2021 End of Season Wrap
31 December, 2021
Highland Trail 550
Wearing the same lucky jersey he wore to his win at the 2016 HT550, Liam Glen took his second win at the Highland Trail 5 years after his first. He's the only rider to have won this event twice, and the only winner to have come back for more. A victory at this event is reason enough to doff your cap, but some detail on his bike will wow any reader: imagine a single-speed rigid steel bike to cover the Scottish Highlands and a borrowed wheel. We regret to inform you that this poor steed suffered a crack in its crown and has been out of action since August but is being repaired. Liam is also recovering well.
First woman at the grand depart, Annie Le has just completed a winter ITT of the HT550 making her the first rider ever to do so and ticking off two completions of the HT550 in one year.
The HT550 is one of the original UK races and mirrors the unsupported ethos of the Tour Divide and the Colorado Trail. It is a notoriously challenging route with plenty of hike-a-bike, hardened by the fickle weather of the Scottish Highlands.
Winner: Liam Glen in 3D 11H 0M.
📸 Liam was the first to descend off the Correyairack pass on the first day.
We simply couldn't talk about the 2021 season without mentioning GBDURO. This year ran in its original self-supported four-stage format and served up one of the most exciting races on the calendar. The work The Racing Collective have done to improve female participation rates paid off and 47% of the 45 riders who started identified as women. More impressively, 50% of the top 10 spots were taken by women. The organisers have fostered an incredible community around the race and the wait times at the checkpoints furthered this spirit.
A notable mention goes to Angus Young for his blisteringly fast ride that put him on track to win GBDURO21 and take Lachlan Morton's record from 2019, however, a lapse in communication between him and the organisers cost him his race and resulted in a disqualification following his accepting a bike from a good-willing dotwatcher when his failed in the final stage.
Winner: Mark Beaumont in 5d 15H 24M.
📸 Jaimi Wilson and Chris Simpson celebrate their finishes at John O'Groats. Photo by Maciek Tomiczek
Camille McMillan stripped his Further Pyrenees back to basics and ran the 504km route as Further TRUTH in an ITT format over three successive weekends this summer to accommodate covid travel restrictions. Unorthodox and low-key are Camille's trademark organising style and this unusual format translated into some brilliant racing. We saw Marin de Saint-Exupéry take his second win of the season and cement an excellent year of results. He also beat last year's winner, James Hayden who took second spot 2H 30M behind him.
The inaugural edition of Further EAST made for excellent dotwatching. An unknown route in the East of England was seemingly unsuspect and widely underestimated; 640km of deceptive British bridleways and tracks in one of the flattest and exposed sections of the country. TCRNo4 second place finisher, Neil Phillips came back from an ultra-racing hiatus to beat route designer Josh Ibbett (TCRNo3 winner) and a select few who were brave enough to take on an inaugural Camille McMillan race. A last-minute routing error from Rich Rothwell saw him take a wrong turn when the return leg of the race met the outward leg for the the first and last 15km of the route which cost him third place and he ultimately came in 6th behind Si Richardson, first woman Phil Battye and David Sherrington. A racer's nightmare, but excellent dotwatching...
Winner of Further TRUTH: Marin de Saint-Exupéry in 53H 56M.
Winner of Further EAST: Neil Phillips in 27H 56M.
Catch up on the commentary from Further EAST.
Further TRUTH tracking here.
📸 Neil Phillips passes a station on Brampton Valley Way. Photo by Ian Coxon
Great Divide Classic (Tour Divide)
While the pandemic forced many races to cancel, the Tour Divide was able to adapt to become a 2,479 mile (3,989km) border-to-border race and skipped the Canadian leg. With only US residents competing in this All-American edition due to travel restrictions, we saw an outstanding duel between Brendan Heinig and eventual winner, Jay Petervary. For the second half of the race Brendan and Jay were rarely more than 2 hours apart and kept our eyes glued to TrackLeaders as they were only a whisker apart until the second to last night when Brendan stopped for a longer sleep than Jay.
