Words by Tom Nash
Photos by Ian Linton Photography
It was breezy, very breezy. As 500 riders filled Selkirk High Street waiting for the start of the Orbea Borders Bike Festival, there was a sense of trepidation, excitement and anticipation. Durty Events always puts on a blinding event, and, without the British Cycling Marathon Championships, this year saw a change to the format with the Selkirk Raid, dubbed as “the sweet spot between old-skool Marathon and new/groovy Enduro”, joining the infamous 50km and 75km marathon routes.
The buzz around the event village was superb – as the first of the brave campers opened their tent doors (if it hadn’t blown away overnight!), the smell of freshly brewed coffee and bacon rolls wafted across the rugby pitch. There were riders from all backgrounds: some peak-less, lycra-clad racing snakes aiming for the accolade of finishing the brutal 75km route first; some out for a bank holiday bash with their pals; some with the sole aim of completing the route distance they had entered; and some just to enjoy the sublime singletrack sections that this event includes. One thing was obvious: everyone had a smile on their face and so much of that is due to the relaxed and inclusive atmosphere that encapsulated Selkirk RFC.
As the lead car set off from a spectator-lined Selkirk High Street at 10am, the riders started their journey. As they passed through the beautiful Bowhill Estate, home of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, the courses start to split. No matter which course was then tackled, big climbs, gorgeous woodland singletrack, open moorland, fast rocky bridleways, and food stops piled high with cake, pretzels, energy gels and bananas were guaranteed.
The Selkirk Raid added the competitive edge with four timed stages, three part of the 50km route but, cleverly designed to avoid queues, the first stage was hand crafted by trail building legend Pete Laing especially for this event and only ridden by the Raid competitors. In typical Durty Events style there was also a twist; a fifth stage which had an overall time limit of 4.5 hours to complete the course with time penalties potentially applied for anyone coming in after that. That was no mean feat given the sheer amount of climbing involved!
Watching people return was fascinating; there was pain, exhaustion, disbelief and delight but, as everyone crossed under the finish arch, handed in their dibber and collected their (very nice) finisher’s t-shirt, the smiles that were there at the start were still present, often just hidden under layers of Scottish mud. I completed the 75km route and I can honestly say it is the physically hardest ride I have ever done. But the trails, scenery, people, challenge and views make it a hugely rewarding event and a definite ‘one to do’. I have to mention the pies… proper locally made, hearty, hot pies were a definite hit after a ride like that!
First across the line for the 75km was Hope Factory Racing rider (and multiple Three Peaks Cyclocross winner) Rob Jebb who completed the course in an unbelievable 4:15:31, closely followed by Alistair Ross of Hoddom Velo and Jon Roberts. Alastair Hunter took the honours in the 50km in a swift 3:13:41 ahead of Michael Buglass and Fraser Veitch.
The inaugural Selkirk Raid enduro was won by James Butson of Pedals Bike Care with two whole seconds to spare over second placed Darren Scott. Cheri Mills, One Planet Adventure, narrowly beat local rider Roslynn Newman, Midlothian Cycling Club in the female category.
Full results: http://www.bordersbikefestival.com