Scott 100 Report: Wantage 2016

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The penultimate Scott MTB Marathon in the series started in Wantage; not necessarily known as a MTB Mecca, but the series organisers were clearly in search of variety. And they found it in the rolling, chalky white bridleways of Oxfordshire, a world away from the steep Exmoor rockgardens or windswept moorlands of mid Wales. (Thanks to Rob Barker for the photos…)

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I think it’s this way

The Ridgeway offers old English charm; miles of doubletrack carved across the green landscape, with just the occasional wiggle of narrow singletrack snaking through the scattered copses. The sunshine had baked the ground hard, and the going was fast. Where the trail was visible, the ruts and divots carved from winter mountain biking, tractors or horses were easily avoidable, but often only a tyre’s-width of white earth emerged from the long grass, and always worn a few inches deep and treacherous at speed. It was a test of mettle to push the pace and keep the flow, especially against the odds of the handlebar-grabbing brambles.

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Young and young at heart

The Wantage marathon may have lacked elevation (with about 1100m climb in the longest distance), but it still posed a proper challenge. Holding steady in the ruts and handling the head wind that howled across the countryside was draining. I spent 100km undecided if it was worse to try and follow a wheel in the deep furrows or brave it the full force of the wind.

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All aboard the Scott train

The organisers, perhaps responding to criticism that last year’s inaugural edition lacked challenge, added the 100km Monster distance to the standard 50 and 75km options. Maybe they wanted to prove that ‘challenge’ comes in many forms, and doesn’t always need big climbs. By the final of three well-stocked feed stations at 76km, my Monster was winning, but the natural camaraderie of the event stepped in and my personal end-of-level-baddie was slain by Steve from Chepstow. No monsters can compete with friendly Tour de France banter and tactical drafting.

The final marathon in the series is on the weekend of 10th/11th September and includes a night marathon on the Saturday night. The start is at Ruthin Rugby Club.

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Riding the open savannah

For more info, check out the site: mtb-marathon.co.uk

Chipps

Singletrack Editor

Chipps wasn’t around for the dawn of mountain biking in the UK, but he likes to claim that he arrived in time for second breakfast (about the time he shows up for work, then…) starting in the bike trade in 1990 and becoming a full time mountain bike journalist at the start of 1994. Over the subsequent quarter century, he has seen mountain bike culture flourish and diversify and bike technology go from rigid steel frames to fully suspended carbon fibre (and sometimes back to rigid steel as well.)

His riding style is best described as ‘medium, wheels on the ground, trail riding’ though he’s been spotted doing everything from endurance downhill racing to 24 hour cross country racing. He favours mid-travel trail bikes and claims to be wheel-size, gear, brake and tyre agnostic. In fact, his garage spans most bicycle flavours, taking in steel hardtails, carbon trail bikes, even a mountain bike tandem, along with road, touring and gravel/cyclocross bikes.

While he’s happy to chat about bikes all day, his real interest is in the people and places that bikes can introduce you to and he talks as fondly about the trails he’s ridden and riders he’s met as the bikes that took him there.

Comments (2)

    Was a good challenge, needed to concentrate on the track as the holes were hidden, but conditions were perfect. This is the 3rd mtb Marathon this year for me, first 100k and I am looking forward to Ruthin. We will use the free camping to explore up there.

    Great riding, hard to spot the ruts due to overgrown grass but definitely a winner. I loved it and didn’t do half bad either.

    Winner

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