While 2020 will go down as a dumpster fire of a year, there was still plenty of cycling. And, if bike sales are anything to go by, the years ahead will certainly see our community grow, so when unsupported racing starts again, we know the dotwatching is going to be better than ever. But, not all was lost, and plenty of races and events did still go ahead, with memorable rides seemingly holding more importance than ever before. The 2020 Dotwatcher Awards are here to celebrate those who inspired us this year and helped to grow this fantastic sport. And the winners are…
BEST DOT AWARD
Best Dot Award - Sofiane Sehili
We asked the community who inspired them this year, and one name came out at the top of that list: the indomitable Sofiane Sehili. Kicking off the year with a huge win in Africa, and then continuing to pursue the pointy end with the Hope 1000, Three Peaks Bike Race, the French Divide, and the Two Volcano Sprint. All. In. One. Year. We would say it was almost as exhausting dotwatching the man who doesn’t sleep, but with his witty and entertaining Instagram stories / musical renditions, it was an absolute pleasure for the community to cheer Sofiane on in 2020. More than just an elite athlete, Sofiane is a champion for the sport, and we can’t wait to see what he does next (following his recovery period - get well soon Sof!)
Scratch Award - Emma Pooley
One of the exciting and devastating features of the sport of unsupported bike racing is the high scratch rate; with so many obstacles for riders to consider, the likelihood of making it to the finish line fully unsupported with a bike and body still intact are, oftentimes, slim. And that makes this one of the most difficult categories to award, but this year’s Hope 1000 race by Emma Pooley showed a true strength of character and sportsmanship that define what makes her a role model athlete in our sport. Read the post she made during the race explaining to DotWatchers what happened to learn more about why we chose her for the 2020 Scratch Award.
LIFE & SOUL AWARD
Life & Soul Award: RJ Sauer
Following his Atlas Mountain Race assisted finish, we believe that RJ is the perfect embodiment of an adventure racer and, while this may be a bikepacking website, his bikepushing makes him a DotWatcher hero. Almost halfway through the AMR, RJ discovered a missing nut that secured his thru-axle to the derailleur hanger which had caused his shifting issues over the first few days of racing. In the next town he was able to find a temporary fix, but when this nut fell off later down the trail it was only a matter of time before the derailleur stopped working completely and RJ was back to square one. With 300km to the finish and still 100km to the next checkpoint, RJ found his solution: to get walking. Having completed two Iditarod Trail Invitationals, RJ’s bikepushing experience is well-proven and he describes walking as just another tool in his bikepacking arsenal. We love everything about RJ’s ride at the AMR; his perseverance, problem solving, his simple can-do attitude and the wry sense of humour he reflects on his predicament with. RJ’s beautiful storytelling can be found here in three parts: One, Two, Three.
Inclusion Award - Race Around Rwanda
Ultra endurance cycling has been far too Western-focussed for too long and one organiser who deserves recognition for their contribution to encouraging and enabling cycling in their own country is the Race Around Rwanda. Part of a rider’s entry fee includes a commitment to bring a piece of cycling kit to Rwanda which will be allocated to help develop young Rwandans in their cycling career. Struggling to access, let alone afford, cycling equipment is a big barrier for riders' progression in Rwanda, in order to mitigate this the organisers have used their race as a means of reallocating the equipment from those who can spare it to those who will certainly treasure it; “those pieces can mean the world for young Rwandans”. http://racearoundrwanda.com/
BEST LOCKDOWN READ
Best Lockdown Read - Emily Chappell
Most of us had to take a year off our big events, races, and adventures, and learn to cope with a new normal of turbo trainers, solo rides, and time indoors. ‘Armchair Adventure’ became a thing, and lucky for us, the indomitable TCR past winner Emily Chappell released her second book, Where There’s a Will, which she was in the middle of promoting when lockdown first hit Europe. The book delves deep inside her TCR race, as well as her relationship with ultra cycling, other racers, and herself, and is one of the best ultra-cycling reads we’ve ever come across - thankfully it hit store bookshelves (or virtual ones) just in time.
BEST RACE DOCUMENTATION
Best Race Documentation - The Atlas Mountain Race
We have all taken a picture of a beautiful landscape only to review it later and be disappointed by how little the photo has captured of the beauty of the view. Each and every photo of Lian van Leeuwen, Jonny Hines and Nils Laengner’s captured both the magnitude of landscapes and the essence of ultra racing. Two media cars allowed the photographers to capture both the race at the pointy end but also the emotions of those elsewhere in the race.
Brady Lawrence collated his filming into a short film called “Into The Rift”; an absorbing tale of the Atlas Mountain Race, giving airtime to the race leaders, the mid-pack and those who scratched. With a blend of mid-race shots, post-race rider interviews and the voice-over from the organiser, his film is a holistic documentation of a challenging inaugural race in the mystical context of Morocco. A release date of May 20th meant this film hit us all in the depths of the first lockdown and provided some wondrous escapism just at the time we needed it most. Needless to say, it’s an excellent piece of work that we recommend to anyone who hasn’t seen it. And if you have, another viewing can’t hurt!
Adaptable Award - The Racing Collective.
The Racing Collective have been cementing their reputation as one of the most progressive organisers in the ultra-racing community over the past few years. Their no-fly rule was our reason for awarding them the “No To CO2 Award” for last year’s GBDURO. However, Covid-19 saw them take their “Leave No Trace” ethos to new depths with their rule of full self-sufficiency for the rider’s embarking on the 2,000km mixed-terrain route from Land’s End to John O’Groats, aka the length of the UK. This new rule’s primary impact on the racers' kit lists was the need to carry their own food and cooking supplies, forcing them to strike the perfect balance between minimising weight carried but taking enough food. They will build on their commitment to sustainable sport with their long-term ambition of contributing to rewilding in the UK and organised tree-planting days. As The Racing Collective increases the number of events on their calendar they widen their reach and ultimately their impact. Their #noflyride rule will stand for 2021 but the self-sufficiency has been relaxed, because it wouldn’t be ultra racing without a dirty kebab at 11pm or copious amounts of haribo!
Best Rookie - Mohamed El Boughdali
In the days leading up to the inaugural edition of the Atlas Mountain Race, there were still a few spaces open which the organiser offered to local riders. Mohamed and Youness Badiri started their very first ultra race as a pair with only a handful of days to prepare and gather equipment needed. During the race, Younes unfortunately scratched but left Mohamed to ride solo to the finish within the time cut. With years of mountain biking experience, Mohamed is by no means a stranger to off-road riding, however it was his first bikepacking experience and he threw himself into the deep end! He is keen to return next year and we can’t wait to see what he can do when he has more than a few days’ preparation under his belt.