Chris Williams and Claire Jennings racing for BM at Bristol (Pics: Alan Davis, Andy Clarke)
The Bristol Bikefest has seen a number of incarnations over its relatively short history. The thing that’s always remained constant is the 12 hour enduro event. In previous years that main event has been supplemented by traditional XC racing, but for 2006 the organisers decided to split the team and solo 12 hour races across the two days. Saturday was team day, Sunday was solo day.
With Ritchey coming on board as main sponsor and plenty of support from other manufacturers, the traditionally low-key campsite/arena looked unusually busy on Saturday morning – a fair few trade stands, lots of shiny things to look at, and of course a lot of people camping – almost 1,000 people where there over the weekend. Latecomers found themselves pitching up in the additional car parking area, but it wasn’t as if that was all that far away.
The always-popular Ashton Court course had been revised and, in places, repaired for the race. A longish section that last year had just been resurfaced with bark chippings had this year just been resurfaced with gravel. It was a bit sketchy at first, but after a few hundred wheels had been over it it started to run in pretty well, although bits of plastic sheeting started peeping out from under the surface which was mildly distracting.
One special course feature was the scaffolding bridge that had been erected to allow a figure-of-eight course, thus taking in more singletrack and a slightly mellower climb than last year. This mighty construction bridged a bombhole in the woods, so you rode through the bombhole under the bridge on the outward leg and over the top on the way back. The position of the bridge at the top of the main climb led to a fair few stalling moments when tired legs gave out or cramped up on the ramp, but there was enough flat trail before it to get a bit of a run-up.
The revised course layout was generally (we suspect universally, but we’re sure someone somewhere didn’t like it) well-recieved. As per usual, the arena was at the top of the hill, so from the start it was generally downhill through the woods for the best part of ten minutes before an open, gravelly climb (that got spectacularly hot on Saturday afternoon), some more wiggly woodsy stuff, through the bombhole, a steep descent, a nice fast spinny bit, a zig-zag climb, a gentle haul up through the woods and then a long, generally downhill singletrack stretch to a shortish grassy climb leading into a last drop through the trees and a short rise back into the arena. It was about 5.5 miles of roots, rocks, corners and the occasional straight bit. While it clearly had climbs in it, somehow most people seemed to forget about them – the overriding memory is of lots of singletrack. Can’t be bad…
Saturday was 12 hour team day, with a “team” comprising anything from two to four riders across various categories. With temperatures climbing to 30°C during the day, it was hard going and a lot of water got drunk. Kona UK took the Team Men prize with a massive 28 laps, a lap clear of local team Bad Ass Bikes. Bristol Uni/Psyclewerx won the Ladies event, while Yeti/Goldtec won fun men ahead of Team NQA, headed up by Bikemagic TransWales competition contender Russ Hall. Cashmore Collins wone the Ladies Fun race.
In the mixed competition it was Pedwar Power on top spot. Our very own Bikemagic mixed team (David Arthur, Matt Parsons, Claire Jennings, Gary Jennings) made it into fourth place, while our very own other Bikemagic mixed team (Mike Davis, Sandra Davis, Chris Williams) was 15th. Which we didn’t think was too bad given that Mike was saving himself for Sunday (Dave was racing on Sunday too but didn’t appear to be saving himself…) and Sandra hadn’t ridden a mountain bike since last March. Good job we had Chris along, really… There was also a Singlespeed team category, won by the Merida team headed up by Michael Wilkens.
With a 9pm finish, plenty of people stuck around on Saturday night for food, beer and live music, rounding off the day in fine style.
Sunday had a 9pm finish too, which meant a 9am start for the just-over-100 solo competitors entered. Most of them were in the 12 hour race, although there were quite a few six-hour racers too. We’re pretty impressed that that many people are willing to take on what is, after all, a fairly hefty challenge. All eyes were on Rob English in the Open Men category – he’d won the last two years, could he do it again? Yes, he could – a healthy two laps clear of his nearest category rival. He was run a lot closer by riders in other categories, though. Paul Murrin in the Masters and Matt Carr in the Singlespeeds (!) both did the same number of laps (an impressive 23, or 126.5 miles) but in fractionally slower times. Matt Carr’s final lap was a very appropriate finale to the weekend. The Bikefest format requires you to finish your final lap before the 12 hours are up, meaning that Matt ended up putting in a superhuman effort to complete his 23rd lap with just four seconds left on the clock. Even though most of the team competitors (and quite a few of the trade stands) had packed up and gone home, there were still enough people left to give him a rousing, and well-deserved, cheer.
In the Open Women category, Melanie Alexander took top spot. Her and partner Richard Holmes are training for the TransRockies stage race and raced the twelve hours mostly together. Singlespeed racer Jenn Hopkins pulled out all the stops to stay in touch but had to settle for second. Third was another Bikemagic TransWales competition entrant, Fi Spotswood.
Other winners included Paul Murrin (Master Men), Sarah Laffery (Master Women), Keith Sheridan (Vet Men), Alison Cooper (Vet Women), Matt Carr (Singlespeed), Paul Hooper (Fun Men), Vickie Margetts (Fun Women), Nigel Muntz (6hr Open Men), Guy Kesteven (6hr Master Men), David Poole (6hr Veteran Men), Paul Stevens (6hr Singlespeed) and Simon Smith (6hr Fun).
And then everyone had to get home, which after 12 hours of racing was no mean feat – several riders had to cut their races short in order to not arrive home in the early hours of Monday. The team/solo split divided the racers – there was a lot to be said for racing against only other soloists but the arena did get a bit quiet and there was that getting-home thing. More changes are afoot for 2007, though – next year it’ll be the 12 hour on Saturday and the 6 hour on Sunday. Both will have solo, team, mixed and a new pairs category. Plus there may well be another top-flight championship event on the Sunday – more news as we get it. Ritchey will still be on board, so 2007 should be even better…
Results and photos and stuff are available at www.bristolbikefest.com.