The Hardest Race You’ve Never Heard Of Is Going Past Your Door Right Now

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The Great British Divide – something you’ve probably never heard of until about… now – is a 2200km off-road mountain bike race that’s going on right now. There are people on bikes at the moment, racing to the end, and there will be people racing when you get up.

Another day, another 200km or so… for some at least.

Catching the Race Leader

The Great British Divide started in Kent on Saturday, July 31st at 10am. By Wednesday lunchtime, the current leader, Chris Hinds had crossed over the halfway point… 1100km deep. And as this happened to be just up the hill from Singletrackworld’s home town of Todmorden, it made sense to try to catch him on the trail.

By following the very accurate live mapping, I was able to intercept Chris Hinds, the leader and ride with him for a few miles of our local trails. He was in remarkably good spirits and had been moved by the number of random people trailside who seemed to know who he was and who cheered him on.

Don’t get in the way of a Divide rider buying food…

Half Way

After we got down to the canal, Chris made a(n allowable) detour into Hebden Bridge, where he emerged with three different sorts of juice, an Irn Bru (he’s Scottish, he reckoned that finding Irn Bru in shops was a sign he was getting further north), some sort of all-day breakfast sandwich and the last jam doughnut in the shop. Oh, and an ice cream. He was immediately accosted by a spritely 73-year-old local boy who wanted to know all about his route and his bike, which Chris cheerily regaled him with before making his excuses to ride back up the canal and rejoin the route.

The Great British Divide route itself is a mostly off-road loop of the UK, starting in Kent and traversing the Kent Weald and the South Downs before the New Forest, up to Bath and Chepstow before doing a long arc through the lumpy bits of Wales before re-entering England in time to ride Jacob’s Ladder and the entire Pennine Bridleway, which is where our story began. This is only the halfway point, though, as the riders then head up the spine of England before heading to Peebles, Edinburgh and Glasgow. At which point they knock out the 100miles of the West Highland Way, over to Skye from Fort William before finally riding over the Bealach na Bà pass to finish in Applecross, after over 2200km. Phew! (Chris pointed out that if you’re getting the train back home, you then have to ride back over the Bealach na Bà in order to get to the train station…)

It’s definitely not all rideable. Especially the bit between the Peaks and the Dales. Sorry about that.

It’s another one of those races that a very small world knows a lot about and the rest of us are oblivious of, occasionally seeing a tired-looking rider on a trail, complete with bike bags and a bag of Haribo.

Can only be a Divide rider…

24-Hour Saviour

It seemed only fair to try to catch the second place rider, Donnacha Cassidy, who came through town 12 hours later. By then the conditions had changed and the sunny skies had turned to slick, wet rain. Donnacha appeared about 11pm and apparently hadn’t seen anyone since leaving Hayfield. It seems that every rider has found this section super hard and he was no different. While not as cheery as Chris, he was still pressing on and had a plan that involved the shortest possible detour to the all-night garage in town before finding the car park by the local fishing pond, flattening a few nettles and turning in for a few hours. He was gone again at first light.

‘No one gets to see this bit of the ride’ said Donnacha before bedding down in some nettles.

It’s Not All Plain Sailing

I just missed third place Niel Copeland, 24 hours later, who ducked into town and checked into a hotel for the Thursday night after filling himself with three courses of Wetherspoons’ finest. The following morning (we’re on Friday now) we did spot Rob Gardiner as the Great British Divide course crosses the main road here. Despite having his bike and all his gear stolen in Newport, he’s in an impressive fourth place on a borrowed bike. While he admitted that the previously bumpy 90km had taken its toll on his hands, he was keen to keep moving and head on to the smoother trails as they head up to the next checkpoint – which happens to be at the Dales Mountain Bike Centre, in the middle of the Ard Rock festival this weekend.

Rob Gardiner passing speedily through between Hebden Bridge and Todmorden on Friday morning

While some riders have had to retire due to fatigue, illness, injuries or just the endless rain, there are still a load still soldiering on. And the slower riders will be taking a couple of weeks to complete the route – something the leader Chris Hinds was in awe of – the only reason he reckoned he was riding so fast was to get it over with as quickly as possible and enjoy the rest of the time he’d booked off work.

A quick snapshot from Friday afternoon…

So, have a look at the map. Thanks to the winding, mostly off-road route, it probably goes close to many Singletrackers’ houses. Have a watch and if you get a chance to put a face to a moving dot on the map, do so. They’re out there in all weathers while we’re all indoors staring at our computers and wondering why we’re not fitter… Get out and cheer and get a bit of inspiration going!

Sunday Update: Since writing this, I’ve seen a couple more riders coming through town, and watched the dots on many others. The weather has been awful here since Wednesday night and riders have been coming through soaked, but usually still very cheery, like Stevan who came through on Saturday night. Luckily, the Hebden Hostel was just still open and he managed to snag a room (and a radiator…) for the night… Many riders have understandably scratched, but many are soldiering on. Epic mountain biking at its epicest, in the worst of summer weather…

Monday Update: The news on Sunday lunchtime was that the course had been shortened due to the relentless weather conditions and its affect on the course. The new finish is now Fort William, just shy of 1900km from the start. And Chris Hinds duly showed up on Sunday night to take the first ever finish of the Great British Divide in under nine days of riding. Other riders are still on course, so keep tabs at: https://greatbritishdivide2021.maprogress.com

That’s a lot cheerier than we are in this weather – and we’ve not already ridden 1100km to get here…

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Viewing 27 posts - 1 through 27 (of 27 total)
  • The Hardest Race You’ve Never Heard Of Is Going Past Your Door Right Now
  • Premier Icon nidderdalenath
    Free Member

    Nails

    Premier Icon postierich
    Free Member

    Ive managed 5 days full on on my bike ,I,m out after that!

