarry face - a 100 foot sheer descent where extreme enduro met base jumping without a parachute.
The 2 hour Clubman and Veterans race began at 11.00am with Le Mans start. A one hundred yards sprint uphill ensured that even if the bikes were cold the riders were warm. The first half course circled the rim of the quarry out of sight of the majority of the spectators. The sense of anticipation grew as the sound of the engines increased and the first riders entered the quarry. Veteran Kiaran Hankin was in the lead closely followed by fellow Vets Craig Parkes, Jason Crossland and Martin Atherton. The first Clubman was Nathan Bolton in 5th ahead of Aled Jones. The drop off the quarry face was reserved for the Pros and Experts so the first serious challenge for the Clubman riders was Route of All Evil - a 50 foot bank of slippery clay with a very short run up. Commentator Jack Burnicle announced each new arrival but the "Oohs" and "Aahs" of the crowd told the story of their departing. Next the riders faced the Boulders and amid the smoke and steam Mark Willis' day ended with a holed clutch case. He was first but not the last. In the arena the logs seemed to cause the most trouble for the riders and an heroic band of marshals kept them moving.
During the short special stage which will establish defi nitively the competitors' final rankings, the tracks and the small dunes should be enjoyed but not overlooked. The time issues are now insignificant and the pleasure of finishing the race will gain the upper hand. The heroes of the 2012 edition will be able to count on a celebration in the heart of the capital that is on a par with their emotions. Those who have successfully survived the adventure will realize all of the difficult moments that they have endured along the way. The challenge has come to end, but the sights, sensations and the souvenir of an exceptional life experience will remain.
The dunes are majestic in this part of the country. They will ensure suspense to the very end about who will be the winners and how they will be placed on podium. At the same time, the drivers who are less in a hurry must take nothing for granted even if they are beginning to think about the relief of reaching the finish. They will also have to negotiate a significant number of strings of dunes, avoid confusing valleys which appear to be similar but are in fact different, and fight off the inevitable fatigue after the thousands of kilometres covered. Here every one of the competitors will remember what extreme endurance means here.
Only a flight over the region can allow the Nazca Lines, mysterious motifs created in the ground more than 2,000 years ago, to be admired ! The route of the special stage creates another line on the map of Peru which looks like a sand dragon. Although the areas of dunes are evenly spread out, the competitors will definitely remember one of them, which made a deep impression on the reconnaissance team. The dunes follow one after another continuously for almost twenty kilometres, transporting the drivers to a new dimension. As the sand will remain firm in this string of dunes, it will help the drivers to cross them without too much difficulty. But the most skilled dune-crossers will nevertheless be able to create a surprise, in particular three days before the final finish. Those who remember how to perform the “Mauritanian swerve” can save some precious minutes.