The Polaris Challenge began in autumn 1991 as the very first two-day Mountain Biking Orienteering event in the World. It is still the biggest event of its kind and regularly attracts riders from all over the world, year after year. There are three events in the UK each year, with events in Australia, South Africa and France. The Polaris Challenge is a two-day event, combining mountain biking with navigation and touring. Teams of two ride between checkpoints scattered over a large area of rugged country. Each Checkpoint has a score and the aim of the challenge is to accumulate as many points as possible within each day?s time limit. Distance and hard to access checkpoints carry higher scores and there are tough penalties for exceeding the time limits. The Polaris Challenge is an opportunity for a great weekends riding through some wild country on trails and tracks – each event is very different. Who Takes the Challenge? Anyone who loves mountain biking. You can take the Polaris Challenge seriously and go for maximum points or treat it as a good excuse for a fun weekend of adventurous riding. This year?s autumn event was in the Lake District with the start and event centre in Coniston. The local school housed the registration and event shops from Outdoors Unlimited and Trackloggs (who provided a free download of the grid references onto GPS). The event centre is always a busy environment with teams marking up their special event maps, provided by Biketreks of Ambleside, with all the grid references and out of bound/permissible tracks for the weekend, then getting food from Wilfs (the event caterers) and buying all their last minute kit from the event shop. The Friday night saw most competitors camped at Coniston Hall Campsite right next to the lake for a fantastic view in the morning just before the inevitable ride uphill to the start. There were a few competitors who had to do this twice as they?d forgotten to bring their electronic score tags provided by Sport Ident, you can?t get a score for the day without one of these devices! There was a banner at the start saying Happy 40th to one of the regular riders, what a great way to spend your birthday, out on the hills with 600 other riders! After a short ride from the start riders can collect a list of all the checkpoints that are open for that day and how many points they are worth. This caused some confusion as the course directors Ade Gidney and Andy Slatery had spread the scores so well that the route choice of north or south was a difficult one. The tracks looked more technical (on the map) to the north and slightly easier to the south but with more distance. Well the tracks all over the map turned out to be superb, with some fantastic descents and most up hills totally ride-able, which with the added bonus of superb weather meant a great days biking was to be had. The checkpoints were spread from the forest tracks of Grizedale, open fell areas south west of Coniston, superb rocky descents of Loughrigg and stretching as far south as Whitbarrow. The hills were draining on the legs but with some fantastic views from all the tops with the autumn colours showing on all the trees against clear blue skies for most of the day.After 7 hours riding the overnight field was a welcome sight for most and was situated at the foot of some excellent descents off the Kentmere area. More celebrations for the 40th birthday with some well earned beers! And most competitors spent the evening discussing their routes and the day over their evening meals. At least the rucksacks would be lighter for the 5-hour Sunday ride by eating all the food. Everyone woke up on Sunday morning to a fresh chill in the air as the skies had been clear all night and it looked like another stunning day ahead. The start was in the field so competitors could cheer their mates on from the comfort of their tents if they had a late start time. Again the Sunday ride was a tough choice for most competitors with quite a few choosing to use the ferry across Windermere as a way of getting into Grizedale forest for a hard slog up the hills to get more checkpoints before finally getting to the finish back in Coniston and a welcome free meal from Wilfs (included in the entry fee).Prize giving was just after the last competitors had crossed the line and the overall winners were yet again John Houlihan with new event partner Paul Currant, with a whopping score of 709. They must have covered the whole map to get that score. More prizes were given by Northern Tree Contracting, Trackloggs and Polaris as spot prizes for teams who helped other teams in difficulties and others nominated by other teams for the help they got from them. Everyone seemed happy as they left Coniston to get back to normal life after a superb event. The next event is on 19 and 20th March in Wales. For more details see www.polaris-apparel.co.uk and a full set of results. Results Seniors Paul Currant and John HoulihanBrian SingletonMorgan Donnelly & Steve BirkinshawEugene Grant VetsBernard Moore and Andy Wrigley Trevor MayneAllen TillingSupervetsRobert Sanby and Gary Simm Kevin Douglas and David Williams Peter HolmeLadiesHeather Dawe Karen McDonald Julia TuckerLadies VetsAnnette Morris Julie Phelan Lydia Gould MixedJay Horton and Maddie HortonKeith Byrne and Shelley BarlowJanet Wilkinson and mark Thomas Mixed VetsJanet Prior and martin Andrew Jon Bargett and Nicola Davies Kevin Underhill and Eleanor UnderhillUnder 21sTom Chesters and Anthony Salmon Rachel Hooker and Ross SmithP & ORay Coop and James Coop Graham Sellens and Paul Sellens Gerald Davies and Gareth Davies
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