The Tour Divide Graveyard at Geared Up Bikes in Pinedale, Wyoming is a firm favourite with long-time Tour Divide dotwatchers and this year was no different. The stakes were raised by one rider swapping his entire bike.
Winner: Jay Petervary in 14D 19H 15M.
📸 JayP poses for the customary finish line photo at the US/Mexico border. Photo by Tomas Jonsson
Pan Celtic Race
The Pan Celtic was the only race this year we were lucky enough to follow along in person and spent a few days in the organiser's motorhome (The Welsh Embassy) following along with the race, a rare luxury for us! We can attest to the biblical rain the riders started in which even soaked one of the photographer's lenses. The weather did little to break the riders spirits, but the relentless climbs of Cornwall did. Riders barely touched their aerobars until out of Cornwall.
The race was rich in stories and physical endeavours; from Angus Young's commanding early lead and self-validating his arrival at CP1 after beating the media car there to the Gentlemen's Agreement between Chris Pitblado and Paul Wainwright in the final 320kms having spent the previous 500km leapfrogging each other.
Our highlight of the race was learning Mike Sheldrake had become a grandfather for the first time when his grandaughter was born during the race. Congratulations Shell!
📸 India Landy climbs one of the many Welsh climbs. Photo by Dan King, Breakaway Digital
A race that put Indonesia on the map, Bentang Jawa opened our dotwatching eyes to the beauties of this island and some exciting new roads. The heat and the climbing proved a challenge for many of the riders as they took on this West-East 1,500km race across Jawa island.
Bentang rounghly translates to "stretch from end to end".
Winner: Muhammad "Dzaki" Wardana in 4D 8H 36M.
📸 Photo by Rifki Akbar, Sagoo Cycling
We are suckers for a free-route race and this year's TransIbérica was no different. A spider's web of routes diverged and converged between the 9 checkpoints covering approximately 2,750km and provided Ulrich Bartholmös with yet another string to his winning bow in his 2022 campaign. We saw Richard and Sam Gate, a father-son pair, complete the route as first pair and have hopes of TCRNo9 next year.
TransIbérica is one of the original Spanish bikepacking races and did wonders for opening our eyes to the diversity and richness Spain has to offer. The organisers have since helped us discover new lands in their Transpyrenees and Badlands.
It was also the race in which Ana Orenz crashed on descent, resulting in spinal injuries she is still recovering from but she has recently returned to the bike.
Winner: Ulrich Bartholmös in 6D 14H 13M.
📸 Carlos Mazón
Tour Te Waipounamu
An inaugural edition is always a delight to dotwatch and this year's Tour Te Waipounamu was no exception. The race was designed by Brian Alder to offer a rough high country race in some of New Zealand's toughest terrain and it certainly delivered. The race was defined more by those who were spared mechanicals, food poisoning and equipment failures; a true race of attrition. 2012 Tour Divide winner and former record holder, Ollie Whalley, made a foray back into ultra-distance racing following a hiatus. He showed us all his racing pedigree and rode a consistent race to make it to Slope Point as first rider home.
Winner: Ollie Whalley in 5D 10H 34M.
📸 Hana Black on a route recce. Photo by Mark Watson, Highlux Photography
Silk Road Mountain Race
The third edition of Nelson Trees' Kyrgyz adventure was thoroughly enjoyable to dotwatch. The drama started before the race had even begun; the 10pm start was delayed to 4:23am due to many riders' bikes being stuck in transit between registration and the start line. Once the race started, Sofiane Sehili's response to his potentially race-ending mechanical was a masterclass in problem solving; his quick wits took him to Tash Rabat to find help and a taxi into At-Bashy where he replaced the broken spokes on his wheel and was back en route before he relinquished his lead. A thoroughly deserving race win. His wheel truing skills even held up to the finish line. Chapeau!
First woman went to Jenny Tough, a veteran of SRMR and the only female finisher from its inaugural edition in 2018. A rider who thrives in the harshest environments, Jenny's dot is always a delight to watch as she can be relied on to confidently pace herself and make her way up the pack whilst the others are sleeping.
Winner: Sofiane Sehili in 8D 14H 36M.