    Premier Icon sillyoldman
    Full Member

    Chris is always incredibly cheerful. Except when bicycle jousting while sh*tfaced at SSUK (Bristol? Can’t remember)….
    Poor Alec didn’t come out of that too well…

    Amazing effort so far. Keep it up Chris!

    Premier Icon lovewookie
    Full Member

    Goes right past my house.
    Will keep an eye on the map!

    Premier Icon ambrose
    Full Member

    Hell’s Teeth that’s impressive.

    Premier Icon robertajobb
    Full Member

    And there was I thinking the Great British Divide ran approximately from Bristol to the Wash, bisecting the Watford Gap M1 services, and only approx 200 miles long. Handily demarking Ooop North from Darn Saaarf.

    Premier Icon overend
    Full Member

    Big respect to the riders and also STW for giving it some focus – nice 👍

    Premier Icon Michael
    Full Member

    Yeh we’ve heard of it… When I posted a thread about it last week.

    Premier Icon BadlyWiredDog
    Full Member

    I coincidentally – ie: I wasn’t stalking them – crossed paths with three of them on the Sett Valley Trail this morning. Two were stopped chatting at the road crossing by the Sett Valley Cafe, which I thought was a bit of a missed opportunity.

    Hats off to them all, though I don’t really get the dot watching thing unless you know someone personally.

    Premier Icon lovewookie
    Full Member

    Cheered Chris on from the bottom of the garden. Now know that I know him from his bike shop days after he was like, oh hi Nik!.

    Top effort, he kinda looked fresh all things considered. Still a long way to go from Glasgow.

    Premier Icon oldschool
    Full Member

    I take my hat off to the riders that have come through the settle to hawes section in the last 24hrs. The rain has not let up, and has been heavy as fook. Been trying to catch a few at Clapham as they pass the back of the village and offer a coffee, but not managed get timing right (that’s my timings, not theirs!! My 2 year old isn’t on the same timetable)

    Premier Icon sillyoldman
    Full Member

    That’s Chris passing through Fort William now. Bananas….

    Premier Icon …..
    Free Member

    Be nice to cherry pick some bits and do them over three or four days.

    Premier Icon ScotRoutes
    Full Member

    Route has been diverted and shortened with the finish now in Fort William. Seems the riders didn’t like the conditions.

    Premier Icon mt
    Free Member

    Been following the dots then going out to encourage as they passed. Just so impressed with them all but that Chris chap is Really stunning. The distance he put in with hours after the Dale’s Bike Centre check point amazed me.

    Premier Icon Michael
    Full Member

    Waiting for the last 3 to come through Staffs. Would it be bad manners to go out and ride with them? They’d likely be too polite to say piss off but on a thing like that you might get all insular in your head and get annoyed by randoms cycling longside.

    Premier Icon D Comish
    Full Member

    Michael, I was riding with them until I crashed out. I’m sure Kate, Richard & Sam would be delighted to see you.

    Premier Icon hillsplease
    Full Member

    They’ll welcome your support and chapeu to the riders still out there! I certainly did – having been the first to attempt it and the first to scratch. 5 of 6 days riding pish wet through did nothing for my sit department. The electrical storms in mid Wales complete with proper hail N of Llandidrod made me re-examine my use of what is otherwise family holiday time.

    Premier Icon Michael
    Full Member

    How’d you know my name? 😂
    Any forum dwellers following I might try and hook up with them at the bottom of Alsager and provide encouragement over mow cop. Offer to carry a back pack for them I thought would be welcomed. But I have a medical appointment in the morning which might scupper that plan but could drive out into the Peak a bit.
    Can’t believe the route goes down Cavedale and then up the broken road and then up Jacobs Ladder 😂 with a loaded bike. The organiser owes them all an apology 😂

    Premier Icon lovewookie
    Full Member

    Donnacha Cassidy approaching Ft William just now. Will be glad to finish I’d have thought.

    Neil Copeland just south of Edinburgh.

    weathers really grotty still.

    Premier Icon Chipps
    Full Member

    Yep, still have them all open in a computer window. Ironically, it’s sunny here in Tod now – first time since Chris came through LAST WEDNESDAY! Wow… to all…

    Premier Icon DezB
    Full Member

    Flippin hell, I couldn’t even drive that far, let alone ride it.

    Premier Icon Josh
    Free Member

    Just escorted Chris out of Peebles on route to a hotel in Edinburgh for the night.

    And doubled back to meet Harry coming out of costa. Mad props to tresspass shop for selling him two pairs of socks 15 minutes after closing. He’s in a hotel in peebles for the night.

    I was out for an hour is absolutely pissing rain and drenched throug I decked it carrying my bike out the basement and have two bloody knees and my drive train decided to eat itself how have they done that much!

    Premier Icon Michael
    Full Member

    My plan went well yesterday and I rode with Kate, Richard and Sam bringing up the rear for an hour yesterday. They were very pleased to have some support and we had a great ride. Have to admit I was a wee bit jealous as I left them with likely another 7 days of constant cycling ahead of them and the weather looks great this week. They’re heading into the Peak forest today so if you live out that way get out and give em a wave. 🙋🏻‍♂️

    Premier Icon Andrew Surrey Hills
    Full Member

    Been following this… amazing effort especially given the weather

    How’d you know my name? 😂

    Weird quirk that puts your nickname and not your forum name when responding to news articles on front page

    Premier Icon lovewookie
    Full Member

    every now and then I’ll look out of my berdoom window to see someone packed up riding a bike along the canal path opposite, passing joggers, dog walkers and commuters who have no idea of the journey they’ve been on and what’s to come. Everyday life passes by with each pedal stroke.

Viewing 27 posts - 1 through 27 (of 27 total)

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