2022 End of Season Wrap
7 January, 2023
The greatest delight of commentating on a growing sport is feasting on the many new and exciting races, along with the old stalwarts of the bikepacking scene. The increasing popularity of the sport has been met with races cropping up around the world to satiate our growing appetites for dotwatching, we’ve been treated to events in new regions, such as the Trans Balkan Race and MittelgebirgeClassic, alongside some of the firm favourites we all know and love.
One trend we've thoroughly enjoyed watching take place in 2022 is the increased representation of women finishing in the top 10 at races. There have been instances of women storming to win a race outright over the years but these have often felt anomalies and unobtainable. However, we feel this increasing prevalence of women at the pointy end of races is more sustainable. Jana Kesenheimer is a great case in point of a rider who’s committed themselves to progress over the past three seasons; she finished 37th overall at the Three Peaks Bike Race in 2020 in her rookie race, but only a year later she finished 5th at the same race and in 2022 was not seen outside the top 10 in both the races she finished. Alongside Jana, a handful of other women, including Luisa Werner, Cynthia Frazier and Sarah Cinquini, cracked the top ten for the first time in their bikepacking careers. We believe this is a sign of the increased competitiveness across genders we’ve all been waiting to see and look forward to even more female representation in 2023.
Have a read below to learn about some of the stories to have come from the front of the pack and elsewhere at events this year. We particularly enjoyed Taylor Doyle’s principled ride at the Pan Celtic Race and Spencer Gough’s solution to his puncture troubles which fully embodied what it’s like to race in a faraway land.
Tour Te Waipounamu
We kicked off the 2022 Season with The Tour Te Waipounamu, an off-road race that tackles the length of New Zealand’s South Island. With private land sections, this route is only available to ride when the legendary race is on.
In the beginning of this adventure, the front four pushed on quickly with little space between them. Jakub Sliacan pulled ahead and just had to keep his rapid pace up to take the crown with Bruce Hughes nipping at his heels, followed extremely closely by Steve Halligan. In such a long and technical race, the mere 5-hour gap between first and third proved just how hard these riders had to work. In the women’s race, Ali Wilson led the charge for a significant portion of the race but, after setting off without her pair she met some trouble on the trail and sensibly took a few hours out. This allowed Rookie Emma Bateup to sneak by, taking the women’s race. In the pairs, Debbie Chambers and Emma McCosh took the crown, a fantastic race by them, winning by 8 hours.
Winner: Jakub Sliacan in 5d 4h 23m.
Iditarod Trail Invitational
The Iditarod Trail Invitational is a race like no other. A race from Knik Lake in Anchorage to Nome in Alaska. This snow race has a sled dog race, a ski race and a foot race as well as the fat-bike races. There is a secondary race that runs the 350-mile version, as opposed to the 940-mile version.
The 350-mile race to McGrath was a race of speed and tactics with newcomers Ryan Atkins and Tyson Flaharty coming in within 2 minutes of each other! They finished this race, in a relatively calm year weatherwise, in just under 2 days and 8 hours.
In the 1000-mile version, the race was pure grit. With difficult conditions in the second half of the race, only Petr Ineman managed to break through and was a solo rider with a tight pack following. Petr finished in an impressive 16d 3h 33m, with the rest of the field following in at the same time as each other up to 6th place.
Winner: Petr Ineman 16d 3h 33m.
As one of the great early season openers of the European bikepacking season, 2022 saw the 5th edition of the off-road epic which traces the contours of the delightful Dales from west to east coast, and back again.
Angus Young blasted around 604km of rough terrain in a blistering time of 1d 11h 44m, setting a new course record set previously by James Craven the year before. This could be thanks to the pressure applied by Chris Hinds, who was leading for much of the race with Harry Walton hot on the pair’s wheels. Chris finished in a very respectable second place, cementing himself as a force to be reckoned with considering his country mile win of the Great British Divide in 2021.
The women’s race was hotly contested with a resilient field of 38. Following many instances of stealth leapfrogging, Meg Pugh took her chance and slipped by Nicky Shaw during the final night, bagging the top spot in a time of 2d 2h 20m. A strong ride from Meg, but not quite enough to catch Sally Ozanne’s course record of 1d 20h 58m from the previous year. Meg was followed closely by pair Lorah Pierre and Tom Hall ten minutes later, with Nicky rolling into Arnside pier a couple of hours after that.
Winner: Angus Young in 1d 11h 44m.
Race around the Netherlands
An extremely popular race, mainly due to being the only race of its kind in the world. The flattest ultra in the calendar, this road race covers almost 2000km with only 7000m of elevation. This race is all about tactics, with the ability to ride long flat sections quickly, fuel and rest is of the utmost importance.
