The UK’s premier Lo-Fi bike packing event kicks off this coming weekend. Affectionately referred to as a ‘scrappy rolling picnic through Britain's ever changing landscapes,’ it has attracted all sorts of weird and wonderful but like minded souls. For 2021 we see the return of the ‘normal’ staged format (if you can call riding the length of the UK predominantly off-road normal) after last years hobo edition. More on that later…
Basically a dirty version of LEJOG - Land’s end to John O’Groats. Riders will tackle around 2000km of some of the best trails, singletrack and gravel that the UK has to offer. Throw in some shitty weather, midges, stale service station food, mountains, glens, valleys, more mountains and maybe even some angry badgers, will altogether make for a melting pot of entertainment that we, the readers and dot watchers, can enjoy from the comfort of our couch whilst the riders have to get stuck in and sweat it out. Nae luck!
The GBDURO actually follows the GB Divide route, the brainchild of The Racing Collective (TRC). Originally conceived as an Individual Time Trial (ITT), a self supported gravel, bikepacking adventure that anyone can tackle at any time. If you think you can better Lachlan Morton’s insane completion time he posted during the inaugural GBDURO then head on over to the website for more information and start planning.
Last year the pandemic forced The racing Collective to run GBDURO in a self-sufficient' format rather than self-supported. To get your head around the difference see the following:
Expect to see another Hobo edition in the not to distant future, but not everyone is quite ready for that yet - this year's edition has reverted back to the conventional self-supported-stripping petrol station shelves bare of chocolate milk... edition
For the statos out there, GBDURO is split into 4 stages of varying distances and elevation.
Stages will start at 8am sharp and the riders will have 3 days to complete each stage with the exception of stage 4 where they will only be allowed 1.66 days. (I’ll leave you to do the sums…)
Any rider that misses the start of the stage will not be given a GC (General Classification) placing, but their dot will stay live on the tracking website so we can still cheer them on to the end. We don’t have a broom wagon as the budget wouldn’t stretch, but you get the idea. We’re screwed if the riders club together out of protest to form a Grupetto… As we have to return to our regular life at some point.
There will be a general regroupement at the finish of each stage to allow all the riders to unwind, gather themselves, share their stories with fellow competitors and hopefully us so we can get a bit of content for the stage round ups to share with those following the event from afar. I dare say a beer or two will be cracked open around a camp fire before being set loose again on the next stage. So added impetus to arrive at the checkpoints with little time to spare. They’ve come to the wrong event if they are expecting team buses, chefs, soigneurs, warm comfy hotels and a smorgasbord of grub.
Stage 1 will be the grand depart from beginning at Land’s End to checkpoint 1 in Ysbyty Cynfyn (not a spelling mistake…) mid Wales. To ease the riders in they will tackle one of the longer stages at 635km in length with 11700m of ascent. Here’s me thinking the South was flat!
Ysbyty Cynfyn (yup, still had to double check I spelled that correctly) to checkpoint 2 at Garrigill which is pretty much smack bang in the middle of the UK. ‘The easy stage.’ Shorter and flatter at only 460km long with only 6700m of climbing.
Leaving England behind, from Garrigill, our riders will enter the wild North for the first time finishing at checkpoint 3 at Fort Augustus on the shores of Loch Ness. 485km this time and another 6700m of vert. By now, even the mountain goats will start complaining.
By now the riders have almost reached the top of the hill. The shortest of the 4 stages at 380km, sees the riders leave the Bonny Bonny Banks heading for the sprint finish at John O’Groats. A mere 4400m of climbing will finish off those hardy enough to make it this far.
So there you have it. 2000 odd kilometres and a few times up Mount Everest separates our heroes from eternal glory. It’s their choice if they want to smash it, tour it or something in between. The lowest aggregate time for all 4 stages will be crowned the winne… will get lots of kudos from their fellow riders and the respect from the rest of us following from afar.
the riders (some of)
First home in the past have included a ringer from Australia and one of the UK’s original bike-packing drifters. Both are too feart (adjective - Scottish) to turn up this year so the crown is up for grabs!
However, it's not always about who can cover the distance the quickest, although there are timed stages so I guess it is… but about the random stories that come to light, often from the unlikeliest of riders or circumstances. That’s why we follow dots and scour social media right?
Nevertheless, we’ve put together some names of riders you may want to keep an eye on that could either smash it all the way or entertain us in some random way.
In an unashamedly clickbait like manner, we have a number of riders who should offer us all some entertaining dot watching. In no particular order…. after checking their social media follower numbers ;-)…. We have the following:
First up and being totally unbiased, a fellow Scot that doesn’t really need an introduction. Multi discipline biking bad ass and ambassador for all things outdoors is Lee Craigie. She’ll no doubt crush most of the field (I’ve been on the receiving end in the past) all the while having a laugh and getting the craic with her fellow riders.
Our very own Angus Young. Flying the flag for The Racing Collective and fresh from pinching my crown at this years Pan Celtic Race. Wishing you a headwind all the way buddy… Building up a impressive Palmares he’ll be one to keep a close eye on. Or in my recent experience, a very distant eye on! Being second home in 2019 and then having to scratch in 2020 means there are some demons to slay. Will 3rd time be the charm?
As difficult a surname as my own! Can ride her bike for hours on end with piss all sleep. Has the silverware to prove it. At home on wider flat bars but seems to be able to go a dropped bar jobber just as well. Will she be able to translate her 24hr into 200+hrs?
A newbie to bikepacking bunch racing by all accounts as I believe he prefers to ride on his tod most of the time is Mark Beaumont. Keeps himself to himself, quite low key, so it’ll be interesting to see how he copes with the shoulder barging when the gun sounds. Elbows out Mark!
