The weather in the weeks leading up to the Tour was not great and the forecast for the day was not looking any better. Competitors were warned the river crossing half way round might be a bit tricky, but none were deterred and at 10am on Saturday morning in (almost) blue skies, 345 riders lined up on Fort William High Street ready to follow the Pipe Band through town, much to the delight of many locals and tourists who were watching. The start process really builds up adrenaline in the riders as they have to stay behind the slow moving band. The riders must feel like lions in a cage! Once they are freed the racers tackle a steep tarmac climb, followed by another, then another before reaching the West Highland Way which takes the race off road and into the mountains.
Special Stage 1 is a technical downhill 17.5km into the route. The winner of this stage was local rider and past Tour winner, Ruari Watt, whose nearest competitor was 6 seconds behind. There is not a lot of rest before the next Special Stage, which is a predominantly uphill charge. The winner of this stage was Huw Oliver who was on a mission after having punctured on Stage 1! Stage 3 is the hike-a-bike, which is long and unforgiving. The first to the top on this stage was Paul Newnham in 33m37s, with the slowest time being over an hour more at 1h42m35s.
To make up for the effort put in on this stage and the route so far, now 40km in, competitors were met at the Lairig bothy with Wynne the butcher’s Famous Irn-Bru sausages and fresh haggis cooked on the BBQ, hot drinks, fresh fruit and savoury snacks.
And then it’s onto the final stretch. After some fast fire road descending, the Tour de Ben Nevis turned into Leanachan Woods winding its way uphill once again, to the final stage of the day, the Blue Crane. This is a very natural, technical downhill that provides all competitors one final test of skill and endurance. The fastest rider on this stage was another local rider, Joe Barnes.
The eventual winner of this year’s Tour was Scottish Cycling coach Paul Newnham, who was both fastest round in 3h31m and strongest over the stages gathering the most points over the day. For the girls the fastest back was British XC Champion, Lee Craigie in 4h26m. Unfortunately Lee missed a timed section, so it was Helen Gaskell who amassed most points over the day and took the overall win for the girls.
The Tour is a tough, epic event that joins mountain bikers of all experiences and abilities, nothing proving that more than knowing that whilst the winner was only 10 minutes from the finish line, the last person was only just leaving Kinlochleven! The event was a great success with many tired but happy people crossing the finish line. Although nothing made them happier that heading straight to Wynne the butchers for a delicious hot pie and a mug of soup – surely that in itself is worth riding 70km round the Ben!
No Fuss Events would like to thank everyone involved in the organisation, Orange Mountain Bikes, Wynne’s the Butcher, Continental Tyres, Alcan, The Nevis Centre and all the competitors for making the Tour de Ben Nevis 2013 a success. For full results see the No Fuss website and for photos check Facebook and Sportograf.com.