The Alternative Lads' Weekend - CRC Mountain Bike Marathon Weekend Ruthin

When you think of a lads' weekend away, most think of cheap hotels, beers and clubbing. That's not the way the Wightlink Race Team lads went about it this weekend on our visit to Ruthin in North Wales though. Sam, James and I travelled a long five and a half hours drive from the Island to take part in one awesome, action packed Chain Reaction Mountain Bike Marathon Weekend.

Chip Shop Dinner - It's the end of the season!
We set off Friday, taking our time to get up to the site and enjoying the roads in Wales such as the awesome Horseshoe Pass; definitely one that I would like to revisit on a road bike! The remainder of the afternoon was then spent in the pub, or getting dinner from the chippy and discussing what an awesome first season we've had together as a team.

Camping next to a duck pond turned out not to be our brightest idea, and Friday night wasn't the best night's sleep; but we woke up early on Saturday to bright sunshine and the prospect of bike riding, what more could we ask for? After a leisurely breakfast we set off to Coed Llandegla Trail Centre, about fifteen minutes drive from our camp-site. I've been to a few of the trail centres in Wales before, including the famous Coed-Y-Brenin, and knew we were in for a treat. The place didn't disappoint; dry trails, warm sunshine, whooping descents and rumbling board walk made for an awesome morning of riding, and a good bit of bike-handling practice for us roadies turned mountain bikers for the weekend. After an hour or so of riding we stopped in the great centre café and had coffee and lunch in the sun.

Heading back to the camp-site, most of the afternoon was spent preparing the bikes and lounging around in the sun with a few cuppas. Then after the slightly under-provisioned, but tasty 'pasta party' we got our kit on, ready for the night marathon: 40km of off-road riding in the pitch black with 150 other riders!

We started close behind the lead-out van in the packed field and then after riding through the town it was straight out onto the trails. Unfortunately, as soon as Sambo hit the off-road section his chain snapped! Despite being able to fix it relatively quickly the entire field passed us, so rather than hoping for a top ten finish the objective for us was then just to pass as many riders as possible.
The more riders we passed, the more our mood improved, and after a few very fast descents we reached the cake and coffee feed station in great spirits. After a quick re-fuel it was another epic climb before the longest descent I have ever done on a mountain bike! Seriously awesome! Disk brakes steaming,  rear-ends skidding, we hurtled down the side of the mountain in a long snake of riders; with adrenaline levels through the roof. It was then just a short ride back along the road to the finish, where we discovered we had overtaken more than a few riders, and had actually come in the top twenty! Not bad considering our fairly relaxed approach and mechanical handicap at the start.

Fuelling Up - Ready to Ride!!
Waking up Sunday morning was a slightly stiff affair, but we were keen to get going on the day marathon. We set off with the 800 other riders from the start at 10am and after a short lead-out through the town we were soon onto one hell of a road ascent, and my legs certainly weren't going to let me forget about my efforts the previous night. I crested the summit about 5th in the now strung out group of riders, and pretty much stayed in that position for the remainder of the 80km ride.

80km might not sound that much, but with 2900 meters of vertical ascent in the route, and 1350 meters the night before on the 50km Night Marathon route, you certainly feel it in your legs. Mine were killing me. Cramp set in about 50km into the ride, I expect due to de-hydration from the night before, and from that point on every slight ascent was pretty damn painful. However, it was incredibly enjoyable; a fantastic route, with very varied terrain and endless descents and single track; it reminded me why I love mountain biking as much as road riding.

The whole marathon took me around 4hrs 10mins, after getting stuck behind an ambulance picking up a stricken rider for about 10 minutes (don't worry nothing serious). That placed me 4th out of 800 participants, a very pleasing result for a roadie come mountain biker!
It was an incredible ride, and whilst I did it almost entirely on my own, as Jimbo and Sam decided to do the 55km route, the sense of team success on our return was great. All three of us can't wait for the 2013 season, it's going to be a good one! And I have a feeling we'll be doing a fair bit of mountain biking at times as well, to break up the tarmac training.

A few stats from the weekend:

Night Marathon:

  • 40km (25 miles) Off-road
  • 1350 meters of vertical ascent
  • Finished around 20th of 150 starters
Day Marathon:
  • 80km (50 miles) Off-road
  • 2900 meters of vertical ascent
  • Finished 4th out of 800 starters
+ Trail Centre Riding

= One Awesome Weekend!


  1. I think CRC Mountain Bike Marathon is a great way to spend a weekend, even for those fitness fanatics who are grooms to be, it would be the perfect place for a stag party!


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