Merida 100 05

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Updated 20 April 2005

The Merida 100, Builth Wells, April 9-10th 2005

Now in its 6th year, the Merida 100 has become the UK’s premier endurance event series and has branched out from Wales to include a round in Scotland and even a round in Austria to coincide with the World MTB Marathon Championships.

The first round of the year was held in the original venue of Builth Wells, mid-Wales and included for the first time ever, a night enduro race on the Saturday night followed by the regular race (70km instead of the usual 100km) on the Sunday).

Ross and I had entered both events; Cliff was also there for the main event on Sunday. Both Ross and I had got our entries in early and were rewarded by the free use of USE’s new headlight, the ultra light Super LED ‘Exposure’ light. We met up at the campsite on Saturday afternoon, collected our hire light and goodie bags and prepared for the ride. The weather in the campsite was cold and everyone underestimated the clothing needed for the ride. A lot of people stopped on the first climb to remove excess layers, as the heat generated by riding was more than enough to make up for the chill of the wind.

About 250 people had entered this, the first ever night-time enduro race and we set off just as it was beginning to get dark at 7.30pm. The course took us along a 5 mile section of road to thin the bunch out before turning off onto a brutal climb up onto the moorland to the east of Builth Wells. Looking up, I could see a string of lights weaving up the climb in front of me. After 15 minutes of climbing we traversed along the moorland for a while before dropping on a fast grassy descent to a lower track and climbing back up again. By this time, it was pitch dark on the moors and I was glad of my normal lighting power in addition to the hire light, my 40W Storm headtorch. I stopped briefly at the food station at the half way point before continuing on the course. Ross had pulled out a substantial gap on the initial road section and I knew I wouldn’t see him again until I got back to the campsite. The course ended with a great singletrack descent through the trees, just muddy and rooty enough to demand maximum concentration. It spat me out on the road section about 45 minutes later, leaving me with 5 miles to go to the campsite. About a mile from home, another rider caught up with me, a girl I knew quite well and we rode back to the finish together. I was just gathering myself for the sprint finish when she charged off ahead, beating me by a second across the line! I finished in 49th position in a time of 2.38; Ross had arrived back at the finish 15 minutes in front of me in a time of 2.23 in 25th place.

25 miles (40km), 2638ft of climbing, 250 starters.

Sunday dawned grey but with the promise of later sunshine; the wind had dropped considerably too. The main event started at 10.30am to allow sleepy riders from last night to wake up properly. Ross, Cliff and I lined up together but within seconds of the starting gun being fired we were separated in the crush of riders. Ross managed to get a great start, slipping through gaps in the bunch and getting out onto the course with the leaders (which included such people as British Olympic riders Nick Craig and Oli Beckinsale as well as former National Champion, Barrie Clarke). Cliff and I were comfortably up the top 100 or so out of over 600 starters. I rode the course at my own pace, I could see Cliff about 200m in front of me all the way up the first climb but then I lost sight of him as he pulled away. I knew a good few of the riders there and exchanged pleasantries with people as I passed them or (more commonly) they passed me. The course was the same as last nights course for the first 10 miles or so before it split off dropping sharply to a road before turning off and heading up a long and incredibly steep climb onto the back of the moorland. I simply enjoyed the scenery and chatted to a few other riders, hooking up in small groups with riders who were at roughly the same pace as me. I stopped at each of the two feed stations, refilled my supplies, stretched my back out and carried on. I knew that Ross and Cliff would both be faster than me as my form has been up and down since I fractured my pelvis last year and I’d only done 3 or 4 long MTB rides since then. The course was mostly grassy moorland with a massive amount of climbing, the climb after the second feed station being so steep that everyone was walking it. I made it about 2/3rds of the way before admitting defeat. A road descent was followed by another big climb before it finally reached the top of the singletrack that we’d finished on last night. It was much muddier by this time, churned up by the previous nights rain and the tires of the leaders as they’d slithered down the treacherous off-camber sections. It took about an hour to get from there back to the campsite where I made up for the Saturday night error by beating a fellow rider in the sprint finish for 146th place! Ross had come in at 49th in a time of 4.24, Cliff had finished in 4.44 to get 83rd and I finished 25 minutes later in 146th in a time of 5.10 (actual riding time 4.42).

42.5 miles (70km), 5305ft climbing, 650 starters.

One of the toughest Merida course I’ve ridden, with a leg-shattering amount of climbing involved. A good turnout from De Laune, with all of us riding our team bikes. The next Merida event is at Rhayader on May 28th-29th, more details on

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