Around 160 riders hit the start of this edition of RATN, Lennart Nap was a reasonably unknown rider in the ultra-cycling sphere but has a wealth of experience. With a win at the 2021 28h project and Everesting in 14:14, it was no surprise that Lennart took the RATN in his stride. However, a finish in 3d 14h 43m means Lennart rode over 500km a day! In the women’s race, a heartwarming story was unfolding as Sherry Cardona, a rookie, tackled the race whilst documenting her experience. She faced Shermer’s Neck and a few other problems but still finished in a speedy time of 5d 13h 50m.
Winner: Lennart Nap 3d 14h 43m.
Wild West Country
A new race for 2022, the grassroots Perfidious Albion team split their 2021 course in two making a new 800km race. This small but mighty adventure saw a sawtooth elevation profile offering 14,000m of elevation.
A May-time race was the perfect leg opener for many Transcontinental Race hopefuls from the UK. A time to test kit, tactics and fitness for the season ahead we saw some extraordinary cycling. The excitement came thick and fast both in the men's and women’s race as well as the pairs! Peter Batt and Matt Seward were almost neck and neck with less than 30 mins between as they both rode non-stop from start to finish. As Peter sealed the deal with a few hours left to go, Matt finally gave into the fatigue and took a short, hour-long break. In the women’s race, Liz Hughes and Jasmijn Muller fought well, with Jasmijn’s sleep tactics pushing her to the win! Mimi Anderson and Lowri Morgan took the pairs, getting back in time to hit a long-awaited golf tournament!
Winner: Peter Batt 1d 18h 14m.
Kromvojoj - a word that comes from the Esperanto language and describes possible and diverse paths. The inaugural race adopted this name, with focus on the essential; the cycling community, one’s own and shared experiences. Covering 1,400 paved kilometres with an elevation gain of 24,000 metres, the city of Reus in Tarragona hosted the start and finish.
A total of 29 souls braved the start line, among them Lael Wilcox. This race would mark her return to the road, a discipline in which she hasn’t competed since the 2016 Trans Am. The strongest riders would prevail through lack of resupply points and extreme temperature fluctuations, a result of the Catalan summer and traversing cols such as the Port de la Bonaigua (2,072m), the highest paved pass on the Catalan side of the Pyrenees. Oriol Chias was the first rider to complete the 1,400km loop in 3d 5h 55m with Lael Wilcox as first woman in 4d 0h 10m, following her recovery from a double tyre blowout in the Vielha Tunnel and a delay to source new tyres.
Winner: Oriol Chias in 3d 5h 55m.
Race Through Poland
Back for its 4th Edition the Race Through Poland moved back to its May date after the 2021 switch to September. As ever, the wonderful Piko Pulawski put on his parcours-driven free route race through Southern Poland. With 6 parcours, 4 checkpoints, a start and a finish section, this race is free-routed but offers a lot of guidance for those newer to free-route races.
The low-profile reigning champion, Adam Bialek, returned to defend his crown, doing so in absolute style. With most riders covering around 1500km, Adam powered through the miles finishing in just under 3 days which means he covered 500km a day. The distance, however, is not the challenge, with each parcours providing a significant challenge for the riders, big climbs and challenging riding. In the women’s race, we had the pleasure of seeing Fiona Kolbinger return for the 2022 season. She took the women’s podium cleanly, with a gap of over a day and a half including penalties. The weather was favourable this year after a 2019 snowstorm, allowing the riders to ride throughout the night in many cases, giving some exciting changes for when dotwatchers awoke to check the maps.
Winner: Adam Bialek 2d 23h 0m.
Portuguese ultra-cycling site, Finisterra, unveiled their race for 2022 and it was a winner. The new event, Heading SouthWest, was a road-cycling race following the SouthWest (as the name suggests!) spine of Portugal. With stunning views, challenging climbs and impeccable organisation, this race will hopefully become a staple of the calendar.
Transcontinental Race veteran, Sam Thomas, seems to have spent the 2020-21 season putting in the big miles as he moved from strength to strength. Coming third in 2021 B-Hard, Sam was a strong contender with Portugal native João Manuel Pinto nipping at his heels in his first-ever ultra. Ultimately Sam managed to beat João with a strong push to finish the 1000km race in less than 2 days. In the women's race, UK-based Lucie Hogger stormed the competition with a gap of almost a full day on the competition, finishing only 15 hours after Sam.
Winner: Sam Thomas 1d 23h 18m.
