The Bracelands CaniX races were held over the weekend of the 27th & 28th of April in the Forest of Dean, based from the Bracelands Adventure Centre which provided the camping for the event and also a lovely little cafe with facilities for the day visitors too. I missed the event held here last year and so I was looking forward to seeing the technical bikejor course everyone had told me about.
The weather leading up to the event had been dry and so the mud that was experienced for the last races was only present in a few places, where the hills dipped down into large ruts which still held water. A sign at the CaniX van warned all the bikejor and scooter competitiors to walk or ride the course first (without dog) to ensure you had seen the course before bikejoring or scootering, as some forestry work had left big trenches which could’ve proved tricky for the wheeled vehicles at any speed.
I decided to walk the dogs around the course on the Friday evening so I knew what I was in for and I took a picture or two of the hazards for reference to remind myself what to expect.
Saturday morning we were raring to go on the bike and with a fast single track down hill start, it was definitely a start to hold on tight with. Donnie raced down the start chute through the trees and down to the first marshal point where the course turned left onto a wide, hard packed forest track. The course took you along the top of the valley, before the next marshal point and a right turn into the more technical section on the course.
From this point it was mainly downhill through the trees on rutted trails which had dried out from being muddy into some quite tricky sections to negotiate on the bike or scooter. We seemed to fly through most of it and Donnie took all the lines I wanted to take without me even giving voice commands, he seemed to read my mind for most of it. A few people came off down one particular section (the top of which is pictured above) where a sharp left turn took you down a steep section with boulders and roots to avoid.
At the bottom of this hill and after a right hand turn the track widened out again but had some large water-filled ruts to ride through and then began the uphill climb. At first there was a short slope followed by another fast downhill but then with a right hand turn you were back out onto a hard packed forestry road which climbed up and up and up and up! I had to get off the bike in the end, as it was quicker and easier for poor little Donnie for me to get off and run.
By the time I got to the top we were both ready to race off up the track towards home again and it was a nice easy ride into the finish chute, albeit slightly uphill most of the way. We finished fairly strongly in third place and I was thrilled we had completed the course without any tumbles.
Sunday was much the same with us shaving a few seconds off our time and retaining our third place for the weekend and securing us a third place in the CaniX UK bikejor championship.
In conclusion I would say the Bracelands course is probably not for the beginner bikejorer or canicrosser due to the challenging downhill sections and the long, tiring uphill. I think if I hadn’t done quite a bit of extra training on the scooter recently, Donnie would have been quite tired, as the course was also longer than the standard 5km at around 6km. I personally loved it as the concluding bikejor race in the 2012/2013 season but have to acknowledge it was a tough course too.