The second Exmoor edition of the Scott MTB Marathons started just outside Minehead at an earlier time of 9.30am this past Sunday. What were you doing? There is simply no excuse not to go and ride one of these events. They are what mountain biking is for; amazing trails, big skies, interesting routes, lots of banter and just enough suffering to put the rest of your week in perspective.
The earlier kick off caught a few regulars out, and the mele at the start was particularly chaotic. 693 tuts echoed around the rugby club as yet another latecomer asked to ‘just squeeze past’ and move away from the lycra-clad racers at the front towards the baggy shorts and Camelbaks at the back. But the sun shone and the Cycle-tec team offered their usual banter over the mic, pointing out the various celebrity riders in the bunch, like mum-to-be Sally Bigham, Paul Oldham and of course Nick Craig.
Of the huge starting bunch, there were almost 30 juniors (under 16) on the mini marathon (25km) and 187 riders on the half marathon (45km). Of the 65km full marathon, the fastest man finished in just under 3 hours – there were only two achieving this incredible feat – and the fastest women in the 45-strong female field completed the distance at around the 4 hour mark. The last rider crossed the line in 7 hours and fifteen painful minutes.
The full marathon isn’t for the faint hearted, and there were no disparaging comments as a few e-bikes sped their way past on the climbs. You could hear the internal thoughts of those without battery power; “lucky them”. There were a lot of climbs. The route, tweaked considerably from last year, took in the infamous Porlock road climb as a warm-up for an interesting circumnavigation of Dunkery Beacon and an impossible suite of rocky climbs with telltale Strava segment labels like ‘up again, really?’
The views were stunning, stretching across the sea to Wales. And what goes up must come down. The range of carefuly orchestrated descents was magnificent, from grassy singletrack in the sunshine to enduro-worthy rockgardens and steep woodland trails. The descent from the top of Dunkery, the highest point on Exmoor, was saved to the end. It felt like a fitting crescendo and delicious reward for a hard ride; eight full minutes of flat out riding. We won’t mention the sneaky extra climb thrown in at the end, nor the viscous arm-pump. We’ll focus on the dusty trails, big grins and cool, post-ride beer.
You have one chance left to ride a Scott mountain bike marathon this year, on September 2nd/3rd. And a special one it will be, from Hope Valley in Nick Craig’s own stomping ground of the High Peak. You’ll ride the trails Nick’s son Charlie loved so much and the huge gathering of mountain bikers will be a fitting memorial. To be part of the final Scott marathon, which also includes an ‘Exposure Lights Big Night out’ (20 or 40km night ride), enter here.