No Fuss Tour de Ben Nevis 2011 ? The final word?

October 03 2011

It’s over a week since the No Fuss Events Tour de Ben Nevis set out from the Fort William high street and it’s still fresh in the minds of everyone who witnessed it.

Lucky enough to ride the inaugural event last year, it was time to pass the reigns over to John Chennells and Adam Proctor to duel it out in the Orange Bikes camp. Sad not to be competing, I told tales of neck deep puddles, ferocious cattle and competitors so serious the terrain was the least of your worries. After last year’s video, they seemed to know exactly what they were letting themselves in for and weren’t in the slightest perturbed by my amusingly skewed retelling of events.  

John Chennells Orange Bikes tour de ben nevis

John Chennells doesn't believe the hype...

The interesting part for me this year was seeing each step from a completely fresh perspective. Having ridden it before and safe in the knowledge I’d spend most of my day sheltered by the van, I enjoyed watching and chuckling as riders clamoured to see the map and ask the questions praying most heavily on their mind. Amongst those entrants were friends and familiar faces but the most satisfying element was the sheer number of new people doing something like this for the very first time. Last year saw over a hundred riders line up to take on the challenge, this year saw over 320, thanks to you all! 

James Shirley Ruari Watt Tour de Ben Nevis Orange Bikes

Last year's first and second, Ruari Watt and James Shirley...

Perhaps the biggest moment for me was seeing the riders leave the high street. We often go to events with this many riders, but to see them all crawl off down the high street following a procession of pipers held a charm like no other. In some ways it was an ominous start as the sounds droned on, for others it was powerful and enough to fire up the stoniest of hearts. Everyone hears things in different ways, but starting in the high street to such emphatic tones was pure inspiration. What other way is there to start a race this epic in the Highlands of Scotland?

 

 

My day was one of relative fun and relaxation, chatting to people in Fort William high street and invariably answering ‘how much is it worth?’ type questions. As the day rolled on we begun to speculate on who could unseat Ruari Watt, last year’s winner and local trail riding hooligan. Seeing Ruari on a bike is inspiring, he pushes his Five with the subtle style and skill which belie his pure speed. Looking forever in control, you’d be forgiven for thinking Ruari was cruising, but his downhill times show that he’s not just hot on the pedals, but he can contort gravity to his advantage pretty well too. Things were never going to be easy though, James Shirley was on the prowl and with a crop of fresh riders who were largely unknown, the race was definitely anyone’s.

Hannah Barnes Pete Scullion MTBcut Orange Bikes Tour de Ben Nevis

Two of the race favourites, Hannah Barnes and Pete Scullion rocking the disco socks...

In the women’s category all eyes were on local MTBcut rider Hannah Barnes. A heady mix of fitness and technical skill, it would take someone special to unseat her from the top step of any podium. She wins everything from endurance events to the Macavalanche downhill race, big smiles at the startline showed that despite feeling slightly under the weather, she was riding for the good times.

Orange Bikes Tour de Ben Nevis No Fuss

Winston Archibauld Hornblower and Tracey Cashman, always there, always smiling...

What happened out on the hill is largely a mystery to me, a story best told by each of the 320 individuals that did battle and lived to tell the tale (thankfully everyone is still alive…). There is no general theme of what happened on that day, everyone used different tactics, different equipment, different mind games, different motivations to conquer the same challenge. The important thing is that all those who finished, and especially those who didn’t, you all deserve a nod of respect for taking on the challenge and getting through. It’s rare you learn much from an event other than about racing, on the Tour de Ben Nevis you experience much more than general competition.

Orange Bikes No Fuss Events Tour de Ben Nevis

Matt Bowers completed the course in eight hours , determination aplenty...

Watching people come down the Rocky Brae back into Fort William brought a pang of emotion which increased the further back in the field riders got. Weather deteriorating and night drawing ever closer, it was time for me to pack down the display bikes and think about heading back for the prize presentation. The timing housed in the shelter of our spare gazebo we waited for the very last rider down, and as I removed the banners from the railings on the final shoot I couldn’t help reflecting on the spirit of the 'late' finishers.

Orange Bikes Tour de Ben Nevis No Fuss Events

Glad to be back from an epic day in the saddle...

Jonny Baron was one of the guys towards the back, I’ve seen him out and about on a few occasions and always recommended he steps up and gives the Tour de Ben Nevis a go. Nine hours he spent on the hills around Fort William, nine hours! You have the winners, you have the people that cruise in somewhere in the middle, but those who push themselves to the very limit of what’s possible for themselves, they are every bit the hero. Some muster a smile, some are still laughing (probably delirious…), but whatever state you finish you can be proud of your achievement in this particular ‘race’. It might have been a close fight for some, but you’ve definitely beaten the mountain…

Orange Bikes Tour de Ben Nevis No Fuss Events

John Calvert home and dry, heroes one and all...

So what of the winners? Well, first up a definite mention needs to go to Nic Smith, he stormed around the complete course in 3 hours 47 minutes, an absolutely amazing effort. Unfortunately Nic missed one of the dibbing points after the river crossing pushing him way down the overall results board, but the achievement did not go unrecognised! Similarly, Ian Palmer put in a fantastic effort to arrive back to Fort William as the second finisher, but losing out in some of the timed stages he was pushed down to fifth overall.

James Shirley Orange Bikes Tour de Ben Nevis

James Shirley keeping it consistent. Looking focused to Kinlochleven...

Douglas Shearer from I-Cycles took a convincing fourth place in the overall, with consistently fast stage times and a 4:36 finish putting him up there with the best. Third place and on the podium was Ben Arnott, a name we’re not that familiar with but someone I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of with so much emphasis on the new breed of enduro racing. Second place was local enduro pinner James Shirley, a consistent finish from a rapid rider. Taking his Orange Five to the win and keeping the title firmly in Fort William was Ruari Watt…

Orange Bikes Ruari Watt Tour de Ben Nevis

Ruari takes the win, James was playing on his pump track, and Ben Arnott took  third...

In the women’s race, massive goes respect to Helen Jackson for finishing within the five-hour window. Hannah Barnes was just over 30 minutes behind with Sue Rigby and Katrina Brown not far behind. The stages proving to be to Hannah’s advantage, she did enough to take the overall victory and again take top honours at the Tour de Ben Nevis (she was also 13th overall!!).

Hannah Barnes MTBcut Orange Bikes Tour de Ben Nevis

Hannah Barnes taking top honours with Helen Jackson an impressive second.

So to all those who took part, the organisers that made it happen, and everyone who went along to support, thanks for the best event on the calendar. It’s difficult to put across what a great challenge and a wonderful atmosphere this event is, but I for one will definitely see you next year!

Next updates? King of the Mountains results...

Full results…

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