No Fuss Events/Hope Fort William Endurance Downhill

by Matt Letch 4

Here’s the official video from MTB Cut…

Matt and Benji raced the event. Here’s their story…

Surprisingly our decision to compete in this race wasn’t one of those ideas which seemed like a good idea in the pub. For once, in sobriety we decided to do something that looked hard, arduous and challenging.

The No Fuss Events/Hope Fort William Endurance Downhill is a six hour downhill race. More specifically it’s a “how many runs of the Fort william Downhill run can you get in in the space of six hours” race.

Part of the reason myself and Benji were keen was due to us being inspired by our annual pilgrimage to Fort William for the World Cup a few weeks ago. It’s one of the highlights of the year for us. Watching Downhill racing does seem to bring out the football pundit in me (ie. no real idea, but plenty of opinion). Walking the course during the World Cup, looking at the lines, giving expert advice from beneath our mosquito nets and permethrin.

“He/She could have jumped that “

“I could ride that “

“Needs to go left through the rock garden”

“Well that’s a second lost there for a start! (insert derisory snort)”

Those and a hundred other little smug knowing comments as we slid on our arses (that should have been a clue) back down the course back to the saftey of the pits – where we would “knowledgeably” squish Pro Downhillers’ forks  and squeeze their brake levers.

Last Saturday saw us back at Fort William. More than a little anxious. This year Gee Atherton had ridden the course in 4 minutes 35 seconds.. So we had our work (or “completely impossible fantasy”) cut out.

As per usual when we’re at Fort William, one of us was ill. And neither of us had paid too much attention to the workings of the event. This time round I’d got the sick card. And Ben had chosen to “imagine” event detail. We’d also given a lift from the Calderdale valley to two of the most “We’re Not Competitve” Massively Competitve people ever: Jenn “I did The GDR on a singlespeed but I got Giardia ‘cos it weren’t hard enough” Hopkins, and Benjamin “I wear Val Doonican’s Cardigans at races but still come 3rd ” Edwards.

A quick note for readers, just because someone appears kind and likes animals, or they’re a kind of hippy who works for a bicyle recycling charity, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t run you over in the race if it gained them a second. You have been warned!

Back to the disorganised bit, Benji and myself were up at 8am ready to sign-in and prepared ourselves to race at 12noon (I don’t know where these numbers had sprung from inside Ben’s mind but he was convinced). As it turned out, the sign in was at 12.30pm with a 3.30pm race start.

So we made a quick trip to town for decongestants, ibruprofen, fatty foods and sweets. After that it was still only 10.30am. Plenty of time to work out how to make the body armour fit, fiddle with bikes and get that slightly panicky pre-race feeling. To give you a idea of my state of mind, the poor guy at the timing booth had to repeat to me about eleven times how the timers worked. My glazed-over face (I’m blaming excess flu relelief pills) nodded… then asked the same questions all over again.

It was time for a couple of practise runs…

“We’ll get to the top then and just bimble down, right?”

“Yeah. Deffo. We need to check some corners. And that drop we saw from the gondola”

Needless to say, we didn’t bimble. We rode it as fast as we could straight from the off! The top was a proper pea souper. We could only see about twenty foot in front of us. So why we thought barrelling blindly from one corner to the next without knowing what was coming was a good idea I don’t know. We did finally stop after nearly emasculating ourselves on the aformentioned drop. We then decided that maybe we should ride slowly down the course and session bits, rather than smash ourseleves to bits before the race had even begun.

Benji and myself were competing in Pairs category. Partly because we wanted the same name (“The Pendergrass Allstars” – rest in peace Teddy) but also because we wanted to get some video footage of the event. And my head was filled with snot and we weren’t quite sure how I’d survive a six hour DH race.

The Event itself starts with a sprint to your bikes, followed by a fireroad hill climb (in full body armour and full face helmet). Once you’re blue from oxygen deprivation, you reach the end of the downhill course and ride down. The six hour countdown begins when the first rider down gets into the gondola to head up to the very top of the course.

Due to team tactics (and my snot-filled face) Benji “offered” to do the Le Mans start, fireroad climb and first DH run. Whilst I mentally prepared myself with a bottle of Coke and some Haribos.

Half an hour into the event and Benji was back. “Don’t try and go fast!” Which seemed like a oxymoron for a Downhill course. However it soon made sense…

Once out of the Gondola on top of the mountain I understood Benji’s warning. I couldn’t see more than twenty feet for low hanging cloud and fog. I half expected Jack The Ripper to appear from the mist complaining about the lack of prostitutes. Instead, an occasional Judge Dredd-esque armour-encased mountainbiker would appear (usually complaining about steamed-up goggles).

My first run… was rubbish really. I couldn’t work out where I was on the track and I was preoccupied with two sections that I’d found awkward in the practise run instead of just concentrating on the ground in front of me. I was fixated on the two sections somewhere up ahead in the mist. In the end I mostly fell down the two sections – still attached to the bike – and continued rolling on my front wheel for ten foot. In the distance I could hear marshals shouting “Well held!” as if we were at a cricket match or something.

Anyway eight minutes or so of slithering later (still need a bit of work to catch up with Atherton then) I was at the finish. Shaky. Hands aching. Giggling like the child I am.

And so went the rest of my day. Benji went up, he came down and then I went up and came down. As the day wore on, even though we were more fatigued, it actually became easier. I stopped squeezing the handlebars so much and relaxed a little. I stopped thinking I was in a race (againt who? for what?) and just enjoyed the moments.

Highlights for me: having a “clean ” run – no dabs, feeling smoother over the course, and managing not to crash whilst sneezing in a full face helmet during one of the faster sections!

During the mildy hallucinatory lonnng drive home I thought of next year’s event…

Bigger bike definitely required. Going to do it solo. Maybe use some softer grips.

How did we all do then..?

  • Jenn Hopkins: 2nd place Female Solo.
  • Ben Edwards: 5th place Male Solo.
  • The Pendergrass Allstars – 1st place team! (sadly, out of only two teams and the other team only did 4 laps!)

Massive thanks to Frazer and No Fuss Events, all the lovely marshals, all the guys at Orange and Hope. Big ups to Hotlines and MMA for providing armour for our soft vulnerable bodies.

Comments (4)

  1. Great effort lads! Not wanting to be picky but, as I’m sure you noticed when you were there, it was Gee Atherton who won in 4:35. Greg Minnaar was way slower (4:36!)

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