The weather is always the main talking point leading up to the infamous Puffer, so lets get that out of the way first. We’ve had deep snow and slick ice in some of the harshest winters in recent years but with an uncommonly mild backdrop to this year’s edition it was going to be easy right? Er, not quite.
In fact, the muddy but fast course just made the racing more intense with an early pace more reminiscent of summer events before the 17 hours of darkness descended and some riders called it the toughest race they’d ever done.
No doubt the story of the weekend has to be 56 Combined team. Yes, that does refer to their combined ages; they start ‘em young and breed ‘em tough up here and the four teenagers with an average age of 14 gave the rest of the field a good kicking to take victory in the quads.
In the pairs, Chris Lever and Shaun Wells of Cookson Cycles dominated from the start employing an effective one lap on, one lap off strategy. They each posted tidy lap times throughout the race while the other could be seen sat in the car heater on full trying to warm up or shivering on the start line waiting to go out. It looked grim but it certainly worked. Credit to the lads and their helpers – they didn’t miss a beat, suffered like the best of them and not only won the pairs by an impressive three laps over but ruled the event overall.
The solo race started just as fast, if not quicker. After setting the fastest lap of the entire event ‘Twinkly’ Dave Powell (Team JMC) took an early and convincing lead and was looking in fine form to take the win that (he won’t thank me for mentioning) has eluded him here for the last four years. Behind him Ewan Gronkowski (Mukyriderz) and Phil Simcock (JMC) fought a close fight for second place with Jason Miles (JMC) just behind, somewhat cursing his decision to singlespeed the event with many short sharp efforts required around the mid-lap.
Things looked rosy in the northerners camp and by the time the halfway rocket launched it was briefly a 1-2-3, but at some 15 hours in, disaster struck and a slip up from Powell at the ‘bridge of thighs’ resulted in a 5ft fall in to the stream and bike in the face. Simcock had clearly been training; usually the finisher of the trio rather than the front row racer, he showed that Team JMC now has three strong riders to worry about and despite losing the lead briefly to several punctures, reclaimed it and held on to bring it home a lap clear.
Jason Miles took a break after ‘writing a cheque he couldn’t cash’ and had a kip leaving it to Gronkowski, Luke Morris (Ison/Salsa) and Tom Fenton to fight it out for the remaining podium positions. At a lap to go it was Gronkowski from Morris but Fenton posted a rapid 49-minute lap and a bonus lap to unseat them both in the dying minutes.
View the full results at www.strathpuffer.co.uk