Highland Trail 550
The Highland Trail is one of the original European off-road bikepacking races and is a hotly anticipated race on the calendar. Notoriously unforgiving terrain, fickle Scottish weather, and a route carefully architected by Alan Goldsmith is the perfect recipe for one of the most challenging races.
This year was Huw Oliver’s redemption and the community delighted in seeing him take the victory he’s been tantalisingly close to over the past five years. A meticulously paced effort saw him overtake early race leader, Angus Young, and roll in only an hour off Neil Beltchenko’s record from 2017, on a slightly different course.
Gail Brown’s preference to pack conservatively meant you could be forgiven for thinking she was attempting the route self-sufficiently, à la GBDURO20. Nonetheless, this added weight did nothing to slow her down and in her usual cool and collected style, Gail rolled into Tyndrum in 5d 10h 56m as the first woman home, greeted by last year’s first female, Annie Le.
Winner: Huw Oliver in 3d 11h 23m.
A new event for 2022, the MittelgebirgeClassic was conceived by two 2 Volcano Sprint veterans, Christoph Fuhrbach and Markus Speith, who designed this race through the middle hills (“Mittelgebirge”) of the Black Forest, Germany and Vosges, France.
Jana Kesenheimer and Fanny Bensussen spent the first 520km in a fierce tete-a-tete for the women’s lead in the top 15 overall, neither willing to allow the other the slimmest of leads. Jana scratched at the second checkpoint leaving Fanny Bensussan as first woman, however she eventually conceded the lead to rookie racer Andrea Becker-Pennrich who finished in a very respectable 8th overall.
At the front of the race, Christian Englert, Lucas Becker and Christophe Dijkmans jostled for the lead for the first half of the race but ultimately Lucas took the win only 40 minutes ahead of Christian. Which is tight considering they were riding for 69 hours.
Winner: Lucas Becker in 2d 11h 24m.
All Points North
The third edition of this free route race characterised by The North saw 100 riders at the start line. Once again, ten scattered checkpoints sent riders in varying directions across the peaks and valleys of northern England, with the farthest flung being Bamburgh Castle, perched on a rocky outcrop on the Northumberland coast in the very top corner of the country.
Bradley Woodruffe and Pawel Pulawski (cap no. 1 and 2 respectively) were back for a duel following their agonisingly close finish last year of 30 seconds. With a little more experience under his belt in tackling the cold dark north, Pawel was the first to finish in 2d 4h 10m. Conditions were particularly northern, and many riders opting for a clockwise route were caught out with torrential rain and wind bearing down on the west, including Bradley who finished second, some 9 hours later. A high scratch rate of 48% could have been down to the extra distance compared with previous years alongside some testing weather conditions that saw a lot of riders scratch after the first night. Nicky Shaw was the first woman to finish in 3d 1h 14m, and Andi Smith the fastest of the Rookies in a time of 3d 6h 25m.
Winner: Pawel Pulawski in 2d 4h 10m.
Trans Balkan Race
The inaugural event proposed a fascinating adventure in a region that is still perceived as remote and inaccessible; a journey across karstic landscapes and flourishing forests through the history of the former Yugoslavia. MTB gearing and a light setup was favoured, considering the 27,000m elevation gain over 1,300km, 82% of which was off-road and remote. Of the 100 starters, water availability became a serious concern for many. Experience counts for a lot in this kind of race and the results show; a veteran of the Silk Road Mountain Race, Lieven Schroyen was the first to finish in 5d 6h 9m. Lael Wilcox was the first woman to finish in 6d 4h 23m.
Winner: Lieven Schroyen in 5d 6h 9m.
TransAm Bike Race
One of the longest races in the calendar at roughly 6,750km and over 50,000 metres of climbing, this behemoth of the calendar had some hitters on the start-line and a long story to tell.
Reigning champion Kraig Pauli returned to fight for his title however, Ben Davies returned to racing after a significant period off since his second place at TCRNo7, coming back with a vengeance he gave Pauli the fight of the season with only a few hours between the two. Kraig managed to stave Davies off, finishing the race in 17 and a half days. With significant periods of isolation and plenty of opportunities to build fatigue, this strategy-heavy race saw a pacey year. De'anna Caligiuri won the women’s race in 35 days.
Winner: Kraig Pauli 17d 09h 14m.
The TransAtlantic Way is a stalwart of the European road racing scene and offers two distances: 2,500km on the “Cu Culhainn” route and 1,600km on the “Setanta“ variation. Both routes coincide frequently and both are as twisty as a snail trail. Following the stunning Wild Atlantic Way, Adrian O’Sullivan’s race was the first race to instate mandatory rest periods of 4 hour stops per 24 hour period which has set the tone for the recent shifts to introduce these stops. The route also includes just enough ferries to add some jeopardy into the race and riders are constantly doing the mental arithmetic to estimate arrival times at ports.
