Skinny Dipping #001 – ‘Puffer’s done, the rest of the season’s to come

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In the modern MTB world of bike parks and 160mm full sussers it’s easy to forget that there are many other ways to ride and race mountain bikes, some of which involve actually pedalling uphill. This year on Singletrack we’re going to balance things out a bit and keep up-to-date with the skinny legged and tyre’d endurance and XC race scenes in our new monthly bulletin. And if last year’s international and domestic races were anything to go by, there’s going to be an awful lot to talk about. 

UCI team roster and sponsor announcements are starting to come thick and fast but for our first edition we’re staying closer to home and taking a look at the year ahead on the domestic scene.

shimano xc7 xc9 spd shoes cleat
If you like disco slippers, this will be the feature for you.

Just Keep Pedalling

What we hope won’t be a metaphor for the report itself we start with the long and arduous. Not even a full month into 2019 and the first big race of the 24 hour race calendar is already done and dusted – or actually skidded and iced – as the infamous Strathpuffer took place last weekend. And it was even colder up in the north of Scotland than usual.

Ice, Ice, Baby

“The 2019 Strathpuffer 24 will be remembered by many as the toughest edition of this legendary winter MTB endurance event. Following weeks of mild and decidedly un-wintry conditions in Scotland, temperatures plummeted in the days running up to the event, transforming the wet and muddy gruelling 13km course into an ice rink with slips and slides a-plenty.

From the comfort of my armchair, this 24-hour winter racing thing looks quite nice. Credit: Gary Williamson Photography

“The freezing temperatures made the 14th edition of the event trickier than ever, demanding 100% concentration from the 1,000 riders who took part. On-site medics were kept busy throughout dealing with minor injuries as riders struggled to stay upright on black ice and glassy rock slabs. [There were anything from 5 to 14 broken collarbones depending on who you ask – Ed]

“Conditions were attritional and intimidating but those who kept going were rewarded with a still night, spectacular moon and starry sky. 17 hours of darkness and many ice spike tyres later, dawn broke in the Highlands but the challenge was not yet over as light rain fell onto an already lethal surface.” 

Mr Keith ‘Strathpuffer’ Forsyth. Credit: Gary Williamson Photography

Proving the value of local knowledge, Marty Ross who lives yards from the course in Contin, took the male solo win whilst over in the women’s solo field race Sally Evamy topped the podium. A special mention should go to another local legend Keith Forsyth who was riding in the memory of his son Ben who died from a heart condition last year. Despite only deciding to enter a couple of weeks before the race and an accompanying chest infection, Keith was only narrowly pipped into second by Marty. (If you’re interested in supporting Keith’s fundraising for cardiac screening in the young head over to his fund raising page).

Our man Jason Miles was there as usual, this time competing in the mixed pairs with training partner Sofia Christiansen. If the black ice wasn’t enough of a challenge, Jason managed to add throwing up into the mix too. Despite his efforts to put himself out the race he and Sofia still managed to top the podium, certainly an interesting way to start the year.

Mixed podium winners Jason ‘Barf’ Miles and Sofia Christiansen. Credit: Gary Williamson Photography

For all of the rest of the Puffer results, head over here.

Round The Clock

If all this talk of 24 hour racing has whetted your appetite for more then you’ll be pleased to know that it’s not long to go until the next race of the year with the Kielder Chiller in Northumberland on 9th and 10th Feb.  Entries for solos, pairs and quads are open until 4th Feb.

For those who would prefer a bit more time to train, then the rest of the UK 24 hour race calendar for 2019 goes like this:

Last year’s Twentyfour 12. It’s a tough gig this 24 hour racing. Honest.

Life’s A Marathon

There’s been big news on the marathon racing front already this year as after two World and European Championship silver medallist and six UK marathon champion Sally Bigham has announced her retirement to concentrate on her son Max and coaching others. If you missed it, you can read our recent interview with Sally over here.

Sally at the World Marathon Champs

For those who are eager to have a crack at the 2019 UK Marathon Championship and step into Sally’s (or male winner Nick Corlett’s) carbon-soled shoes, details have just been released by British Cycling.  For the third year in a row the race will be held on the Isle of Man using a 100km single loop course.

