Sunday, 3 October 2010

Hay Bales, Hip Flasks and Homies

At the invitation of the lovely people at Oxford Bike Polo, five of us ventured up to Blenheim Palace to play in their annual Town Meets Country tourney. Despite the weather doing its best to sabotage things, it turned out to be a pretty good day.

The premise of the tourney is basically hard court polo, but on grass. Due no doubt to the utterly rancid weather, only three teams entered, so a podium place was finally within our grasp - or was it?Playing on grass turned out to be hilarious and frustrating in equal measure. When you're playing on a surface which has taken on the consistency of blancmange with turf on top, chances are that when you go for the ball from the other end of the court, you're going to end up pulling a 20 foot skid, overshooting the ball completely, and exiting the play area head first. On the other hand, the lumpiness of the surface ensured that getting going again once you'd stopped was a hit and miss business, with wheels tending to find all possible holes and divots on the pitch.

Despite the rain hanging around for most of the day, the pitch actually held up OK. The players were divvied up into 5 teams of 3, and battle (of an extremely laid-back variety) commenced.

Unbelievably, the bike polo wasn't the main event of the day - that honour went to the Brompton World Championships - but there was also a cyclocross race (with a pan-flat, passport control-style course), a time trial and a few other events going on. All in all a pretty good day out.

And the result? One Bristol team (mine) failed to make an impression, except with dress sense. The other (augmented by itinerant Oxford wildman Sean) put in a workmanlike performance to finish second.

But the overall victory was taken by one of the teams from Cardiff (playing under the groan-inducing name of "The Taffy Hammers") who got to pose on a proper podium with a proper trophy. Big thanks to Simon, Dan and Rebecca for organising an original event that brought polo to the public. Next year? Definitely!