The 2022 edition was well attended with an international field for the first time since the pandemic and we saw the Italians take the double with Omar Di Felice winning the overall and Sarah Cinquini the women’s, whilst also taking 8th overall.
Winner: Omar Di Felice in 6d 10h 43m.
For the first time since 2019, the Tour Divide was an international affair with some familiar names back after a long hiatus to right their wrongs from previous Divides. The Tour Divide is rarely spared bad weather but this year’s edition has been legendised for the conditions riders faced in the northern and southern extremities of the route; storms up north and mud down south made racing southbound a daunting task. Sofiane made no secret about the fact that he came to win and would even be discontent by not bettering Mike Hall’s record from 2016. Unfortunately for him, the fire re-routes decided pre-race meant no time in 2022 could contend Mike’s record. Nevertheless, Sofiane raced in his archetypal style and wasted no time in establishing a lead by not sleeping the first night, and held on to his lead over the 4,200km of racing.
Special mention goes to Adrien Leichti for completing the race and finishing second on a borrowed bike after his was delayed by the airline. He was able to cobble together an equipment list and bike thanks to the kindness of the locals in Banff.
Ana Jager took the top spot on the women’s metaphorical podium, with her first result of her Triple Crown; she later went on to finish first woman at the Arizona Trail Race 800 and second woman at the Colorado Trail Race. A stellar breakthrough season.
Winner: Sofiane Sehili in 14d 16h 21m.
The HOPE 1000 had seen records broken for the past two editions as competitors upped the ante each year. While no record was set this year, Yoan Dercourt did better his second place from 2021 to take the win, albeit in a time over three hours longer, indicative of the challenges of the heat early in the race and the storms that swept over further west later on. These storms spared no rider and the slower riders battled these elements for longer.
Elsewhere in the race, Chris Brettel stumbled across the racer’s nightmare of a crack in the top-tube of his alloy frame around the 500km mark. He had the fortune of finding someone able to weld alloy, and restore his race campaign just when he thought it was all over! It was by no means a beautiful solution, but one that did allow him to finish in one piece and three days after Yoan.
Winner: Yoan Dercourt in 3d 20h 36m.
DEAD ENDS & cake
A race that provides plenty of Dead Ends and lots of cake is Switzerland’s sweetest race, run by our 2022 Jack Of All Trades Award winner, Dominik Bokstaller. This race is a free-route (mostly) road race based on dead end climbs, the racers have to find the most efficient routes between the dead ends leaving a distance of mostly 500km, excluding Emma Pooley’s 2021 attempt where she hike-a-biked to connect her dead ends!
This year, however, we had a fresh set of competitors as the 2nd edition had a 50:50 gender split. Excitingly we had Jana Kesenheimer, ultra-cycling legend, and Simone Eder line up with Axel Brenner and newcomer Loïc Marin-Lamellet. With the interesting format, riders are often catching each other as they go up and down the climbs, creating a special sense of camaraderie among the riders.
Winner: Loïc Marin-Lamellet 22h 36m.
Three Peaks Bike Race
For 2022, the Three Peaks Bike Race took riders from Vienna, Austria to Nice, France via three new mandatory mountain peaks and parcours. TPBR is certainly one for the grimpeurs! In 2022, these three points were a parcours between Tre Cime di Lavardeo to Passo Giau in the Dolomites, Melchsee to Frutt, Tannalp in the Swiss Alps and the Colle del Nivolet in the Italian Alps, followed by a final parcours from Mont Ventoux to the finish in Nice.
Justinas Leveika backed up his win at Race Around Rwanda earlier in the year with a result at TPBR having established a two hour lead within the first 24 hours and held onto it over his 1,777km route. Behind him Bernhard Ritter and Julien Roissard battled it out and passed each other multiple times on the route, until Bernhard was four hours faster than Julien from the Colle del Nivolet to the finish. Bernhard was able to repeat his second place from 2021.
Luisa Werner held a top ten position for much of the race and crossed the line in 8th, she and Marguerite Muhlhaus leap-frogged with each other for much of the first half, before Marguerite slipped down the rankings to finish second woman and 24th overall.
Winner: Justinas Leveika in 5d 6h 31m.
Pan Celtic Race
In its third edition, the Pan Celtic Race took riders back to Ireland for the first time since the inaugural race in 2019. Riders took on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, bookended with two ferry journeys from and to Wales, finishing back at the organiser’s house in Llandudno, North Wales. With the choice between 1,646km and 2,612km, the race was so popular it sold out within XXX.
