Skinny Dipping #003: British mud, South African dust and Brazilian firsts

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From the mud of northern and middle England to the dust of South Africa and Brazil, we’ve got it here in this month’s round-up of XC and endurance news.

Rain in Manchester shocker!

We start up in the glorious setting of Whitefield, Manchester and hand over to the multi-talented (endurance racer, Singletrack contributor and HtN organiser) Jason Miles.

“The sixth Hit the North (it’s more like the ninth really, we cocked up the numbering a few years ago) was the first one to be held in the middle of a storm. In the past we’ve had high winds, snow, ice and some sunshine but this time the course was partly submerged and the bits that weren’t submerged were incredibly muddy.

Male winner Will Lewis. Or is it? Credit: Paul Davy

“I think many thought that it’d be called off but there was no way I was going to let that happen – I’d had to move the date twice as it was due to poor entries. The first date clashed with the royal wedding, so I assume everyone was cheering on the happy couple. The second date was a December gamble and that yielded about three entries. I’d had to refund dozens of entries already, so it had to be third time lucky. Thankfully the March 16th date, over a year after I initially opened the entry, was a big success and entries went mad in the last two weeks. A record number of entrants, in fact.

“I was glad that people had to pre-enter because I was expecting the weather to put most riders off. The coffee woman jibbed at about 8:30am on the morning of the event so that was a kick in the nuts. No coffee. So serious I included a grovelling apology in my race briefing. There was a loud groan from the assembled throng of 143 riders. The rest of the main ‘arena’ looked sparse too – I’d booked a pair of portable toilets (at least those turned up) but other than that HtN6 was very much the Austerity Edition. Probably just as well given the weather on the day. (If anyone wants to have a stand or any sort of Thing at the next Hit the North, get in touch!).

“Riders should dress appropriately for the conditions” Credit: Paul Davy

“143 riders! An amazing turnout considering it was hammering down with rain. The course was absolutely filthy and the big downhill was a lottery. The mud was knee-deep in parts though, so while your fallen water bottle/Garmin/glasses probably sunk forever, you had a softish landing. We had to close the stream cross that magically went from a small trickle into a super-angry, gushing torrent that was threatening to sweep riders and bikes down the Irwell.

“Two hours later and the men’s winner, Will Lewis, crossed the line. We think it was Will but to be honest it could have been anyone. Screeching to a halt just behind him was local elite racer Chris Lever who’d taken a couple of hours off work in the bike shop to do the race.

“Hit the North regular and multiple winner, Ian Taylor won the vets category while Alison Kinloch and Cathy Atkinson won the female vets and seniors respectively.

“That was the sharp end of the race, but quite honestly everyone who turned out and raced in those conditions deserved a medal. Most of the DNFs were caused by disintegrated brake pads (and one broken shoulder – get well soon Kai) so there’s probably a lot of unfinished business knocking about.

“Thanks to everyone who helped this happen”

Not a royal wedding. Credit: Paul Davy

Interesting Jason didn’t mention the bit in the woods with beer barrels. Our Antony still hasn’t worked out why they were there but suspects it was some kind of initiative test and we were meant to lash them together and make a raft.

The next HtN is March 2020 so keep your eye on the website, the Facebook page or Twitter. Full results at

Psychic failure

Next up is the British XC Series which kicks off this weekend at Sherwood Pines, Nottinghamshire with races on both Saturday and Sunday. As you read this the races may well have already taken place but due to my inability to see into the future as I sit and write this, you’ll have to wait for the results update early next week.

In the elite men’s race all of 2018’s top three: Tom Martin, Olli Dawson and Tony Revell will be there. Let’s hope this season is as closely fought as last’s where only 12 points separated the podium places at the end of the year.

Annie Last flying the BC flag Credit: SWPix

What I can tell you is that after spending her winter in South Africa Annie Last has returned home for the first race of the British season. The 2018 elite female series winner Kerry MacPhee and runner-up Amy-Jo Hansford will also be on the start line making for a competitive race.

Cape Epic

Talking of South Africa, one of the biggest international stage races is currently underway in the heat and sand of the absa Cape Epic.  With a load of UCI points and early season bragging rights at stake, the pros are out in force alongside the bucket list amateurs

The eight stage race (seven plus a prologue) ends on Sunday after taking in 700km of trails and 15,000m climbing. If you’re reading in time you can watch the final two stages live over on the Cape Epic website although be warned start time is 7am in South Africa which is two hours ahead of GMT.

The first six days of riding has seen a right ol’ ding-dong in the men’s race with Scott-SRAM pairing of Nino Schurter and Lars Forster and Cannondale’s Manuel Fumic and Henrique Acancini swapping the race lead several times over.

Schurter and Forster at full gas during stage 5

Schurter and Foster grabbed back the Yellow Leaders’ Jersey at the end of the fifth stage and won over the local crowds by allowing a South African victory at the 100km Stage 5 of the Absa Cape Epic from Oak Valley Estate to Stellenbosch University on Friday.

