The MTB Marathon Series of 2016 review

The MTB Marathon Series of 2016 review

The 2016 Scott MTB Marathon Series kicks off with Round 1 on the 10th of April at Builth Wells. It promises to be a cracking event, held in the organisers back yard.  Although no strangers to MTB marathon events, the Pedal Planner team have never ridden this venue before, so we are really looking forward to it.   Last year we rode the 3rd round at Church Stretton, here’s what we made of it…

Best for…

Riders looking to improve their endurance / pace on great trails

 

JB3_8023This is the second time we’ve done this event, indeed the only times we’ve ever experienced the wonders of the Long Mynd is when we’ve been under the stewardship of the mtb marathon crew.  “Wonders” is not a word that we use lightly; if you haven’t ever ridden the Long Mynd then here at Pedal Planner we can’t recommend it strongly enough; and the guys from mtb marathon clearly know where the best bits are.  So, if like us you have to travel a few hours to get there, doing this event is a great way of riding the best that it has to offer without any guesswork or navigation.

Booking & pre event information

Having refreshed the website last year, there is just about all the information you could want, in the place you’d expect to find it, available before you enter.

Organisation on the day

The process of signing on was done in a flash; not only were the crew there in numbers, they were very friendly and super-organised.  With many riders opting to camp and registration being open from 2.30 pm the previous day, there was no queue despite the fact that the organisers were have an unprecedented number of riders turning up and entering on the day.

Course “grin factor”

We opted for the 75km option and for reasons best left in the porta-loos rode out under the start arch right at the back of the 800 strong field.  The route left the event village by public road, closed in our direction of travel.  Tarmac soon gave way to dirt as the climbing out of the valley continued, all with plenty of room for riders to progress at their own pace without any bunching. At the top of the ridge the 25km route riders peeled off leaving the rest of us to enjoy the first descent of the day, as this narrowed to singletrack we experienced the first hold-up, a situation which was repeated on the next two climbs.   I honestly don’t know what more the organisers could do avoid this; the climb had served as a good “shake-down” and the presumably less confident / capable 25km riders already diverted off on their own route.  We all want events to be safe, they’d involved the police and got the traffic stopped.  If you want to stop the traffic you can only do that once, and that means a mass start.   800 riders going into the bottleneck of the first bit of singletrack will cause bike jam, regardless.  I’d say we experienced the worst of it and in total we were only held up by 5 – 10 mins max.  For us it is not the delay (and the impact on our time) that is the problem, just that the trails were sooo good that up or down we’d have preferred to have had a clear run at them.

The weather threw everything at us, one minute we were  ruing the fact that we’d failed to put any sun block on, within an hour the temperature had dropped by 10 degrees and we were facing gale force winds, hail, thunder, lightning and flash floods.   I’d say that the course was every bit as varied as the weather we had that day.  From sweet six inch wide, dusty, single track reminiscent of the alps clinging precariously to the hill as it traversed round combe sides, wild exposed back country double track, super-steep traffic free tarmac climbs, forest fire roads, the red graded “Revelation” trail at Eastridge Wood, lung-busting-grit-your-teeth steppy climbs, cruisy wide ridge-top trails that were perfect for admiring the stunning view over the Shropshire marches and across to the welsh hills, and the sublime Minton Batch singletrack descent (voted trail of the year my MBR not that long ago), you name it; this route had it, just superb.

On course support, route mapping, marking and marshalling

 

In our view this is something that the mtb marathon crew do very well, never, at any point were we in any doubt where our route was heading, the feed stations well stocked and maned.   After the event there was some chatter on social media about people losing their way, however given what we experienced, our guess this is more likely due to members of the public moving / removing way markers than poor route marking itself…  OS route maps are up on the display boards in the sign-on, we’d strongly recommend photographing these on your phone as well as making sure you have the numbers for their traveling marshal and medical assistance teams.  If you do have a need of the first aid guys, (as we did, unfortunately) we’d recommend calling the traveling marshal as well as the medical team, as the first aid guys may not be as familiar with the local area as the guys who set the course.

Facilities

These guys really don’t skimp here; lots of parking, space for camping, showers, food & drink is great quality and well-priced.  There’s even a free bike wash.  Given the “variable” weather, the marquee space must have been a god-send for those based at race HQ for the day, especially given the weather!    Could be improved by a LBS catering for those with itchy wallets or in need of last minute bits & bobs though.

“the vibe” and the  entertainment for non-

Lots of things contribute to a sense of occasion at these events, great tunes, very enthusiastic MC’ing, not to mention kids cycling course AND Scalextrics!  At one of previous the mtb marathon events we’ve done there was a bouncy castle, not sure I noticed one this time…

Suitability for

Novices / Children

If you / your kids are up for 25km, then this would be a really rewarding ride for them

Weekend Warriors

These events showcase what is great about mountain biking, if you are concerned about making the distance, you can always downgrade out on the trail to a shorter distance, however remember you have all day and the quality of the trails will no doubt numb any pain…

Experienced Mountain Bikers

The full marathon route is a tough challenge for even the most experienced riders, and even if you are comfortable with the distance & hills, then there’s always your time to work on…

Image courtesy of Jon Brooke,  www.rightplacerighttime.co.uk

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