FUEL10K was up in the Highlands last month to fuel up the riders at the 24 hour endurance mountain bike race known as Strathpuffer. If you don’t know about this epically hardcore challenge, then you need to – read our inside story here.
Strathpuffer is a sleepy little town to the North of Inverness which for 364 days of the year, you wouldn’t really notice as you make your way into the highlands. But for 24 hours each January, 1000 extraordinary riders gather on the mountainside in the savagery of the Scottish winter to test their mettle against The Strathpuffer.
The concept is simple – there is an 11km route starting from a tent at the bottom of the hill which winds up a long dirt-road for about 5 km, and then from the top follows small tracks through rock gardens and forests, until you emerge back at the tent. The track comes into the tent, where riders are electronically tagged before commencing their next lap. And the next. And the next – for 24 hours. You can race as a solo rider if you’re completely mad, or as a pair for the mostly mad. The quad teams are generally short of a few marbles too. There are a few teams of 8 and 10 too, which is for the entry-level nutters.
FUEL10K sponsors the event and we give out our protein-boosted products for free throughout to keep the muscles pumping.
The event starts at 10am, with bagpipes sounding as the riders run 100 metres to their bikes, jostling to get on and out ahead of the pack – 30 minutes later the fastest bikes are back into the tent, and out again to start the next hill-climb or swap positions with their team-mates.
There was no snow this year, but the temperature sat at minus 3 or 4 at the bottom of the track, and hit -10 at the top. A strong inversion meant the tent was in a freezing cloud through the 24 hours, whilst during the 7 hours of daylight available, the top of the course was above the cloud in beautiful sunshine.
As darkness sets in, so does the pain – it’s 4pm, and there’s 16 hours of gruelling ice to contend with. Brake pads and gear systems are constantly failing as they ice up or fall foul of the heavy usage. At 10pm a firework goes up to signify the halfway line.
As the sun attempts to break through the cloud, it feels a bit more like a field of zombies than a world-class MTB event – everyone is running on auto pilot, as exhausted bodies turn the wheels once again towards the brutal hill-climb. Amazingly, throughout the event there is an atmosphere of festival too – I cannot recommend highly enough the MTB community for a seriously cool bunch of people.
Final laps must be started by 10am, and at 11 the course officially closes. Shattered but elated riders gather in the tent for a rapid prize giving, before heading home to recover. 1st prize for the solo riders is a large piece of stone, engraved with the word Strathpuffer – this event isn’t about the prizes, it’s about finding out if you’ve got what it takes. The winning solo rider this year completed 30 laps, or 330km, if you want to know what you’re up against.
The reason we give out 1000’s of freebies here is that it aligns perfectly with everything FUEL10K believes in. It’s the journey, the sticking the course, the get up and go attitude that we created our breakfast brand for in the first place.
So if all of that sounds like a challenge that you might like to take on, keep an eye out at www.strathpuffer.co.uk for the registration date for next January’s event. FUEL10K also entered 14 riders into the race. If you fancy joining the FUEL10K team next year, let us know and we’ll see what we can do…