A GBDURO veteran ;-) Philippa Battye co-organised the inaugural edition of the event and was the first female home . She has racked up an impressive amount of race miles in the big events across Europe and beyond.
Chris Bower & Sharon Calton
Unfinished business for this pair. Returning after scratching in 2020 in Appleby. Turns out that every cloud has a silver lining however… Checking into a local hotel which happens to be a rather nice castle atop a hill. It transpired that the hotel held weddings after a chat with the chef. The following April they returned again clad in their cycling clobber to tie the knot. So this is honeymoon part 2!
Another GBduro vet. Took part in the aforementioned Hobo Edition. Back again and looking for a bit of redemption after a mishap going into checkpoint 3. A cruel end to an impressive ride so close to the finish in such a punishing edition of GBDURO. He’ll be giving the mighty Corrieyairack Pass plenty of respect this year. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. You’ll nail it this time pal.
Likes to ride mtb’s fast so this should be a piece of piss for her. As you really only need to go slow and steady for about a week solid. An event like this has been on the radar for a while and reckon she’ll give it laldi. No pressure! Easily recognisable by the grotesquely coloured bike! Boke! Sorry not sorry ;-) My mate has a Space Chicken. I don't ride with him that often....
Jim, an adopted highlander like myself. Funny accent so don’t think he’s a proper local but will be shouting him on nonetheless. Another totally unbiased inclusion ;-) Likes to go high and far. Lover of the outdoors and has a similar mantra of ‘if you can walk it you can bike it.’ Starting to become a familiar face on ‘the circuit.’ If you want to see some inspirational photos keep an eye on him.
Likes to go quick on tarmac but has been putting in the long miles. One of only two riders to have completed the TRC Trans Series events this year. TransEngland, TransWales & TransScotland. He’s been going well and been building up to the biggie. Sounds like he’s hooked and becoming one of ‘us.’ Hope he’s left something in the tank!
For anyone that feels aggrieved that they haven’t been given a mention then tough. I’ve a restricted word count and my dinner isn’t going to make itself! Joking aside, these types of events have a way of surprising us, as quite often there will be a random punter that’ll silently fly under the radar and stick it to the favourites. ‘Mon the underdog!
We try to be as diverse as possible and have always strived to have an equal gender split. The goal is to eventually have a 50/50 split which we have fallen just short off this year. However, 43% of riders this year are female which is near as damn it. You may correct me as I haven’t done any research on the matter but I can’t think of many other mixed events of this type than can boast as high a figure. We’re up from 31% in 2019 and 27% in 2020 so we’re moving in the right direction. I’m sure the quality and depth of this year's female field won’t fail to inspire others to sign up in the future. It’s going to be a very tight race and they’ll be knocking lumps out of each other all the way to the end.
For some those hardy souls who’ll be lining up at the bottom of the UK (I sit here typing away in the Highlands of Scotland so it always feels like uphill to John O’Groats) have more than likely been inspired by the antics or exploits of fellow riders tackling similar events and thought - ‘that looks fun’ or ‘I reckon I can do that’ or ‘I’d love to be part of that.’ They’ll probably not care how or when they will finish, they may not even finish but their stories will be just as compelling as those at the pointy end of the field, if not more so.
For a snap shot of all those riding hit the button below and you'll be transported to a popular vanity app to see who all is taking part.
.What’s that all about then? This will be the more serious part of what is quickly becoming a novel… “Chris, can you write a wee intro for the ride please” he said!
From the outset, The Racing Collective have tried to promote responsible travel where possible. Cyclists and bikepackers who generally have a leave-no-trace ethos, face a difficult decision when planning that must-do ride or race abroad. Life, work, costs and time normally dictate how we get to and from events. In most circumstances this involves a couple of flights which will use up your yearly allocation of CO2 emissions! I have been guilty myself but I’m learning. Hopefully recent climate change reports and the upcoming climate change conference will help bring the issue to the forefront of the wider public. Together we can make a difference. This year we have been overwhelmed and humbled by the riders' commitment to get to and from the event either under their own steam or using public transport. An honourable mention to some of our overseas riders; Martin Biseenbacker who will be driving all the way from Denmark in a leccy car. I wonder what the car's range is… Sofie Joore and Tim van Gemert will both be making their way from the Netherlands by train, ferry and pedal power. Thanks folks!
Further night time reading below if you can spare us a few minutes.
tracking the gbduro
We’ll be (when real life doesn’t get in the way) providing daily updates of how our intrepid adventurers are faring. There will be reports and round-ups of the individual stages, and of course a final wrap up of the results and stories.
There’s only so much we can do from behind a screen, so get involved, shout on your local hero or get out on the trail to offer encouragement or abuse as they battle their way through peat bogs or sheep shit strewn bridleways. Post up on your preferred medium, hashtag to death (non-official hashtags can be found below to use) and spread the word. Enjoy the show folks. It’s going to be a great ride.
#GBDURO21 #GBDIVIDE #noprizenosupport #noflyride #goneferal #ridetorewild #routetonetzero #beyondleavenotrace #bemoremike #theracingcollective
To get you daily fix of how it's all unfolding click below!
a note on the writer
These pieces will unlikely be proof read or censored in any way, so any spelling or grammatical errors are entirely my own mistakes. I may occasionally use bad language, but this is only when I struggle to think of the appropriate word from my limited vocabulary. Any pedantry will not be accepted and will be dealt with in a swift and sarcastic manner. Also, if I cause any offence I’ll probably have meant it and it’ll likely be merited so you have been warned. I am Deadpool on a bike. Not the bonnie Ryan Reynolds man crush kinda way I must add. You’ll know what I mean if you have ever seen the state of me during a race.
As it turns out there has been some proof reading and some censoring :-( I sneaked in a couple of naughtiness afterwards though!