With a number of the longer MTB events having been cancelled over the last couple of years I was keen to support the first running of the North Pennine MTB Marathon. Advertised as old-fashioned, no-nonsense, big-hill mountain bike riding with three ride options (big, bigger and biggest), all in a part of the world that promised some challenging riding, it sounded like a great opportunity to get some miles in before my impending holiday as well as the chance to kick start my attempt at the Rapha Rising challenge.
Conditions on the day were grim, but the organisers had done a great job of getting the best part of 200 riders on the start line with most signed up for the biggest loop including two goes at what turned out to be a proper killer climb. Whilst not officially a race I did get caught up in a group of around 6 riders at the start that weren’t messing about and I managed to hold on to them for the first mile or so before my heart rate demanded that I ease up a little. After that I settled into a steady rhythm and managed to pick up the pace a little as I recovered.
The route itself was challenging with around 7000 feet of climbing in around 42 miles (for the biggest loop) and there were a number of longish hike-a-bike sections that I’m not sure anyone could have ridden. The terrain also demanded plenty of caution with some very fast (39mph at one point) descents, I got high-sided on one particularly steep one when I ran out of talent, and lots of pointy rock trails that caused a number to drop out with mechanicals.
For most of it I was in a group of three with a couple of top blokes in Paul Errington and Graham ‘Fizzer’ Fielding. We swapped places a few times but for the most part we kept each other company when we were dragging our bikes up and over some of the longer unrideable sections. In the end I made it round in 5 hours 30 mins, around 5th place, and was one of only 17 riders that managed to complete the biggest loop. Think the thought of taking on the killer climb for a second time made lots of people change their plans and take on a smaller loop.
Overall it was a great first effort from the organisers http://tynevalleymtb.org/ and they can definitely build on their achievement and make this an even better event next year. Congratulations to everyone involved in staging it and in particular to the marshals and those lovely people @SportSunday that had to put up with some seriously miserable weather.