📸 Tash Rabat by Usmanov Danil
The polarised weather riders faced in this year's HOPE 1000 proved to be a large challenge for riders. Following the extreme heat of the first few days, the riders were hit with mountain storms. This did little to dampen Marin de Saint-Exupéry's race winning campaign which sparked a brilliant season for this young gun. Marin set a new course record and went on to win Further Pyrenees later in the summer. Lael Wilcox returned to the race and took home the first female and fifth overall.
Winner: Marin de Saint-Exupéry in 3D 16H 42M.
📸 Lael Wilcox in both weather extremes on this year's HOPE 1000. Photos by Rue Kaladyte
BC Epic 1000
Meaghan Hackinen showed her expertise to take the win at this year's BC Epic 1000 in her usual unassuming manner. A 1,000km off-road race in keeping with the Tour Divide's original unsupported ethos, the BC Epic 1000 saw soaring temperatures up to over 40 degrees celsius which halted many riders' progress but it didn't stop Meaghan setting the second fastest time ever and breaking the women's FKT by over 30 hours. We calculated a finish rate of a mere 20% from the 75 finishers and we doff our caps to everyone who made it round in one piece.
Winner: Meaghan Hackinen in 2D 19H 19M
Look back on TrackLeaders.
📸 Meaghan Hackinen at the finish.
Race Through Poland
Piko Pulawski's race has been a gift from this Polish messenger to the dotwatching community. We witnessed one of the most exciting podiums this season: Adam Bialek's win in 65 sleepless hours, Krystian Jakubek's 4km walk to the finish following a crash and Mariusz Cukierski and Roman Jagodzinski rolling in joint third. We were also treated to watching one of our favourite dots again, Björn Lenhard made the decision to stop racing after the first night so he could enjoy the scenery during the daylight, he still managed 6th place.
📸 A rider passes through one of many quaint Polish villages. Photo by Tadek Ciechanowski
Two Volcano Sprint
There was no better way for us to close out our European season's coverage than with Juliana Buhring's 2VS. A race between two volcanos is a recipe for exciting racing. Designed to open up a region of Italy Juliana felt was misunderstood, this 1,180km road route through Southern Italy made for some very hungry dotwatchers! With some early scratches due to some freak storms, the rankings at the front of the race were shaken up by the time the sun rose on the second morning.
A notable pair were Sofiane Sehili and Adrien Liechti who are highly successful solo racers and were looking to experience the race in a different way. We saw them race Silk Road as competitors and they turned their opposition into collaboration at 2VS. We loved seeing these two riders end their seasons with such good humour.
Winner: Andrew Phillips in 2D 17H 4M.
📸 Nicky Shaw and Fiona Kolbinger enjoy some pre-race fuelling. Photo by James Robertson
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 1,913km test. Without the descents that follow climbs, riders are afforded very little rest and the RATN is notoriously a race of attrition, just look at that 52% scratch rate!
Following up on his win from 2019, Bas Vlaskamp sealed another win and shaved off just over 5 hours from his previous time.
Winner: Bas Vlaskamp in 3D 19H 49M.
A relative newcomer to the ultra-calendar, Badlands is one of the hottest races on the scene, literally. Following Lachlan Morton's win in 2020, Badlands attracted some of the biggest names from within the sport and further afield. This remarkably exciting start list including two-time Olympic gold triathlete Alistair Brownlee, former professional World Tour riders Paul Voss and Christian Meier, household names Sofiane Sehili and Ulrich Bartholmös, Team Amani rider Sule Kangangi made his European bikepacking debut and Italy Divide 2021 winner Mattia De Marchi.
We witnessed some of this season's fastest and most aggressive racing across Spain's finest gravel roads, and some rougher sections. Nonetheless, nobody was spared from the heat and we saw many a rider take refuge in public fountains to cool down and the hunt for water was a constant struggle for many.
Winner: Mattia De Marchi in 1D 23H 54M.
We've loved every moment of dotwatching this year and are looking forward to a busy 2022. We have put together our 2022 commentary calendar but are always open to suggestions from the community, so if you'd like to commentate a race then please get in touch with our firstname.lastname@example.org.