The race itself may have started and finished in Wales, but many of the competitive racers faced a race within a race to make it to the twice-daily ferry from Dublin to Holyhead in Wales before a 90km dash to the coastal town of Llandudno.
Taylor Doyle, PCR veteran and founder of the Ultra Distance Scholarship, set herself the lofty and admirable goal of riding the PCR this year without the use of single-use plastic. Packed to the rafters with dehydrated meals and snacks, Taylor’s approach offers a blueprint for those looking to race in a more environmentally considerate and sustainable way. You can find more details of her escapade here. Chapeau, Taylor!
Simone Eder took to the race with apparent ease and tackled it with a metronomic sleep strategy. Simone was never spotted without a smile on her face! She arrived at the ferry in Dublin in the top 20 but the final flat time-trial style run-in to the finish was’t hilly enough for her to capitalise on her strengths and she slipped out of the top 20.
Winner: Paul Wainwright in 5d 18h 28m.
The first edition of the Transcontinental since TCRNo7 in 2019 was the race we’d all been patiently waiting for, and it delivered excitement in spades. If the stacked line up wasn’t thrilling enough, the icing on the cake was the return to the race’s spiritual home in Geraardsbergen, Belgium for a night start with torches lighting the ascent of the Muur and cheers from the spectators thundering across the cobbles.
Defending champion, Fiona Kolbinger returned wearing cap #1 after her indomitable rookie ride from 2019 and took seventh position after battling back from her purse and tracker being stolen in the Czech Republic early in the race. Amrei Kuhne tailed Fiona as second woman, the recipient of the Mike Hall Adventure Bursary astonished dotwatchers and herself in her maiden Transcontinental Race to finish 19th overall, making her only the fourth woman to break the top 20 since the TCR’s inception in 2013.
Christoph Strasser’s win was a surprise to nobody, except himself. An established supported ultracycling racer with six wins at Race Across America under his belt, he settled into the race following some early mistakes and credits his win to his attack on the ascent to the final Control Point in Romania, before a final 725km run into Burgas, Bulgaria, leaving Adam Bialek and Ulrich Bartholmös in his wake.
Winner: Christoph Strasser in 9d 15h 0m.
From the organisers of TransIbérica and Transpyrenees, the inaugural edition of Basajaun took riders through some of the Basque Country's undiscovered paths and its vastly diverse landscapes on a 780km fixed route. With Vitoria-Gasteiz as the host city, 236 riders from 21 different nationalities took to the start line. A high scratch rate saw 55% of the field reach the finish. German rider Oliver Beresford was the first to finish in a time of 2d 0h 8m, whilst the Chilean Tamara Santander was the first woman in a time of 4d 2h 49m.
Winner: Oliver Beresford in 2d 0h 8m.
London Edinburgh London
Not technically an ultra race, LEL is an iconic long distance cycling event first run in 1983 which takes hundreds of riders up and down the country, from London to Edinburgh and back again. Instead of a race it is a mass celebration of cycling, and this year Dotwatcher was on hand to follow it and share some of the stories behind the riders from the most diverse field we have probably ever seen. Approximately 1600 riders from 54 countries participated, roughly half of which were British. LEL has a strong international following with a large contingency from Audax India (which has a large Randonneur scene) along with riders from France, Italy, Malaysia, Netherlands, Australia, you name it. Not forgetting the group of Indonesian Brommies (all riding Bromptons), and of course the British folk, many of which uphold the quintessential essence of what long distance cycling is all about.
Silk Road Mountain Race
The only certainty at the Silk Road Mountain Race is its uncertainty. Each year, riders head into one of the most wild and hostile environments of any bikepacking race, in the hope of making it over the Tian Shan mountains by bike and on foot to reach the finish. No SRMR is complete without a gluttony of scratches for a wide variety of reasons, ranging from crashes, to food poisoning to mechanicals, each of which are intensified by the remoteness of the location.
In his typical style, Sofiane Sehili established an early gap which he was able to hold in his grasp for the remainder of the race. However, not one to go down without a fight, James Hayden began to encroach on Sofiane’s lead in the final 300km, thus delighting dotwatchers in anticipation of a repeat of their tete-a-tete from the Italy Divide in 2019. Sofiane held off the competition to take back-to-back wins at SRMR and cement his dominance in the off-road racing scene after his win weeks earlier at the Tour Divide.
Winner: Sofiane Sehili in 7d 5h 6m (unofficial time)
After the race was dubbed “a scrappy rolling picnic” some years ago, it has been hard to shake, mainly because it’s true! The off-road race spanning the length and breadth of mainland UK takes LEJOG (Land’s End to John O’Groats) to the next level, racing the GB Divide route. With three mandatory stopping checkpoints the race format follows stages, with riders clock stopping once they reach the checkpoint, only to restart when they set off in another mass start for the next stage.
