Schwinn 100 Report

Home Up

Updated 26 September 2001

The 2nd Annual Schwinn 100, Builth Wells, Mid-Wales

It all started innocently enough with a comment by Ross Fryer that there was an "Enduro" style mountain bike race, similar to the infamous Salisbury Plain Challenge, in mid-Wales in May. "But Ross, you won't stand a chance, I'll beat you easily". The gauntlet was set. However, due to Foot & Mouth, the event was postponed and rescheduled for September (more time for training!). The Schwinn 100 is a 100K (60 mile) off-road event consisting of a single loop around forestry and MoD land. This means that all riders have to be fully self-sufficient and carry enough tools and food to get around. If you puncture 30 miles out in the middle of the woods, it's a long walk back.

James Lyon

Ross and myself were joined by Cliff who had been conned by this foolhardy bravado into doing the race as well. We met up at the campsite just outside Builth Wells on Saturday evening and joined 1200 other brave (stupid?) people all stuffing themselves with pasta.

Sunday dawned with the kind of melancholy grey sky that only Celtic nations can produce. It had rained during the night and this prompted me to change my tires to something with slightly more grip. Ross looked on at this with more comments about how he was going to beat me. "Are you changing your tires, Ross?" "No, semi-slicks work fine in most conditions." Hmmm.

At 10am, the race started with a neutralised roll-out on the road behind a pace car and a police escort. This was to string all the riders out into some sort of order as having 1200 mad-keen bikers dash off into the woods together would have been a sure recipe for disaster. Ross and I were fairly close behind the car, up in the top 30 or so riders, with Cliff about 10 metres and 50 places further back in the line. After a few miles of this the pace car honked its horn to signal the start of the race and a moment later we turned off the road onto forestry track. The long line of mountain bikers soon strung out further as the terrain began to undulate. It has been said that mid-Wales has some spectacular scenery. I'm sure it does but we couldn't see any of it as the entire universe now seemed to be immersed by damp grey cloud that limited visibility to about 10 metres. I'd worked my way up in front of Ross and as the route changed to muddy singletrack I pulled out more of a gap as Ross's tires gave up the unequal struggle for grip and dumped him on his arse on the first downhill stretch. The route varied between sections of hard-packed forest track and rutted, muddy sections of singletrack weaving through the mist-covered woods. I reached one of the feed stations along the route and stopped for an energy gel, setting off again only moments later. Ross was still behind me. By this time the weather was starting to show off its true Welsh qualities and visibility closed in even more as we climbed up towards the top of the hill. Ross caught up with me here and we rode together for a while, passing a few people who had obviously set off far too quickly and were now beginning to suffer for it. At about the 30 mile point we stopped again at a feed station just as it really began to rain. Ross and I looked at each other and each of us simultaneously experienced the same thought: "What the hell am I doing here?" Each of us having answered that particular metaphysical conundrum to his own satisfaction, we set off again accompanied by horizontal rain and a tailwind which at least made up for the fact that we were now soaked. The climb after the feed station was a killer, steep, long and slick enough to test balance points and traction to the limit. Ross was still behind me.

Ross Fryer

The route then came out of the woodland singletrack and fire roads it had been following for the last 40 miles and climbed up onto MoD moorland, normally used as an artillery range but closed for the race. Ross caught up with me again and began to open up a gap as cramp set into my legs. I stopped to stretch briefly and next time I looked up, Ross had disappeared into the mist. I was on effectively on my own, visibility was almost zero. I would catch up with a rider and not know it until I heard a splash in front of me as they went through a particularly deep rut. We were following well worn Landie tracks across the open exposed moorland and it started to get very cold as the constant spray from beneath the tires covered me in liquid mud. A section of tarmac provided welcome relief before the next section of moorland but the unremitting cramp was slowing me down. At least everyone around me was suffering just as much. The final feed station appeared out of the mist in front of me and I stopped just long enough to have a banana and my final energy gel. From here it was about 7 miles to the finish. Ross was still nowhere in sight and was probably 2 miles ahead of me by now. We came out onto a short tarmac stretch then turned onto the final section of gravel road to the finish. By this point the weather was beginning to play ball and once visibility had opened up to more than a few dozen metres, the red flag of the finish line could be seen at the end of the downhill. A damp-looking marshal checked me in as I crossed the line then I hooked up with a couple of other mud-splattered but happy cyclists as we rolled down the neutralised road section back to Builth Wells. I got back to the campsite and found Ross, who'd finished about 10 minutes ahead of me. Cliff rolled in 45 minutes later. Two hours later, as we packed up and drove out of the campsite, there were still riders coming into the finish. The winner had completed the course in an amazingly quick 3.39.03, Ross came in in 4.27.51 to take 27th in the Masters, I was a fraction over 10 minutes behind at 4.38.22, 45th out of 266 in the Open category. Cliff finished in 5.24.25 to take 126th in the Masters out of over 300 and achieving his aim of finishing in less than 5.5 hrs.

The weather made the event a complete epic and we all intend to do it again next year. Oh and Ross…you don't stand a chance!!


 De Laune Cycling Club © 
Site designed and maintained by