Schurter and Foster rewarded the PYGA Euro-Steel pair of Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes for their assistance throughout the stage by backing off on the final sprint and gifting the South Africans the stage victory. These two teams broke away early and built a six-minute lead over overnight leaders, Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing), who ended fourth on the stage behind Damiano Ferraro and Samuele Porro (Trek Selle San Marco). Schurter and Forster now take a 5:13 lead over Cannondale into the final two days racing over the weekend.

In the Women’s category, the winners of the first five days of racing, Annika Langvad and Anna van der Breggen (Investec-songo-Specialized), suffered their first defeat when they finished four minutes behind Candice Lill and Adelheid Morath (Summit Fin). The win for Lill and Morath, who are second overall, closes the gap to 21 minutes, but leaves the Investec-songo-Specialized pair still firmly in control in the race for overall honours on Sunday.

Overall Results after Stage 5: Men’s

  1. Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing 4-1 Nino Schurter (Switzerland) 4-2 Lars Forster (Switzerland) 19:20.25,3
    2. Cannondale Factory Racing 3-1 Manuel Fumic (Germany) 3-2 Henrique Avancini (Brazil) 19:25.38,9 +5.13,6
    3. Trek Selle San Marco 10-1 Damiano Ferraro (Italy) 10-2 Samuele Porro (Italy) 19:35.16,0 +14.50,7
    4. BULLS Heroes 6-1 Urs Huber (Switzerland) 6-2 Simon Stiebjahn (Germany) 19:41.54,9 +21.29,6
    5. SpecializedFoundationNAD 13-1 Alan Hatherly (South Africa) 13-2 Matthew Beers (South Africa) 19:54.46,1 +34.20,8

Overall Results after Stage 5: Women’s

  1. Investec-songo-Specialized 50-1 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 50-2 Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) 23:09.42,2
    2. Summit Fin 54-1 Candice Lill (South Africa) 54-2 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 23:31.04,5 +21.22,3
    3. Kross-Spur Racing 53-1 Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) 53-2 Maja Wloszczowska (Poland) 24:01.10,5 +51.28,3
    4. Silverback – Fairtree 52-1 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 52-2 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 24:09.06,5 +59.24,3
    5. Meerendal WIAWIS Rotwild 51-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 51-2 Nadine Rieder (Germany) 24:29.07,9 +1:19.25,7

Para-athlete category for the World 24 hour Solo Championships in Brazil

For the first time in its eight year history this year’s WEMBO World 24 hour Solo Championship will take place in Costa Rica, Mato Grosso do Sul State Brazil on 27-28 July. Another first for the race is the inclusion of para-athlete categories.

Mario Roma, founder of event hosts Brasil Ride, announced the news. “For the first time we will have world champions in the para-cyclist category, which was a request made by me to the representatives of WEMBO, soon accepted by the organization. In Brasil Ride events, we always encourage the practice of sports in a democratic way. I’m very happy to announce this news, which will encourage more cyclists to pedal for their dreams, not only in Brazil, but also in the whole world.”

WEMBO 2017
Yours truly racing at WEMBO in Finale, Italy. Credit: Olly Townsend

Local racer Bruno Paim who was born with no arms last year competed in the pairs Ride Brasil race but this year will be lining up as a solo racer in the World Championships. “I was very happy when I heard about this news. It will be great to be able to compete again at home in the 2019 World Solo 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championship. In this type of endurance race, you never know if you’re going to be able to finish well. You cannot predict what the performance will be like. You just have to pedal with focus.”

Para-cyclist and former World Road Champs racer Athos Martins, who has his left arm amputated, will make his 24 hour debut in Costa Rica in 24-hour races. “I have a great expectation of running the 24-hour Solo Mountain Bike Championships. It is very good to have a championship of this level in Brazil, because it will bring foreign athletes who are among the best in the sport. It is too good to have the opportunity of this coexistence and to learn from this experience,” says Athos. “I’ve never run a race in this format, but I’ve already competed four times at the Brasil Ride in Bahia, between 2014 and 2018. I’m training and preparing myself psychologically and physically for this challenge.”

Bruno Paim. Credit: Divulgação / Brasil Ride

Given the complexity of para-athlete classification in other sports and competitions it will be interesting to see how things turn out with this single category approach.

Whatever category you want to enter, if you fancy competing, registration for the race is open now over here. Further event info can be found on Brasil Ride’s website.

That’s it for this month’s Skinny Dipping. Keep an eye out early next week for the final results from Cape Epic and the British XC races at Pines before next month’s full fix of XC and endurance news. Until then, it’s hup, hup, hup! and a cow bell jingle from us.

Comments (3)

    Hats off to Bruno Paim and the other para-athletes. I’m in awe of someone with a disability that surely makes the simplest things in life very challenging who then says to themselves “Ah! Off-road cycling; that’s the sport for me”. Amazing courage and resilience.

    It would be very interesting to hear how he’s modified the bike to allow him to control it.

    “Local racer Bruno Paim who was born with no arms last year”
    Wait so he’s only one and he’s already racing?
    The importance of the comma. I apologise for my pedantry.

    HTN6 was excellent. I had virtually no braking on the last lap, which forced me to be a bit smoother on the descents. Thanks to the organisers and marshals for making this happen.

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