2022 saw a new rule, sleep and rest can only be done under the stars, with no man-made shelters including bus stops and benches. This created a unique challenge for our riders with added weight and fatigue.
This race is truly a race of attrition, with 50% of riders not finishing. The race was difficult to call, winning 1 stage may be an accolade but doesn’t necessarily guarantee an overall win. Alexander Kopp seemed to be in a strong position but a bad mechanical set him back significantly, allowing Huw Oliver and Samuel Thompson to close in, with the trio finished off by Christophe Dijkmans. Unfortunately, Christophe also suffered a major mechanical leaving Samuel and Huw to battle it out. Huw finished in 1st, claiming the crown. Emily Harper stormed the women’s race and finished in just under 7 days.
Winner: Huw Oliver 5d 2h 14m
Bentang Jawa was back for its second edition, the first-ever ultra-cycling race across Java Island, Indonesia. The strong sense of camaraderie and kindness between riders makes this popular race one that is followed the world over. The race follows the spine of the Island, with over 16,000m of climbing on this road race.
This year, the race was attended by the 2021 champion, Muhammad Dzaki Wardana, who returned to try and not only take the podium but also beat his previous time. That he did, Dzaki beat his time by almost an entire day! With over 1500km to cover the finish times were extremely quick this year. One of the true heroes of Betang Jawa is Citra Dewi Saraswati, who has won the women’s race for the second time with a finish time this year that was within the top 5 and kept toe to toe with the 2021 winning time.
Winner: Muhammad Dzaki Wardana 3d 15h 0m.
Colorado Trail Race
One jewel of the USA’s triple-crown, the Colorado Trail Race covers the multi-use trail that spans from Denver to Durango, covering 485 miles. The extreme challenge in the race is the altitude, with 23,000m of climbing over 800km and never drops below 1,660masl. With a tantalising fastets known time (FKT) on the line, the competition was hotting up.
USA rider, Will Bodewes, made his intention to take the FKT clear from the start, hitting the first checkpoint at 40 miles, in just over 5 hours. What lay ahead, however, wasn’t quite so promising. This year saw unprecedented rain, with howling winds and extreme rainfall which left riders with no other choice but to shelter for significant periods of time, leaving the FKT as a goal for next year. Will powered on, winning the race overall with Kevin Conerly, who had initially bunny-hopped Will, forced to 2nd by the rains. Alexandera Houchin, a force to be reckoned with, took the win in the women’s race on a single speed! She bagged the women’s FKT with only 1 gear.
Winner: Will Bodewes 4d 18h 36m.
Now in its fifth year, this free route ultra around the Iberian Peninsula had 35 riders from 15 different nationalities.
Once again the host city was Bilbao, and with 10 checkpoints to visit this gave an average distance of 3400km and 45,000m elevation gain. One very notable figure at the start line was Ana Orenz, who had returned to face her demons following a devastating crash during the race the year before. In the 2021 edition Ana collided with a wild boar on a descent, leaving her with severe spinal trauma and having undergone intense rehabilitation.
Guillaume Bour was the first rider to finish back at Bilbao in a time of 8d 14h 50m. Bour finished 12 hours ahead of the second place finisher with a distance of 3534km under his belt - a stellar performance of which the last two days he suffered from Shermer’s Neck. Fanny Bensussan defended the women’s title from the previous year, finishing as first woman (and 6th overall) in a time of 10d 9h 23m. Just making it to the start line was a major achievement for Ana, who managed to race well over half of the distance before calling it quits. She started the race with a lot of tenacious fight but her body wasn’t quite ready for the challenge.
Winner: Guillaume Bour in 8d 14h 50m.
As the adage goes, getting to the startline is the hardest part, and never has this been more true for an ultra than Further Perseverance. A start location only accessible by hiking trails at the Refuge du Ruhle towering at 2,000masl in the heart of the Ariège was always going to create a special atmosphere. The night curfews on three sectors reinvented this race into something more akin to a stage race as no rider was able to pass through a curfew and snatch a lead over a competitor. Making the most of the curfews, British riders, Rich Rothwell and Philippa Battye, struck gold on the second night and stumbled across mattresses in a shed and bedded down for a good rest before Philippa found yet another mattress for the following night’s kip.
The first two mornings marked a new day and dawned a fresh competition. The unknown quantity, Ricard Calmet took the win ahead of Andrew Laycock, unbeknownst to these two the race for third behind them was heating up. James Craven and Steven White took vastly different routes from the end of the final sector in Spain only to arrive at the Refuge a minute apart with all those at the party watching their headlights creep up the mountain.
