Amazingly, 2009 is the tenth anniversary of the Merida MTB Marathon Series, and with the first event in Builth Wells taking place in sunny conditions over the Easter weekend, the MTB event season is well and truly under way.
The Marathon was based at a new venue, the Royal Welsh Showground, and incorporated the now traditional Exposure Lights Big Night Out night enduro on Saturday night. 240 riders braved the new 50km course, and with dry conditions the quickest riders were back in under two hours. All finishers got an appropriately-coloured hi-viz Buff, and one lucky rider won a set of Exposure lights.
Incoming riders retired to the event marquee for cake, tea, coffee and possibly perhaps something a little stronger – apparently the lights went out around 2am. A cold, clear night preceded actual proper sunshine on Sunday morning, with the main event’s start time being a slightly later-than-usual 10.30am to allow more recovery time for those who’d ridden the night before (or just stayed up too late…).
Before the 900 riders set out into the hills, the Merida prize draw took place. Previously Merida has awarded a bike to a lucky winner, but this time out they gave out five half-price vouchers – more winners, and more choice. Each of the three courses was new, with the middle-distance 68km option being, perhaps inevitably, the most popular.
If you were riding, check out www.rightplacerighttime.co.uk for event photos from regular Merida photographer Jon Brooke and his colleague Lauris Naglins.
The next event in the Merida MTB Marathon Series will be 15/16 May in the new location of Crickhowell. Then it’ll be another new venue to the Meridas (but certainly not to mountain biking), Llanwrtyd Wells on 4/5 July. The final two rounds are at the traditional locations of Selkirk (1/2 August) and Ruthin (19/20 September), with those last three all including the Gore Bike Wear road sportive on their respective Saturdays.
There’s also the regular trip to foreign lands, with the “Merida Marathon on Holiday” round at Bad Goisern, Austria on 18 July. They’ve got proper mountains over there and everything, and the Merida organisers have accommodation, travel and package deals on offer.
Full details of all 2009 Merida Marathon events are at www.mtb-marathon.co.uk (or head straight for the Crickhowell event page). You can enter any of the events either by the traditional postal method or through the new online entry service – the entry page is at www.mtb-marathon.co.uk/entry_forms/entry_forms.php.