Our intrepid reporter, Fi Spotswood, reports from the finale of the popular Scott Mountain Bike Marathon series in Ruthin.
The Scott mountain Bike Marathon series finished with a true festival feel from Ruthin Rugby Club, where the usual party atmosphere had been carefully constructed by way of the catering, Big Bobble Hats, Torq bus, Gore Bikewear and various other traders and supporters. The mechanics spun wheels with worried looks on their faces and sleepy riders emerged from their tents to sip coffee and ponder the size of the hills around them.
There were more tents than usual dotted between the various vehicles on the rugby field because the Saturday night’s Exposure Lights Big Night Out (45km marathon) had attracted an extra crowd of 70 to tackle the hills at night. Sally Hall, who rode both the night and next day’s full marathon, sleepily described it as “brilliant fun and a great course with a fabulous atmosphere”. Indeed, the banter amongst the night marathon finishers was fantastic, and the adrenaline was buzzing across the camp as the tail of lights streamed down the Clywdian range of hills around Ruthin, then through the lanes to the finish.
Doubling up on both marathons would have made for a big mileage weekend, but given that the tail enders weren’t back until midnight and the next day’s ride started at ten, it’s understandable that the chatter at the mass start was a bit lower in temperature than usual (and that the coffee van was doing a roaring trade). After the raffle draw had been presented to a very lucky Robin Gosnell (who won not just a Scott bike but full Gore riding outfit and various bling accessories from series partners Torq, Witter Tow Bars and Hope), the bunch was led out to start the main event.
Note to self: If you can see Debbie Rowland, sitting on the back of the Cycle-tech SUV, camera in hand, you know you’ve started too fast. But it was fun being sucked along at the pointy end, Paul Oldham clearly visible in his Hope team kit casually chatting with Nick Craig and a few other of the more ‘streamlined’ participants. There was no one else around me wearing a camelbak (or panting, come to think of it). That is, until we hit the first hill of the ride and I was overtaken a few times, ahem. It was the Bwlch Penbarras mountain pass, which we eventually reached many sweaty minutes later to the sound of cheering from supporters. And being a mountain bike marathon, we did not then descend on the road, but rather veered off into the forestry and continued to climb. And so the tone was set.
Time passed, mainly in the silence of personal suffering (thoughts including ‘why?’ and ‘No!’ and then back to ‘why?), but also punctuated with view-appreciation and banter. At various points I met two young lads in the thick of passionate battles in the Welsh and British youth cross country rankings, a seven year old proud as punch to have nailed 16.8 miles and 2300 feet in the mini marathon. I talked with the nutty full suspension tandem riders and some shaky newbies tackling their first proper gnarly Welsh descents. And I talked to a lot of marshals, happily filling bottles, lubing bikes or pouring wobbly riders back onto their bikes with extra jelly babies tucked in their back pockets.
There was bright sunshine, a refreshing breeze and stunning views across North East Wales and its exposed moorlands, dramatic hilltops and forests of pine, rusting beech and wind turbines. The Ruthin edition was a fitting finale to the series, and one which involved the not insignificant bang of more than a dozen proper lung busting climbs for our bucks. But to make absolutely sure we really do all remember the series in our planning of next year’s events, the organisers also added loops of enticing, twiddly singletrack pretty woodland, steep winchy climbs up and over viewpoints and more plunging descents off remote moor tops than I can process; and only the smallest smattering of tarmac. Thank you Cycle-tech and Scott for a fun five events. Bring on 2017.