But Further is about more than winners, it’s about spirit. And nobody manifests that better than Mark Schmid who successfully completed this Pyrenean odyssey on a Brompton. A feat worthy of our 2022 Perseverance Award!
Winner: Ricard Calmet in 2d 12h 42m.
Pure Peak Grit
Possibly the hilliest ultra race out there, the route of the inaugural Pure Peak Grit delivered 12,000m ascent over a 600km course. This was certainly one for the mountain goats, linking together every categorised climb in the Peak District and the ‘Greatest 100 Cycling Climbs’ around it. The 21 riders at the start line faced endless hills and spectacular vistas, all whilst battling the inner torment of Déjà vu as the route crossed over itself on numerous occasions.
Just finishing the route within the 72 hour time limit was the achievement of ten riders, giving a 52% scratch rate. The poor weather show and unexpectedly relentless hills being major contributing factors towards the high scratch rate. Just 5 riders made it back within the more challenging 48 hour time limit. This proved to be a no-sleep kind of race, with Matt Seward surging to take an early lead. Adam Bibbey and Adrian Lai were both hot on Matt’s wheels for the duration, with the pole position being exchanged on several occasions. Adam pushed on in the final stages and proved himself as King of the Hills, taking the win in 1d 12h 37m. A close call right to the finish, Matt and Adrian both finished an hour or two later.
Winner: Adam Bibbey in 1d 12h 37m.
With the popularity of the previous editions some ultra-cycling titans headed up this scenic tour of the Spanish Desert. Ranging across Grenada, this gravel race takes in some of the most popular sites that you can find in the area. Connecting the all-star start list and the amazing views and riding, Badlands 2022 was a truly amazing race.
We had the likes of Ulrich Bartholmoes, Lael Wilcox, Justinas Leveika and Cynthia Frazer heading up the front of the race. With 28 finishers in under 3 days, this was fast, but the true speed came from the dark horse, Seb Breuer. He finished the 750km off-road race in 1 day and 19 hours, with no rest and no stopping Seb rode an incredible race as he followed the early lead from Justinas, Nils Correvon and Ulrich. The results proved that often speed is not the key to ultra-cycling with dehydration and a couple of tumbles affecting the fastest of the competitors. Lael Wilcox proved she is a force to be reckoned with coming in at 2 days 10 hours, winning the women’s race by over 5 hours as Cynthia Frazer came in second.
One of the draws of Badlands is the large starting roster, with over 200 starters there is plenty of opportunity to make the race your own. With many riders choosing to chase their own targets, be it another rider, a time or even just a finish there were some real friendships formed and multiple personal records broken. Notably, ex-pro Taylor Phinney led the charge of making the race your own, providing some light entertainment on socials and creating a race of any endurance cyclist’s dreams.
Winner: Seb Breuer 1d 19h 36m.
The ‘Flat One’, a term coined by the man behind Further, Camille McMillan. One takeaway from last year’s race was how deceptively hard the route was; what doesn’t go up, can’t go down and therefore is devoid of rest and relentless in nature. With Josh Ibett on hand as route mastermind, this year saw the route go even further east than previous, with two visits to the coast at Hunstanton and Southwold. Although a good option for the rookies, the attritional nature of Further East is hidden in plain sight: headwind, bumpy dykes, rutted tracks and miles of sand!
In true Camille style, 30 riders gathered around a campfire the evening before and selected raffle tickets from a tin which would allocate their start time, separated by one minute intervals. Race favourite Jan Koller took an early lead, showing his experience on the rough stuff following a strong show at Badlands in 2021. The only repeat offender from 2021, Rich Rothwell was also looking in strong form, a Further stalwart following his completion of sister event Further Perseverance in the Pyrenees a month prior. But unexpectedly, it was ultra rookie Jack Childerstone who completed the 680km loop fastest, returning to Camps End in a time of 1d 7h 28m. Jack only did one long ride during lockdown, and turned up with the wonderful naivety of a rider about to discover just how good they might be. In the women’s race Nicky Shaw took an early lead, starting in 11th place at 7.11am, having selected raffle no. 11. Having ridden a strong and consistent race with little stop time, she managed to climb 5 places to finish 6th overall and first woman in a time of 1d 16h 17m.
Winner: Jack Childerstone in 1d 7h 28.
Trans Pyrenees Race
Nobody loves an underdog more than the team here at DotWatcher and TPR dished out the best rookie win of the year. Robert Mueller arrived at the start in Saint-Jean-de-Luz only to discover his fork was damaged and he went on to win in emphatic fashion on a borrowed bike and even over-slept his alarm on the final night.
