Questars Winter Series Race 2 - Berkshire

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Mud and Mince Pies at the Berkshire Questars Winter Race

Rob Howard / 18.12.2023See All Event Posts Follow Event
Muddy trails at the Questars Winter race in Berkshire
Muddy trails at the Questars Winter race in Berkshire / © Rob Howard

Race two in the Questars Winter Series was based in the Berkshire Downs from an HQ at Chieveley Village Hall and had a very different character from the previous race in the South Downs.  This time the weather was wet and the ground conditions were very muddy after recent heavy rains, so it was slow going and muddy.

The new series is attracting a strong entry and the hall was full for the race briefing from Joe Selby.  His advice on the muddiest tracks which were best avoided was worth taking notes on, even if you had to hear his awful Christmas puns to get them!  Joe’s racing experience shows through in the advice given to both novice and experienced teams and on the back of this race map there were also a set of navigation tips, as well as a top 40 for the series and dates for future events.

All of the checkpoints, for both running and riding were pre marked onto one waterproof A3 sheet this time, making planning easier and the course stretched north and west into the Berkshire Downs and up to The Ridgeway National Trail.

Looking closely at the map you might imagine it reached further as teams could run past World’s End, ride through Egypt and past California Farm, and take in a checkpoint at Land’s End!

There was an international element to the race entry too, with first time racers from South Africa, France and Paraguay (all UK resident at the moment), and experienced racers returning to the UK from Canada and Australia and taking in the race on their trip.  The Questars winter series is getting an international reputation!

Some racers were looking at the weather radar before setting off, preferring to run in the heaviest rain rather than ride, but the worst of the weather came during the middle of the race with some heavy downpours and strong winds, which particularly affected any who chose to ride along the top of the downs on the Ridgeway at that time.

David Lain, who won the Open Pairs with Iain Morris (614pts), said; “It was full on riding along the Ridgeway in the worst of the weather and in the driving rain my eyes were killing me!” 

Sam and Ben Mitchell were racing in team “My Brother made me do this”.  Ben was new to the race and said, “We could have picked a drier day” while his brother added, “Joe wasn’t joking when he said some of the puddles were really deep!”  The pair finished 13th in the Open team category with 401 pts.

Though the air temperature was warm for December it’s all relative and Paraguayan racer Katherina Pedersen said at the finish, “It’s really cold!  And the race is really fast!”  More used to competing in longer races at a slower pace, she was in Team Mongaru with Nick Gracie, which helps account for why she was racing fast.  If you team up with a World Champion racer the pace won’t be slow and the pair won the Mixed Team category with 602 points – 174 points ahead of second place!

After sliding, and sometimes falling, on the muddy bridleways and running through lake-sized puddles and along flooded tracks the racers were arriving back at the finish mud-splattered and weary, and all of the bikes were the same brown colour.  Few had any idea how well they’d done but Rakesh Thakrar said, “I think that was the best we could have done ... for our ability anyway!” He added, “Look at the state of us. That was awesome!”

Chris Gray, who raced with James Dalrymple-Smith, just laughed and said, “That was extraordinary, and ridiculous!”  There were lots of smiles on the finish line ... once everyone got their breath back.  (With bonus points for an early return, every second counts now, even if you are under the time limit.)

Encouragingly there were lots of families in the taster, run only and bike only events once again.  Graeme and Aiden Williams won overall on their second outing out together and Will Garrett returned with his daughter to take part in his first adventure race in over 10 years and had a great day out winning the mixed taster category.

Inside the warm hall at the finish there were free mince pies and mulled wine on offer for teams waiting for the prize giving and when comparing their choices few races went the same way.  The network of bridleways, paths and tracks were ideal for winter racing and there was ample choice for all abilities to explore the downs and country lanes, visiting attractive villages on the way.

In the Open Solo category Campbell Walsh took the win with the highest score of 765 (out of 800).  He didn’t get the highest score either biking or running ... but it’s the total that counts!  Daniel Thorby was only 5 points behind, and finished in a breathless 04.59.26.  (The top 3 in the open solo all finished within 4 minutes of the 5 hour limit.)  Helen Chapman won the Female Open Solo with 637 points ahead of Jennifer Hunt and Mandy Hibberd.

Full results can be found on the Questars website ( as well as dates for the Questars races for the rest of the year.  These include the return of Questars 2-day which last took place in 2017, and which will be based at Marple Bridge on the edge of the Peak District over the weekend of June 8/9th. 

The final two Winter Series races are on January 13th in the Chilterns and February 10th in the Cotswolds.

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