by Ben Haworth
August 4, 2009
Video from www.mtbcut.tv
James Shirley, a downhill rider from Roy Bridge in Lochaber, was crowned king of the hill at the Hope Endurance Downhill, billed as the most extreme downhill mountain biking endurance race in the UK, that was held at Nevis Range, near Fort William, on Saturday 1 August 2009.
The 80 riders who took part managed a total of 870 runs in six hours with a total distance of 2453.4 km covered. This is equivalent to just over 359 descents of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain (1344 metres).
The event was staged on the internationally renowned World Championships downhill track at Nevis Range near Fort William in the Outdoor Capital of the UK, a full-on, flat-out, no-compromise charge down the face of Aonach Mor. The gruelling challenge involved hurtling down the 2.82km track as many times as possible in six hours with riders tackling a succession of big jumps and bumps, berms, drop-offs, rock slabs and technical natural sections all the way from the top gondola station (at 655m) to the magnificent finish section at the Nevis Range car park (100m).
With seven of the riders who took part in this epic challenge completing an impressive sixteen runs of the stamina draining track (a total of 45.12km each) in the allotted six hours it all came down to individual run times. James Shirley of the Glencroft Rabble, who came second in last year’s race, completed his 16 descents in a total of 1:36:50 (not including gondola rides and pit stops), averaging 6 minutes 03 seconds per run, to take the top spot on the podium. Chris Hutchens from Oban, an elite rider from the MTB Cut Cycle Jersey team, was only one and a half minutes behind Shirley, averaging 6 minutes 09 seconds a descent, despite losing his chain on the second run and freewheeling for the remaining 14 laps and recording the fastest descent of the day. First placed veteran rider Alistair MacLennan (OffBeatBikes), from Fort William, was third overall for the second year running in a total time of 1:38:45.
Hutchens’ teammate James Scott had the same problem loosing his chain during run six but still finished as the top junior rider and fourth overall. He completed sixteen descents in 1:39:25.
Hope, sponsors of the Endurance Downhill, had three riders racing under the name Hope Factory Racing and competition amongst the riders was fierce. In the end Simon Perry finished in ninth place with an impressive 15 laps in 1:50. Johnny Henstock was the second teammate to finish with 14 laps in 2:06 mins. Ian Witherall had been leading the way amongst the Hope riders up until his twelfth run when he encountered some technical problems that forced him out of the race.
Frazer Coupland from No Fuss Events, organisers of the Hope Downhill Endurance said: ‘We are again extremely happy with the way the race went and are delighted that Hope are interested in being sponsor again next year. We would also like to announce that next year competitors will be able to compete in teams of two, although spaces will be limited.’
Orange Bikes who displayed for the first time at this event were pleased that the first four riders were all racing on Orange 224 Bikes.
As one of the longest and most physically demanding courses on the international mountain bike race circuit, riders require physical strength, quick reflexes, superb bike control and an unerring eye for the right line. On Saturday 1 August they also required bucket loads of stamina.
The Le Mans style mass start was another challenge that most downhill racers are not used to. It involved a 100-metre sprint along a forestry track to pick up competitors’ bikes. This was then followed by an uphill ride to about three quarters of the way down from the top gondola station where they joined the track for the first run down.
Results – for full results go to http://www.nofussevents.co.uk/
1. James Shirley – Glencroft Rabble – 16 laps in 1:36:50 mins.
2. Chris Hutchens – MTB Cut Cycle Jersey team – 16 laps in 1:38:20
3. Mark Maciver – Monsterbike – 16 laps in 1:42:08
1. Alistair MacLennan – OffbeatBikes – 16 laps in 1:38:45
2. Steven Deas – I-Cycles – 14 laps in 1:54:23
3. Mark Hyslop – Take it like a man – 14 laps in 2:03:44
1. James Scott – MTB Cut Cycle Jersey team – 16 laps in1:39:25
2. Rory Maclennan – 15 laps in 1:57:00
3. Robert Shaw -team inspire to aspire – 13 laps in 1:52:12
1. Naomi Williamson – Highland Bicycle Co. – 13 laps in 1:53:58
2. Angela Coates – Fox Racing – 13 laps in 1:59:50
3. Jo Cardwell – Moray MINX Girl – 12 laps in 2:00:06
Jesse Wigman of Offbeat Bikes was the fastest hard tail with 15 laps in an impressive 1 hour and 54 minutes.