Merida 100

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Updated 28 April 2006


Merida 100 Builth Wells 8th-9th April 2006

Now in it’s 6th year, the Merida 100 has grown from a once-a-year grass-roots affair to far and away the UK’s biggest endurance mountain bike event with 5 rounds spread throughout the year, mostly in Wales but now expanded to include a round in Scotland as well.

The first round for 2006 was based at the Merida birthplace of Builth Wells in South-central Wales and comprised a night-time enduro on the Saturday (this event hosted the worlds first night time enduro last year) followed by the standard day ride on Sunday with a shorter than usual loop of 75km.

Ross and Cliff joined me for this, with Ross and me doing both the night and day rides and Cliff smug in the knowledge that he was going to get an early night while we were out riding our bikes round big hills in the pitch dark! Ross and I lined up alongside 198 other riders for the Exposure Lights Big Night Out and it was dusk when we set off behind the pace car and police escort. I got a great start, right up behind the lead car so I made the most of the slipstream effect and conserved my energy. After 4 miles on gradually climbing road, the pace car pulled away and we turned onto the off-road climb. It was a very similar route to last year and I remembered it well so I could pace myself well in the lead group. Ross wasn’t too far behind but I got into a good group of several riders and we shared the pace making as we rode onto the summit of the windswept moor. The course was largely moorland tracks with the only real singletrack coming towards the end as we dropped though the woods. I didn’t bother stopping at the feed zone, we’d settled into a great rhythm and I knew I was right up in the top 20 or so. Over the undulating moors and into the final greasy slippery singletrack through the trees then we hit fireroad and then back onto the tarmac. By now there was only one other guy in sight so we hooked up in a roadie-chaingang style and caned it back to the campsite. I was very pleased to have done the 25mile route in a shade under 2hrs, finishing 18th in a time of 1.56.37. Ross wasn’t too far back, he finished 49th in a time of 2.12.12.

The next day the three of us lined up alongside about 800 riders for the main event. The weather was having trouble making it’s mind up; it was quite windy but was constantly changing between warm sunshine and overcast, there were also a fair few short lived showers throughout the day. There were 3 distances on offer, 25, 50 or 75km; we’d all chosen to do the 75km loop. Once again, I got a great start and was well up behind the lead car, surrounded by a lot of big names in UK MTBing; Nick Craig, Barrie Clarke, Jenn O’Connor and a few of the British Cycling-sponsored Talent Team. It wasn’t to last though…right at the top of the 3 miles of road climbing to string the bunch out, I picked up a massive thorn in my rear tire. I sat there fixing it and watched the entire field ride past me. Ross and Cliff were both going well, up in the top 50 or so. By the time I’d got the tube changed, I was near the back and had to fight my way past 700 or so people to get to the front again. It wasn’t too bad on the open moorland sections but once we got into the tight technical singletrack I was being severely held up. Eventually, I reached the second feed station, which marked the 75km/50km course splits. Most people seemed to be heading onto the 75km course so I elected to change to the 50km course in the hope of a clear ride. It was…I could now spin along at my own pace without being held up by the sheer volume of riders around me. Meanwhile, Cliff and Ross were riding more or less together on the 75km course, eventually Ross pulled away slightly on a climb. Cliff later said he was running on empty towards the end and felt a bit ill from having too many energy gels.

Back on the 50km course, I was spinning along happily at a decent pace although I was still disappointed at having dropped so many places due to my puncture. It was a tough course with a lot of hard climbs but it all passed quickly enough and the final tarmac descent back to the campsite was screamingly quick. I rolled across the line in 17th place out of the 271 riders that did the 50km course in a time of 3.37.26.

Ross finished the 75km course in 4.28.57 and 106th out of 387. Cliff wasn’t too far back in 4.35.38 and 115th. It turned out later on that the 75km course was actually closer to 65km but it was a tough course with a couple of brutally tough climbs on it.

It was a great day out, all of us riding our team Epic bikes and the events are good training for the SSMM and SITS 24hr events later this year.


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