My second bite at the Whinlatter Challenge cherry was definitely a more pleasurable experience than first time out last year when riders (including myself) dragged themselves over the finish line in various degrees of zombie like hypothermic states.
Despite the fear of a repeat of the 2013 race after coming in to the lakes to be greeted by snow capped mountains, the sun shone through making for perfect riding conditions. As you would expect the ground was pretty wet (where isn’t in the UK right now) but the organisers had the foresight to close off the top section of the course to avoid riders trudging through deep snow.
The course itself was similar to last year, an initial long fireroad climb followed by lots of the Altura trail and a good smattering of natural sections with some tricky fast loose muddy trails mixed in to keep things interesting. The profile of the course tells you all you need to know, hills ahoy!
The turnout every year is a testament to the quality of the course. There just don’t seem to be enough of these 3hour endurance events out there these days with xc races becoming increasingly shorter (nudge nudge event organisers).
In an absolutely stacked field including Robb Jebb and the strong team’s of Mountain Trax , wheelbase and Keswick bikes all out in force getting anywhere near the top 10 was for me, at least, a fairly optimistic scenario. Ben Thomas put in a stormer up the last climb to pip Dan Evans to the post (by that I mean sport ident dibber thingy) in a time of 2hrs34 to complete the 33mile course i.e. bloomin quick work. For the mortals amongst us times were averaging more in the 3hours 30+ territory. At 3hours 10 I managed 33rd which considering I was on the physio bench mid week after overdoing my new long distance commute to work wasn’t too shabby. This despite making the classic school boy error of not grabbing a handful of carb fodder at the last pass of the feed station thinking ‘it’s only round the corner to the end’ when in fact a number of serious climbs then emerged leading to reverse gear being engaging.
Big shout to Richy Rothwell, taking the vets win for M Steel Cycles who were well represented at the event.
All in a great event, please sir can we have some more…