The final weekend of the Tweedlove Festival 2016 saw around 800 riders enjoy a custom loop of Glentress forest as part of the seven hour endurance race.
The format is a familiar one – A mass start with teams of three, two or solos heading off from the arena to the sounds of Ride of the Valkyres blaring from the leading Tweedlove Van up the fireroad climb. Then it’s a simple case of logging the most laps of the 11km course over the next seven hours.
The conditions were perfect. A warm, dry day with plenty of cloud cover was the backdrop of almost perfect riding conditions. Throughout the afternoon the cloud burnt away to leave a gloriously blue sky for the finish.
The strength of the G7 is the true openness of the event. From novice riders on entry level hardtails to skin suit wearing racers on carbon and everything (including a decent number of attention seeking fat bikes) in between, it was all on display at the mass start. What each racer got out of the event was up to them be they podium chasers to those just wanting to get a few laps in and push themselves to do one more than last year. The spirit out on the course was laid back, with faster riders, in the main, politely asking to come through when possible. There were a few tales of cross, shouty types, but they were rare. Help for the occasional injured came from other risers happy to stop and give assistance, including the unfortunate rider who suffered a heart attack on a lap, who was then assisted by the marshal he happened to collapse in front of followed by a first responder and medical consultant who happened to be riding past at the time.
Mountain Rescue were on the scene within four minutes and the patient was helicoptered out from below the arena within the hour. The patient was reported to be in a stable condition in hospital shortly after.
For those familiar with other endurance events like Mountain Mayhem, there’s a subtle difference in the timing rules that adds to the excitement at the end. During the racing the average lap time of the entire field is calculated and then used to set a cut-off time. Any rider coming home after this time loses that lap from their tally. The upshot this year, thanks to the buff conditions was a cutoff time, calculated from 4:30pm of 5:22pm.
To get out for that last lap you had to beat the 4;30pm cut off and then be back home in under the calculated lap average of 52 mins. With the final run down to the finish from the treeline being fully visible to the arena crowds, this made for a very tense finish as the commentator counted down from 1 minute. The screaming crowds urging the straggling riders to make it in before the final bell could be heard deep into the forest. Some made it with seconds to to spare, others were not so lucky and their final lap was for nothing other than the joy of riding an exceptional course one more time.
As a format that instills a sense of drama into XC racing it’s a triumph.