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Josh Wins #GBDURO20

Josh Wins #GBDURO20

Where to begin...

What an incredible race #GBDURO20 has turned out to be! At 8am on Saturday 1st August, 15 riders set off from Lands End on the major bikepacking race of this most unusual of years.
As will be detailed below, the race was presented with a new format. Now more than ever, simply finishing the race is a staggering feat. As we've put this blog together, we've found ourselves wishing we could tell the stories of all 15 riders following their departure from Land's End. All heroes whether they went the distance or not. At the time of writing, just Josh and Jason have finished, with Mark & Gail STILL battling it out for the final place on the podium.
But for now, we'll run through the stories of the three protagonists who (initially) seemed likely to occupy that podium, as well as get the take on the race from Dan from Breakaway Digital, who was travelling up and down the country to cover the race on behalf of both the organisers (The Racing Collective) and ourselves.
 

A New Format

The challenge of hosting such a race responsibly brought with it a new format: the riders had to ride completely self-sufficiently. No shops, no stocking up on supplies, no assistance whatsoever.
Each rider had to set off carrying not just their usual clothing & equipment required for the duration, but also every last calorie-rich consumable it would take to fuel their bodies to carry the whole lot.
It is truly impossible to overstate the vastness in difference between 'self-supported' and 'self-sufficient' when considering an undertaking like this, and it must be said that even finishing this year's GBDURO is a sublime achievement.
As well as this format change, The Racing Collective imposed a no-fly rule on entrants heading to the race from abroad. The special mention due here is for former pro-racer & mountain man, Svein Tuft, who simply rode to the start line from his home in Andorra (trailer in tow!)
Many dot-watchers and bike racing fans deemed the event impossible to complete, whilst others sat back with quiet trepidation. We all knew this was going to be a good one...

ANGUS YOUNG

Angus, Storms & The Perfect Opening

Having finished second to Lachlan Morton at the inaugural GBDURO back in 2019, Angus came into the race as a very strong contender indeed - possibly even the favourite. His form was certainly looking positive, following setting the record on (our very own) Jim Barrow's #SD300 route at the start of July.

At the start of the race, Angus Young announced his presence in the race with formidable pace. Reaching Bristol 24 hours into the race (with less than an hour stationary!), he opened up an impressive initial lead over Josh.

However, after a night spent out in a pretty hairy storm, Angus became hypothermic and, on the fifth morning of the race, scratched. In his own words, he knew he could probably carry on, but it would've meant taking serious risks if his body did not recover by the time he reached some of the mountainous passes further north in the race.

In true Angus style, after scratching he stuck around with race photographer Dan to cheer on other riders as they came past.

We're certain it's just a matter of time before the young talent takes the honours at a premier ultra race.

 

 

Angus' Take

GBDURO was always a huge target for me, it's probably the closest thing as to what I would describe as my home race. I just had to ride my own race and stick to plan. That being to ride hard and stop infrequently, thats how it worked for the first few hundred Km. I reached Bristol about 24 hours into the race having been stationary for less than an hour.

Nearing the end of day four, the high winds were making crossing the Dales quite tough. It started to rain just before a 20km steady road descent. I was getting cold very quickly and couldn't get my HR above 100. The sun went down and the weather persisted - I was shivering uncontrollably and needed to find shelter to get warm and dry.

The level of cold that I was, was indescribable. Priorities quickly changed from racing to survival, so I took off all my wet kit, put on my dry fleece, and got in my sleeping bag. I got a full 7 hours sleep, but after an hour of riding again in the morning I found myself in another shivery heap being sick at the side of the road.

It was clear that my body was just not able to recover from the deep set cold, having been wrecked from the days of riding beforehand. I knew that I was lucky where I was, insofar as I could bail to a hotel/bnb/hospital if things went further wrong. However, in the mountains ahead, I might not have the same "luck". I scratched and fortunately took shelter in a couple of local dotwatchers house for the night.

I was overwhelmed by the moral support that I was given along the way dozens of people came out to cheer me on and all remained socially distant and responsible - thank you!

Onwards and upwards, there will always be more races!!

