2019 End of Season Wrap
October 18th 2019
Nobody could have predicted the outcomes of the 2019 ultra-racing season: winners from years gone by bowed out with the grace and dignity we’ve come to expect from the sport, newcomers unveiled their hidden talents and the usual suspects played their part in animating the races of which they’ve become a staple.
The calendar has never been more populated: GBDURO19 and TransPyrenees got a slice of the limelight this year as well as old favourites new to DotWatcher rode on the coattails of their reputation. The HT550 recorded one of the worst years for weather it’s ever seen, a new record was set during TABR by someone nobody had heard of and a woman won the Transcontinental Race outright.
As we wind down for the end of the year and begin filling in our calendar for next year, let’s take a look at some of the highs and lows from around the ultra-cycling world.
Indian Pacific Wheel Race
As the sun goes down on the antipodean summer, the Indian Pacific Wheel Race heats up departing Fremantle (Indian Ocean) and calling in at Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra and finally, Sydney (Pacific Ocean). The 2019 edition didn’t disappoint with the winner arriving on the East Coast three days ahead of his nearest rival.
Winner: Jacob Fryatt Time: 15D 10H 52M Join the Facebook group
Arizona Trail Race
A common theme of races in the USA is free entry and the AZTR is no different. Attracting a steady mix of traditional geared MTBs as well as singlespeeds, the 750 mile race demands as much from the rigs as the riders themselves. Next year, the fixture moves from its usual April spot on the calendar to its new home in October and we’re looking forward to seeing what difference this makes to the race.
Race Around The Netherlands
Across the flatlands of Holland, the RATN has become a regular fixture on the endurance calendar and for good reason. While altitude doesn’t play a part in the race’s uniqueness, headwinds, coastal roads and seasonal weather all contribute to a tough 1890km test. As one of only two solo women to finish the full race distance, Julia Freeman reminisces about one of the toughest challenges of her life, “There were headwinds all the way to Den Helder for a good 600km, not to mention the sheep–so many sheep! May was unexpectedly cold this year so much so that we experienced hail, sideways rain, and battles to stave off hyperthermia.”
Winner: Bas Vlaskamp Time: 4D 1H 3M More info
Trans America Bike Race
https://www.instagram.com/p/B3MLzOTlD6t/ This is the only race with a mandatory sleep rule but that didn’t stop Matt Seward storming to the finish line in a little over six days. “The nature of the route means just finishing it is a challenge in itself,” says organiser Adrian O’Sullivan, “inclusion of a shorter route and some new mountain passes around County Kerry will be unchanged for the foreseeable future.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e74xncSCoqw The Racing Collective is a relative newcomer to ultra-endurance racing having created a new concept of racing that is free to enter and encourages riders to think about and act upon their environmental footprint (or should that be tyre tracks?). This year professional rider Lachlan Morton entered the race as part of the team’s alternative racing calendar. As his first foray into this style of riding, Lachlan was a stickler for the rules and triumphed in John O’Groats well ahead of all other riders. Watch the film to recall the highs and lows.
Trans Alba Race
https://www.instagram.com/p/B0BY5D1lP7m/ The first ultra-distance race that circumnavigated Scotland's biggest, best and often wettest terrain began back in June with a small but mighty field of 40 riders. Despite summer announcing its presence just days earlier, Trans Alba ended up being a test of water resistance both mentally and physically. One half of a pair, Jane Dennyson recalled one of her best bits, "climbing the Bealach Na Ba at night was absolutely brilliant. We started from Applecross around 9pm with stags eating seaweed on the shoreline and climbed up 600m above them into the mist. All the tourists had gone home so it was just us and the hundreds of red deer that live on the mountain."
Winner: Steve Abraham Time: 4D 22H 16M More info
Pan Celtic Race
https://www.instagram.com/p/B19TaxklxLF/ This new race for 2019 earned its place on the calendar and has since sold out for the 2020 edition. The organisers’ aim is to expand the race to all the Celtic regions which are: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man and Brittany. This year’s race took riders through Scotland, Ireland and Wales involving two ferries and a whole lot of hills. The winner and Celt himself, Chris Pitblado, remembers the race fondly, “at just 2400km, it gave me the perfect opportunity to test how my body and mind would cope with sleep deprivation and accumulated fatigue over multiple days.” And he’s not about to rest on his laurels declaring, “expect some tight racing with eager riders wanting a crack at the crown - a crown which I will try my damndest to defend!!”
Colorado Trail Race
Another American classic that blesses DotWatchers around the world with its 540 miles of Rocky Mountains terrain, it’s no easy feat. The altitude peaks at 13,271ft (a smidge over 4000m in new money) with many other jagged lines making up the elevation profile. While there were literal highs and lows of this race, the proverbial ones take some beating. Lee Craigie paints a beautiful picture of the race on the Adventure Syndicate blog, “...completely alone at 13,000ft...the setting sun causing the barren landscape around me to blush rose gold, I felt like the luckiest person in the world. I was replete, in control and perfectly at ease in my lofty surroundings. As the sun sank finally on the day and the moon took its place to guide me 3000ft to the valley floor, I paused once more and took stock of the ground I had covered that day. If it had all been for this moment, right then, it felt worthwhile.”
Winner: Kurt Refsnider Time: 2D 17H 26M More info
The pinnacle of the ultracycling calendar returned for another year and it was all change from the off. The race went from west to east departing Burgas in Bulgaria and winding through eastern Europe before hitting the slopes of the Alps and traversing what was essentially the length of France. Eventually, riders fell by the wayside with various ailments and it was Fiona Kolbinger who took a significant lead to be crowned the winner and the first woman to win the race outright.
Silk Road Mountain Race
https://www.instagram.com/p/B3Zd1fGBFGa/ It’s touted as the hardest race on the calendar and we’re not going to disagree after enjoying two years from our armchairs. The race involves 1700km of Kyrgyzstan’s most challenging terrain complete with rocky mountain passes, altitude and inclement weather to boot. Pannier.cc’s Stef and Dave raced as a pair and rolled in after 12 days. “It wasn’t until around 100km to go," says Stef, "that we knew we’d be able to stumble home on foot in the time left, if we had to. Simply finishing before the cut-off time was the original aim for us, in our first ever bikepacking race.”
Winner: Jakub Sliacan Time: 7D 6H 46M More info
Transpyrenees (Lost Dot)
https://www.instagram.com/p/B3cuZI4Fnh5/ If the abundance of races this year weren’t overwhelming enough, there’s two with the same name! Unlike the former, this race has elements of free route and mandatory parcours including a mostly fixed return route. The seasons were in full swing with riders experiencing the back end of the warm summer climes and the low cloud and frequent rains expected of autumn. Former Transcontinental rider Neil Phillips took the lead early on but eventually succumbed to saddle soreness and withdrew from the race vacating the top step for his nearest rival.
Winner: Thomas Jacquelinet Time: 4D 7H 48M More info