The Wembo World 24hr Solo MTB Championships in Fort William was another great event organised by the No Fuss Events team – huge thanks guys!
A really challenging course with lots of technical climbs and descents, made even harder by Mother Nature’s attempts to get racers to throw in the towel with some challenging weather conditions. It pretty much rained steadily throughout the whole race but in the early hours of the morning the wind and rain really picked up and temperatures plummeted, challenging even the hardiest riders to consider grinding on.
We had our biggest team entry so far with 13 riders joining some of the greatest names in 24-hour racing from all over the world. We lost a few riders with injuries. illness and exhaustion but everyone pushed themselves so hard, setting personal bests and some making their respective podiums. Well done all!
Huge thanks on behalf of all of our racers to Ben and Luke from Bike Shak for spannering for us all weekend and managing to stop our event shelter from disappearing into the forest.
Our event photo album is here: Wembo Photos
The event results table is here: Event Results
Here are the thoughts of a selection of our racers:
Jamie Willetts: ‘A bit of a last minute season finisher for me – the decision was made to race in September to go and tolerate the hills and enjoy the descents. Coming into the event my longest race of the year was 2hr 35min and longest training session was 5.5hrs so podium bothering was not expected.
The course was a fair combination of draggy climbs (which really suited me), the short sharp power climbs which I struggled with more and a lot of bumpy descending. The first lap or two it was a great fun course – after a few laps the brutality of the course started to show up. My physical conditioning ended up failing before fitness, despite the best efforts of Budge, Ben and Luke to keep tweaking my bike to reduce the impact, my wrists and forearms gave out struggling to control the bike on the descents brought my race to a close.
11 laps completed but more importantly a re-ignition of my passion for MTB racing, which had been lacking in the last couple of years… Despite suggestions of this being my last solo 24 (again) does anyone else fancy a trip to Portugal next year for Europeans?
Massive thanks to Budge and Sal for acting as my step in pit crew, Ben and Luke from Bike Shak for keeping my bikes rolling and Laura at The Body Works Cheshire for pre-race body tweaking and putting me back together after. The whole JMC pits atmosphere was great with all the support working to keep all the riders going and motivated.‘
Matt Jones: ‘I had a bit of an unusual race with my head being somewhere else for the first 18 hours where I just couldn’t muster the enthusiasm. Not due to the conditions or anything as I quite like a bit of crappy weather to test myself against. A big crash after a couple of hours had me bleeding from a few points but that pain was minimal compared to the relentless climbing and brutal descending for hours on end.
Despite the conditions everything went pretty smoothly with great pit support and no stomach issues or anything like that. In the last few hours my head cloud lifted and I cracked on and with loads of people succumbing to the conditions or blowing up I managed to claw myself in to 6th elite which was quite the result!‘
Jason Miles: ‘Because I was in one of my misguided “I am invincible” moods at the weekend, I thought that I’d stay warm while wearing wet clothing while riding a bike on a Scottish mountainside in the middle of a windy October night. Inevitably the story of my WEMBO 24 Hour World Champs race started well but then got a bit slow in the wee small hours as I lost my core temperature, went the same colour as a corpse and stopped with an hour to go until the finish. Not a bad result though and I walked away with more than my bus fare home, plus I reckon I can spend the next couple of weeks eating chips and slugging whisky before I get myself ready for the next way-too-strenuous-at-my-age bicycle race.
Massive thanks to Deb, Dave, Dickon and Jonty at Jungle, Sam and all at the Break Pad for getting my bikes spot on and everyone else who I mithered and borrowed stuff off.’
Alex Watts: ‘Fast, cold, wet, fun, awesome! 2nd in my age category. Happy!‘
Darren Hall: ‘It had been a long time since I last did a 24 solo. Nearly two years in fact, so I was somewhat nervous about this. To be honest I was dreading it, and spent the days before stressed out about what the hell I was doing. I’ve always had a mental barrier on these races which stops me getting through the night. Despite my best intentions this one proved to be no different.
It started well, I found myself not too far behind the fast lads, felt pretty good and was having a lot of fun trying to keep ahead of some European guys in order to get a clear run at the descents. But 14 hours in it all went wrong. A couple of horrific laps which seemed to take forever and where I nearly crashed numerous times freaked me out so I decide to stop for some sleep. The intention was to go back out after a couple of hours, but then the storm blew in and that was that.
Despite this familiar story, I think I got the solo bug back. I swore after I’d never do another, but 3 days later I’ve already entered the next one. I’d forgotten how much fun it is riding the same trails repeatedly with no break. And the camaraderie with the other riders and everyone in the pits is on another level. The Team JMC setup for this was incredible, and the guys from Bike Shak did an amazing job keeping the bikes running. It was also the first 24 race where I’d managed to persuade Cath to come along to support. She’s already agreed to come to the next one, so in that respect this goes down as a huge success.’
