Team JMC made their annual trek to The Frozen North (which wasn’t frozen this time) to take part in the Strathpuffer 24 hour race, near Inverness.
A 24 hour mountain bike race in the north of Scotland in the middle of winter is as tough as it sounds. Billed by US-based Bike Magazine as one of the ten hardest races in the world and considered by many of those taking part as the ultimate challenge, the event pits riders against a hilly course, 17 hours of darkness and very unpredictable weather conditions.
This year, Andrew Burgess and Andy Watson were racing in the pairs category. Phil Simcock and our ‘special guest’, M-Steels Cycles’ Rich Rothwell were also racing as a pair. Both Dave Powell and Jason Miles were racing in the solo category – Jason was defending his 2013 solo title and Dave was making a return to racing following a serious and life-threatening injury in the summer.
Supporting the lads were Debbie Miles and Angela Osman, our most experienced and organised pit crew members.
The race got off to a blistering start and didn’t really start to settle down until 5 hours later. The pace blew the race apart and at an early stage the final placings were already being decided.
In the pairs Phil and Rich dominated from the start. Only really slowing down to changeover riders, their slick strategy and consistently fast lap times practically guaranteed the top honours as long as there were no mishaps.
Andrew and Andy were also challenging for a podium place but a couple of unlucky punctures in the wee small hours lost them just enough time to slip to 4th place.
Dave Powell ‘took it easy’ for his first 24 hour race for a long time but rode a strong race (with one or two stops for a cuppa) to finish 10th overall and second in the singlespeed category.
Taking the solo win for the second consecutive year was Jason Miles, also claiming the singlespeed category win – a lap in front of a ‘very chuffed’ Guy Martin.
Speaking after the event, Andrew Burgess recounted his experience and hinted that he might be persuaded to do it again next year…
“After my 4th Strathpuffer last year, two in pairs teams and two solo, I had pretty much decided to skip this year’s event. Particularly as I managed to cross an entry off my bucket list by grabbing a podium place last year paired with the ridiculously quick Phil Simcock. However, in a moment of weakness, my traditional racing buddy Andy Watson finally agreed to give it a go, so up we went.
Taking account our relative lack of training, combined age of 97 and general hatred of the cold, our ambition was to keep lapping, enjoy ourselves and see what we could do. As it turned out we did rather well. At one stage around 10 hours in we managed to briefly get into 3rd position before a combination of issues meant that we dropped back into 4th. In the end we managed to retain 4th place by a whisker – just under three minutes ahead after 24 hours!
Both Andy and I really enjoyed the early laps but both of us were feeling pretty ill towards the end and our bikes weren’t in the best of shape, so we were dead chuffed with 30 laps and a 4th place finish. Will we do it next year? Hard to say now as the memory of the suffering is too recent. Give it a couple of months and a couple of beers and who knows. “
Rich Rothwell found that we’re not scary and quite nice people really…
“I was slightly ‘star struck’ to be part of the mighty Team JMC ‘factory’ team. However, I found the team to be just like you and me; fun loving, slightly sadistic, and addicted to caffeine. The race was ace and much more enjoyable than the miseryfest I had expected – cracking course and brilliant atmosphere, even during the witching hours. Phil was a great pairs partner and I’m really glad we teamed up (rather than take on Jase solo on his singlespeed). Oh, and winning was nice”.
Andy Watson just thinks we’re all awesome…
“Over the last four of five years I’ve been following Team JMC at Strathpuffer by sitting in my warm house and refreshing browser on the computer. I’ve always vowed I’d never go up and do the race, that was until this year. The day after I’d had a few beers with Budge he tells me that I’d agreed to enter as a pairs team with him!
The racing was excellent, the Strathpuffer course is brill not the usual mudfest you can get at the 24 hour events. It was hard work keeping going during the early hours when I really needed sleep and some proper food, somehow each time you get back on the bike all those thoughts disappear and all that matters is getting back in good time to send your team mate out again.
The race was awesome, Team JMC are awesome (including Angela and Debs who supported us) , it was a fantastic weekend all round.”
Jason was happy…
“Winning again was brilliant. It wouldn’t have happened if I’d not had the support from Debbie and Angela and also from the other guys who had a broken bike thrown at them at 3am. This event is just superb. I want to do it every year. I need a lie down…”
and Dave’s just really pleased that he’s in one piece and riding again.
“It’s felt like a long time coming, this return to racing. It’s all well and good cheering teammates on from the sidelines, but it’s much better to get stuck in there and wheeze along. Be a part of it. This year’s ‘puffer was a beginning, a return and a pleasure to watch as the team smashed it at the front.
Let’s do it all again soon!”
The adventure will appear on BBC Scotland’s Adventure Show in a few months. If you like watching worn-out, muddy-faced, sleep-deprived people trying to make sense in front of a TV camera, watch this space for the broadcast date.