Questars Winter Series Race 3 - Chilterns

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Hills, Mud and More Hills at a Challenging Winter Questars in the Chilterns

Rob Howard / 19.01.2024See All Event Posts Follow Event
Pushing up Whiteleaf Hill
Pushing up Whiteleaf Hill / © Rob Howard /

The third race in the 2023/4 Questars Winter Series took place in the Chiltern Hills north of High Wycombe from a spacious HQ at the Pipers Corner School at Great Kingshill. 

The whole course area was set within the Chilterns AONB; known for its extensive woodlands and rolling, chalk countryside, where the climbs were not quite as long as some on the previous winter courses, but they were steep and there were lots of them!  It was a very hilly course.

The majority of the checkpoints were north of the race HQ, with a few of the running checkpoints to the south, including one at a church in the grounds of Hughenden Manor (one of four church CP’s on the course). 

Most of the biking checkpoints were in the northern half of the map and there were two at the bottom of the escarpment at Princes Risborough and one at the top, on Whiteleaf Hill.  This comes in at number 23 on the list of ‘100 Greatest Uphill Climbs’ and the few who ventured to the steepest climb close to the furthest point from the finish line enjoyed a magnificent view over the Vale of Oxford.  (It is on The Ridgeway National Trail which was also on the course of the previous race.)

After the Autumnal sunshine of the first race, and saturated conditions and rain at the second, there was the prospect of some icy, winter conditions, but they didn’t arrive.  While it stayed cool and dry, and that’s as much as can be hoped for on a January day, the ground thawed out and muddy conditions affected times and route choice.  It was the only day that week the ground wasn’t frozen.

Most competitors in the Full 5 hour category set off on foot, with many running down the Bass Lane Bridleway and then past the first of many picturesque rural houses and cottages.  The biggest cluster of run checkpoints was around Naphill Common, as SSSI of open oak and beech woodland with numerous trails, rides and glades to navigate through.  Race Director Joe Selby warned about getting lost in there and clearly intended that to happen!

Amongst the checkpoints there was R30 at Ash Pond, with the dibber placed on the roots of a fallen tree which had toppled into the pond.  This was one of the recommended/scenic checkpoints highlighted on the checkpoints list, and B5 at the top of Whiteleaf Hill was another.  Solo racer Gary Davies said on arrival, “I went the wrong way after asking someone directions to the pond.”  It turns out there are lot of ponds on the common.

The course area had more roads on than most race maps, and this combined with the extensive network of bridleways allowed endless choice for biking routes, so much so Joe was probably aiming for another race where no two racers collected the same checkpoints.  Some of the conditions were extremely muddy so a longer road route may have been a quicker choice at times.  Davies said, “I tried some short cuts and it was too muddy for them to work.  The course was tougher than it looked on the map.” 

James Brown took the bridleway from B7 to B10 and regretted it.  “The mud was off the charts,” he said, “and I had to carry my bike as it was impossible to push through.” Neil Walker summed the course up in 3 words, “so many hills!” 

Inevitably there were some late returns to the finish and Andy Wayland (Beacon AR) took the prize with the grand total of -185 points after being 36 minutes late thanks to a late puncture and then a frozen valve on his spare tube.

A successful new innovation for this first winter series is the idea of bonus points for an early return and that means every minute counts, whether late or early.  The top 3 scores on the day illustrated this.  The open solo winner with the highest score of the day was Tom Davies with 769 points, 765 scored plus 4 crucial bonus points for an early return.  Second placed Campbell Walsh, who won the first two races in the series, was bang on time also with 765 points, and in third was Daniel Thorby who had the highest score of 775 before incurring 50 penalties for being 10 minutes late back.

With the series decided by 3 scores from 4 races, Walsh was confirmed as the first Questars Winter Series Champion, as he can’t now be caught.  Second in the series table is Thorby, who said at the finish, “The course distance was tempting and I got greedy and misjudged how long it would take me to get back.   I felt good and cleared the bike but it took a bit longer than planned and then I went for too many points on the run!”  He added, “I like all of the checkpoints at places of interest as it makes it more of an adventure.”

The top female solo was Helen Chapman (585 points), Honey Badgers were the top team (James Leech and Daniel Collins) with 640 points and ‘’Mad Old Tarts’ (Maggie Salter & Liz Jones) continued their winning streak in the female team category.  This was another category decided on bonuses and penalties, as second placed Team ET Ride Home (Ella Pyman & Tracey Freeman) had the same score before a penalty for a late return.  They had made a late start too after finding one of their bikes had a flat and then a brake issue making it unrideable.  Fortunately, the ever dependable Cycleexperience were on hand with a hire bike.

It was a family affair at the top of the mixed teams leaderboard, with Emma and Richard Gill clear winners ahead of Stewart and Jenny Laing.  Father and daughter, Will and Sophie Garrett also won the mixed pairs in the Taster class, and there was an impressive overall win for Julia Kingsbury scoring 318 points in the 3 hours available on the Taster race.  Ian Cartwright scored an equally impressive 336 points on the 2 hour Bike Only course and the Run Only winners with 259 points were Mike and Amanda Yorweth.

The final race in the Winter Series will be at Broadway in the Cotswolds on February 10th, when the first ever Winter Series leaderboard will be decided.  Cameron Walsh will be at the top but the highest female ranking is still to be decided.  Jennifer Hunt leads on 1668 points after competing in all 3 races so far, but the winner of the last two races was Helen Chapman, who is on 1253 after two scores and she could add another in the Cotswolds.

For race results and full details of all Questars races, including 4 dates in the summer Series and the new 2-day event in the Peak District, see

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