Karen Price: ‘Mummy! You haven’t come last” said my 11 year old son brightly on Sunday morning when he arrived to find me huddled in front of the heater in the JMC gazebo. The race had been lost (and won!) around 4am when it was clear the leader in my category was continuing to lap strongly through the night and the 3rd place rider was many laps behind. From 4am onwards I was riding only because I wanted to. My aim had been to ride for 24hrs but on a tough course in worsening conditions I settled for riding to see dawn.
On the way to this dawn I remember: when my 9 year old daughter got hold of the megaphone and “Go on Mummy” resounded around the pits; trying to nap on the top fire road whilst still pedalling – seemed like the most sensible and safest place to pedal and sleep – wide and straight; eating what felt like a lot of potatoes but still not enough as I ran out of energy in the dark.
But this is why I ride my bike. It makes me smile, it gives me the opportunity to challenge myself and makes the most memorable of experiences. My opportunity to race at Wembo 2018 was only possible with the support of a fantastic team of people: Team JMC, especially Budge and Sally through the night and Cath; Ben and Luke from Bike Shak whose help extended well beyond spannering to impeccable light management and tea making through the night; Del at Four4th Lights who supplied full head and bar light set up to see me through to my first dawn in 24hr racing and of course my family – you are all awesome and all helped to make Fort William 2018 such memorable and successful race.‘
Richie Scott: ‘Two weeks to go and the cards of opportunity and luck were being dealt out with menace and vengeance. The dealer? An overweight, dark flickering image that darkness feared and the sun lowered its crown and wept. This dark, cobbled street murderous vision was engulfed in a swirling, growling presence of pain, romance and regret. It was my turn to look into the eyes of lost souls, its hollow eyes, and the want for you to feel its pain. To enjoy the sadness. Embrace the pity of you.
The cards slowly flicked and tumbled down and into my hands. Burning hot from the depths of excuse and easy exit hell. No matter how much I tried to shake these laughing hyenas off my chubby small hands they seared and melted their angry tattoo skeleton on and into them.
I had these cards to play. They were mine to keep. The dealer? It was moving to someone new, another victim or another victor. As I stared at the starting line I played my cards. It’s all I had. They were weak and I was missing the excluded Lady Ga Ga. I was not sad or remorseful as the pedals turned I just tried my hardest to beat the dealer. I failed.‘
Keith Kitchen: ‘A 700 mile round trip, bruised ribs and shoulder and a broken GPS unit about sums up my weekend at Fort William but I wouldn’t have swapped it, well maybe some it.
The atmosphere was far more relaxed than I was expecting, the fast guys lined up at the front and we were piped away by bagpipes. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as we slowly pulled up the first hill, in front a clash of bars sent a guy flying. I stopped to make sure he was OK, Simon de Pomeroy all the way from Australia was cursing and complaining about a busted shoulder. Thousands of miles for a single 8.8 mile lap, that must sting a bit. Things then settled down and riders spaced out on the long first climb. The first descent was brilliant, rocky technical fast and long. As usual I had started steadily, pacing the climbs and enjoying the descents. Lap times were OK and I felt good. Luckily the JMC pits backed onto the route about 3/4 of the way round so orders for sweet tea and food could be placed and be ready by the time we were pulling into the pits. The support was a big lift, heckled by a loudhailer and cheered on by our support crew.
Yet again in a 24 hour race I was riding with James ‘ Ticker’ Whittaker or as he is now known ‘ The Jason English Fan Club’. The same sort of lap times inevitably means you see a lot of the same riders and I would pull away from him downhill for him to catch me on the ups. I was having a great race, feeling good and enjoying the atmosphere, another lap and another descent from the top led into a wooded area where a sniper, or was it a rock, was hiding to take me out. In a split second I was down, it happened so quickly I hadn’t even let go of my bars. My shoulder forearm and ribs took the full force sideways as I landed on some rocks. I was stunned and badly winded, a few guys slowed to make sure I was OK and I gingerly remounted and made my way back to the pits. I got checked out by Sally Watts, who is a paramedic, and who decided I hadn’t broke anything, so painkillers and a bit of MTFU and I was back out. Lap 11 was my last. I had slowed badly on the descents and my grandmother could have got down quicker. My ribs were giving me trouble and the drop-offs and rockier parts were causing me to back off to the point where I thought I was more likely to go over the bars. When it stops being fun 15 hours into a 24 hour the head can destroy your morale and I knew I was done. Disappointed but philosophical I knew it was the right decision.
Overall it was a brilliant experience and great to meet some more members of Team JMC. Massive thanks to my family, Simmy and Alex our brilliant crew and Team JMC for the support.
David Gobby on his way to 2nd in his age category.