Angus' Wheels

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JASON BLACK

Jason being Jason

Jason's travels of the world are often characterised by drama.
Under an evening storm, he took the win at the Bikingman Ultra in Laos, after bonking so hard during the daytime (and having run out of money) that he begged for food off of locals just to finish.
At the Race Around Rwanda (a slightly more forgettable race for Josh after running through his 1 and only set of brake pads in the first DAY), Jason spent the two days prior to the start on the toilet, unable to keep any food/energy down. Described by friend-of-HUNT Ryan Le Garrec, "he started the race three hours later than his rivals, on an empty stomach. At CP1 he was still empty, tried to eat, puked 15km later, came back to CP1 to see the doctor... slept a long night and then went on to finish the race... in 6th!"
GBDURO was no different for the Irishman, who, whilst running strongly in third, snapped his carbon saddle rails on the Wednesday, 5 days into the race. This would've done his morale no favours, having already spent days waging mental war on his seemingly-erratic Garmin. The fix? He clamped either side of the snapped railed, and cut a hole in his saddle so that he could tighten the clamp bolt as much as was physically possible.
Despite the saddle now being in the wrong place, Jason held his second position for five days, all the way to John O'Groats, finishing on Monday 10th August at around 9.30am.

Jason's Take

So delighted to have battled on and taken second place in the off road self-sufficient 2000k GBDURO race from Land's End to John O Groats. Huge thank you to all the well wishes I’ve received and to the sponsors.

Processing what was just the most mind-blowing adventure at GBDURO. There is something special being removed from the world, even for only a very short time... relying solely on your own ability to survive, without access to simple creature comforts like food and water. Sleeping in a hedge for a few hours as you race through the most beautiful mountains of Wales, England, and Scotland, is so gratifying and grounding.

Spending time in your own mind can be that double-edged sword of dangerous and necessary. Being stripped bare in life is such a humbling feeling, because it’s only then I really get to see the wood from the trees.

I lost my baby brother Billy 23 years ago today, and I spent the most remarkable day laughing/crying with him as we both flew free and solo on the handlebars all day... He was one of the main reasons why I’m on a bike.. ❤️ And you never get over your baby brother, you just learn to live with it.

Jason's Wheels

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JOSH IBBETT

Josh: Back to winning ways

Sometimes, we give Josh a bit (a lot) of stick at HUNT HQ for not having won anything since his triumph at the Transcontinental Race in 2015. For 99% of riders, winning is far from the point of these races. They're as much about self-discovery and adventure, as they are about being at the pointy end at the finish.

But, for that remaining 1%, the superhuman and seemingly tireless ultra-endurance racer, they race to win. We couldn't be happier for Josh for finally putting it all together perfectly in an absolutely class ride at the 2020 GBDURO.

He demonstrated his experience by allowing Angus to open up an early lead, but just rode at his own pace. This works both ways, too. He could've easily sat back & relaxed in the final third of the race once his victory looked certain. Josh kept the chain tight and made sure the margin for error was as small as possible as he closed in on the finish line.

Josh reached John O'Groats at 1.53am on Sunday 9th August, becoming the second winner of the race, and reminding the world why on his day he's among the very best in the world.

We caught up with him after the finish (whilst allowing enough time for what we can only assume was a massacre of a meal), and you can find out what he had to say below...

Josh's Take

How did you feel coming into the race?

Coming into the race I was just looking forward to get out there and have some time to relax. Life has been busy since lockdown so I needed to get back out there

 

Angus put in a pretty impressive start. It was clear you planned to ride at your own pace and let him get up the road. Do you put this down to experience, or is this more just what you're like as a rider?

I knew Angus would start hard, but experience told me I needed to ride my own race for the first few days. The plan was to do so for the first 3-4 days and then reassess and cut back in sleep if needed. As it was this plan was forced into action by the need to survive the storm in the Yorkshire dales... catching and passing Angus was a bonus at this point

 

Talk to us about the self-sufficient element. Obviously you managed your nutrition well - do you think this format suited you particularly well, or did it not make too much of a difference to your actual race management?

The self sufficiency really wasn’t an issue for me. In some respects it made it easier as I never had to search for food and I knew exactly what I had and when I needed to eat. The only downside was that it made the bike quite heavy for the first few days, but the more I ate the lighter the bike got!

 

Would you like to see more self-sufficient races like this? Do you think they will take off?

I think we may see more self sufficient races... I’ve been wondering about cooking more on races anyway as it does offer an element of convenience with a marginal weight penalty. This experience has confirmed my thoughts on the subject... I think a stove may now become part of my kit list. If I didn’t have a stove for the dales situation in this race, there is no way I would have finished

 

What was the biggest struggle/adversity (if not fuelling)?

The biggest struggle was the storm in the dales. If I went inside to get warm my race was over, so it was a choice of surviving it and battling through or pulling out, and I just wasn’t ready to pull out

 

Good to see you back at the pointy end of a race. With some doubts over whether Further will proceed, what's next for you?

I’m super pleased to have finished and won. It was a bit of a personal battle for me... I haven’t won for a while and I needed to prove to myself that I could again. Hopefully I can ride this wave of confidence to more success whenever COVID allows

Josh's Wheels

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