The 2019 event starts at 6:30am (you snooze, you lose!) from the iconic TT grandstand in the centre of the island’s capital, Douglas, before heading north up the eastern side of the island. The route then traverses the island via a number of challenging climbs and fast technical descents, before arriving back into Douglas from the south.

Typical British weather for last year’s British Marathon Champs on the Isle of Man

In addition to the Championships, the event will also be hosting the 2019 Manx Mountain Bike Marathon Championships over a 100-mile route, and the Manx 50 which takes in the final 50km of the route in the central and southern areas of the island.

There are more details on the Manx 100 website and you can enter over on the British Cycling website.

More Marathoning

If you don’t have the sea legs for a ferry trip then there are plenty of other marathon events on the mainland. Entries are already open for the ever popular MTB Marathon series with events in April, May, June and August in Wales and England.  The events continue to grow with 25, 50 and 75km distances for the adults, free to enter mini marathons for children and night rides too. Hope will yet again be supporting the events with their Women’s rides and Academy sessions for the kids on the day before the main marathons.

Luckily riders aren’t judged on their number attachment skills

The first even is at Builth Wells, Mid Wales on 13-14 April.  All other dates and entry details are available on the MTB Marathon website.


And finally, it’s the fast and furious. This year’s HSBC national XC series starts off at Sherwood Pines at the end of March before heading to Hadleigh, Dalby, Allt Ddel in Aberystwyth and finally Wychwood at Thickthorn, Norfolk.  Entry is open for the whole series and individual races.

  • Round 1 – 23/24 March 2019 – Sherwood Pines Forest Park, Nottinghamshire
  • Round 2 – 13/14 April 2019 – Hadleigh Farm, Essex
  • Round 3 – 11/12 May 2019 – Dalby Forest, Yorkshire
  • Round 4 – 8/9 June 2019 – Allt Ddel, Aberystwyth
  • Round 5 – 29/30 June 2019 – Wychwood at Thickthorn, Norfolk

The UK XC Championship is the last national race of the season at Cannock Chase on 20/21 July.  We don’t know for definite but assume Annie Last will be there to defend her title. What we definitely do know is that this year she’ll be racing on an Orbea as the bike manufacture becomes a new headline sponsor of her team Team KMC Ekoi Orbea. Let’s hope the bike is smoother than the team name.

annie last
XC hero and all round top person, Annie Last

If the national series feels a bit of a stretch for the mortals amongst us there are lots of more local XC races too.  Dates have been announced for the Midlands, Eastern, SW and Southern series. Go on, have a go. You even might like it…

As the riders start to line up for the first races of the season next month’s Skinny Dipping will take more of a look at the international race scene and team news. In the meantime let us know what you’d like to see and which events we should be featuring in our monthly round-up of endurance, marathon and XC racing. Until then, it’s hup, hup, hup from us.

Comments (8)

    Nice to see some XC articles.

    Scottish XC dates are also available. It’s a great series with some brilliant courses and venues (including the 2018 European Champs course for the first round).

    Xc is still alive and well. Also don’t forget Midweek Madness and Crank-it races local to Singletrack HQ.

    Looking forward to seeing some more XC related content!

    Great to see some XC coverage on here!

    there are a few more mid-distance type events in the South too. Gorrick G100, Brighton Big Dog, Torq in your sleep. I really enjoyed Will’s coverage of 24/12 in the last couple of years. Are there any plans for more of this? Maybe a Singletrack team taking part, with live updates?

    Nice one Rachel – I’ve always enjoyed Hannah’s XC related updates and it is great to finally see the promise of some regular XC coverage from Singletrack. Southern is my local series… and itd be good to help big up the local race promoters, boy do they have a tough job!

    Maybe trials updates will be next? We do have a reigning British world champ in the form of Jack Carthy after all!

    Thanks everyone for all the suggestions and heads up about other events. Keep them coming

    @nickw – hopefully we’ll feature all of these events over the summer in one way or another. As for a Wil style feature, I’m not sure I have the DJ-ing skills to compete…

    @wcolt – agree completely about recognising the promoters, organising events is much harder than the racing!


    Good stuff STW – keep it up!

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