Page 62 - The Rifles Bugle Autumn 2019
P. 62

Exercise SWIFT SINGLE TRACK, Mallorca
A tricky descent
After little opportunity for Adventure Training during or since Operation SHADER 5, sixty-seven members of the battalion were offered the chance to go mountain biking in Spain in May 2019. Although the Riflemen immediately thought of Magaluf or Ibiza the destination was in fact Bubion, a small rural Spanish village located in the heart of Sierra Nevada. Officer Commanding Headquarter Company, Major Dave Youngs completed a recce in early January 2019 and decided the best option was to use a bit of local knowledge to assist with the language barrier and national park passes.
On a rare sunny Lisburn evening in May 2019 the Advance Party under the command of Serjeant Robinson and Colour Serjeant Peacock loaded the vans and set off on their road trip. Twenty-four hours later the team were winding up the Spanish mountains in blazing sunshine, every corner a near miss with the crazy local drivers. The expedition arrived in good order to find four Spanish villas with sun terraces and BBQ areas. Not a bad place to return to every evening. Mike Saunders, the local fixer, was used to dealing with civilians and explained that all the beer was included in the price! Free beer... WO2 Ryan Walker would be a busy Company Serjeant Major, worst nightmare!
The days were long but fun. At 0900hrs the team would load up and move to a drop off to sort out kit and equipment and start pedalling up and up. The two hours climbing passed in no time as they traversed around the snow-capped peaks. Once at the top, tuition started prior to the descents. Mike, Ruben and 2 RIFLES instructors got to work on fine tuning and teaching the skills required to arrive at the bottom in once piece and to achieve National Vocational Qualification Level 2 in Mountain Biking. The expedition name does what it says on the tin – Single Track – speeding down tight twisty mountains with switchbacks thrown in for good measure. The tracks are hundreds of years old, forged over centuries by local shepherds moving their livestock
from point to point. To paint a picture, imagine cycling around the Brecon Beacons but with the temperature and weather somewhat better!
Lunch stops were in true Spanish style – tapas, strong coffee and a refill of camelbaks! The afternoon sessions were similar to the morning – disc brakes glowing and eyes popping out of their sockets and giggles at their mates’ misfortune as Riflemen catapulted over the bars onto large rocks. Groups of German walkers seemed to enjoy the free entertainment. The end of the days’ ride came all too soon – load the bikes at a set rendezvous point, grab a beer, more tapas and move back to Bubion. Once in Bubion the team would sort out the kit and bikes for the next day and debrief on the day’s activ- ities. Then a shower and out for a few beers. Most were in bed by 2200hrs!
The statistics reflect a demanding expedition: £1500 of damages to the bikes (all included in the price) 8500m of climbing, 1600m of descent; 200 miles of single track.
Mike, the mad Canadian downhiller, couldn’t believe the boys were so young and had fought for their country. They were ready to test their nerves in different ways – jumping off a one metre ledge looks daunting on the side of a mountain when you are going to land on rocks and slate! As a result, body armour (the mountain bike sort) saved some trips to Accident and Emergency. It all ended as quickly as it started. Bikes were packed and loaded up. Once the accommodation was sorted, the team began the trip back to Malaga Airport for the return journey and the road party for another twenty-four hours of ferries and toll roads. A month was enough; you can have too much of a good thing. 2 RIFLES Mountain Bike Club continues to grow and is now cutting new trails through the Mournes and Tollymore Forest. I have never seen so many shiny bikes cutting around Lisburn.
Major Dave Youngs
Officer Commanding Headquarter Company
      Living life on the edge!

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