Jana Kesenheimer finished 6th overall having excellently paced her race and crept up the rankings from 15th at the first control point to 8th approximately 215km later for CP2. From there until her finish she ticked off two other riders and took the women’s win.
Winner: Robert Mueller in 4d 7h 13m.
Atlas Mountain Race
It simply wouldn’t be a Nelson Trees event without some weather drama! The second edition of AMR was postponed from February 2021 to October 2022. What should have been a drier edition in the early Autumn was disrupted and temporarily neutralised due to rainstorms rendering the Dadès River too dangerous to cross due to the depth and flow of the water around the 260km mark. As a result, we saw the top 10 riders bottleneck at a service station late into the first night and shared many posts on their social media together which was a novelty as it’s unheard of for so many riders to be in such close proximity during a race. The remaining 900km were fierce and a worthy winner emerged in the young hotshot, Marin de Saint-Exupéry, who bettered Sofiane Sehili’s record from 2020 by over three hours with more sleep and on a slightly longer course.
Ashley Carelock arrived in Agadir as the first woman having battled the challenges of finding gluten free food in the Atlas and spent many of the kilometres hungry and under-fuelled whilst looking for food at the scarce resupplies. Ashley’s effort was a true demonstration of perseverance.
Our favourite story of the race encapsulates the essence of racing in faraway lands with some local MacGyvering; Spencer Gough’s puncture woes culminated in needing some local mechanics to drill into his presta tubeless rims to expand the valve hole wide enough to fit a schrader valve. A fix which worked and allowed him to finish with an excellent story.
Winner: Marin de Saint-Exupéry in 3d 18h 14m.
Arkansas High Country Race
After being flung out of obscurity by the Lechugas last year, the Arkansas High Country Race provides some late-season excitement. With multiple races going at once, the longest being a 1600km off-road race, there’s plenty to follow. After suffering an acute kidney injury in 2021, Ernie Lechuga was back to take the crown from his oftentimes riding partner, his wife Scotti Lechuga, who won last year. Ernie did so with style, not only winning the overall race but also taking the FKT. In the women’s race, Hannah Simon took the win.
With so many different routes, there is also a counterclockwise version of the race, which means riders constantly see other riders in the second half. Further to this, the much short Ouachita Triple Crown provides the Arkansas spirit in only 184 miles, a worthy opponent to try and tackle in under 24 hours, which Jeff Kerkove did, taking the FKT.
Winner: Ernie Lechuga 4d 14h 13m
Two Volcano Sprint
As a one-off for the 2022 edition, race organiser, Juliana Buhring, added 450km of riding in order to take the riders further east than ever and include the ancient city of Matera, one of the longest inhabited cities in the world built on and around a network of cave dwellings. With its network of narrow cobbled streets, riders were treated to a brief interlude from their solitude with some bustling tourist streets and an historic urban setting.
This Italian classic is anything but easy! Bookended by two volcanoes, the route offers very little respite from the climbing and there are long stretches without resupply that have caught riders out in the past. The past two editions have been struck by rainstorms and halted some riders’ progress, but not Pierfrancesco Santin’s. Having leapfrogged with Bruno Wicht and Robert Mueller for the first half of the race, Pier Francesco was able to snatch the lead at the 975km mark and held off his chasers for the remainder of the race. He established such a lead he was able to comfortably ride the ferry from mainland Italy to Sicily twice to make the most of access to electricity, shelter and internet. Ferries are the new hotels!
Winner: Pierfrancesco Santin in 4d 9h 47m.
The Rhino Run
With the most competitive start list we’ve ever seen and in a new ultraracing region, the Rhino Run was always going to be an excellent race to dotwatch. Arguably, one of the most photogenic locations to run a race tested riders in every which way: the wind, the long straight stretches, the washboard gravel, lack of resupplies and the heat.
The southern hemisphere dwellers who were fresh out of a winter’s training dominated from the flag drop in Plettenberg Bay. Adbullah Zeinab and Kevin Benkenstin left the result down to the wire and Kevin arrived a mere 17 minutes after Abdullah, keeping dotwatchers and the organisers in the dark about who would arrive first until they arrived in Windhoek. Its date late in the Northern hemisphere’s season meant some favourites succumbed to fatigue early in the race after a long season’s racing and either scratched or transitioned into touring mode.
The race was unfortunately marred by the controversy, much of which circulated on social media, around two riders’ questionable tracker movements and later honest admissions of cheating.
Winner: Abdullah Zeinab in 7d 10h 4m.