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Race report: Whinlatter Duathlon - Sunday November 13, 2011
Posted on: Tuesday 22nd November 2011
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7km Trail Run/18km Mountain Bike/5.5km Trail Run
Clear, crisp autumunal weather greeted competitors at this years Whinlatter duathlon, just west of Keswick in the northern Lake District. Despite the relatively short race distances, Whinlatter is described as 'England's only true mountain forest 'giving a hint as to the severity of the route and to the amount of climbing that is packed into the relatively short distances. This year's race incorporated a brand new course which proved equally as challenging if not harder than previous editions. Designed as a 'Tour of the Forest' the route made full use of the stunning mountain location with it's fantastic network of trails and jaw dropping scenery.
A strong field lined up for the start, including former international fell runner and adventure racer Phil Davis (Team Cyclewise Altura) and last year's second place finisher Chris Hope (Keswick Bikes). Competing for the first time in the solo category, Phil is no stranger to the event, having won the previous two editions as a relay pair. Strong local mountain biker and multisport all rounder Philappa Liles (Keswick) was also back to improve on last year's third place finish.
The initial 7km run took competitors around the newly created Masmill Oakwood trail, With superb panoramic views over the Skiddaw fells and Bassenthwaite Lake nature reserve, home of the Lakeland Osprey. Content to stay with the lead group for the initial fast section Phil moved into the lead once the route started climbing back up the appropriately named 'Heavy Sides'. Following a tough 'Off Piste' section Phil entered T1 in 28:05 followed by Michael Pluckrose (Carlisle Tri) in 29:44, then Chris in 31:06. In the women's race local international orienteer Angela Brand Barker (Keswick Bikes) was clearly on form, leading into T1 in 38:21 followed by Nancy Mclean (Border terriers) in 39:56 and Philappa in 39:32.
The 18km mountain bike section incorporated Whinlatters renowned Blue grade Quercus (latin for oak) and Altura Red trails, a course which becomes more breathtaking as it goes on, in both senses of the word! Starting with a full circuit of the Quercus, with its flowing singletrack and gradual climbs, the route then links onto the Altura South loop, climbing a series of switchbacks to over 500m amidst the awesome backdrop of Grizedale Pike. The top of the climb provides superb views across the peaks of the North Lakes, not to be admired for long as competitors were faced with a huge rock slab marking the start of the long descent back to T2.
Newcomer to multisport Graham Stobbs described the mountain bike course as "a challenge in itself, even without the run preceding it. The uphills were relentless and not like anything I've ever experienced in my life, even when I was 15 years younger and mountain biking regularly, it would have been tough. However, the downhill sections were unbelievable and thoroughly enjoyable. Anyone who hadn't studied the course profile was in for a shock as there was one more long climb to be tackled, which proved the final test of competitors resolve. As Graham Stobbs put it, 'The final climb up the fire break behind the visitor centre finally did me in and I was glad to reach the transition area.'
With an incredible display of strength Phil increased his lead on the mtb section recording 59:56, the fastest bike split of the day and the only rider to go under the hour, entering T2 with a four minute lead. Second place wasn't so clear cut as Chris had steadily reeled in Michael and both exited T2 together.
The final run was a 5.5k circuit made gruelling by the steep and relentless singletrack climb to the summit of Seat How, one of the highest points in the forest. Not content with easing up at this stage, Phil went on to record the fastest second run split coming home a comfortable winner in 1:56:09. Michael broke clear of Chris on the climb finishing second in 2:01:15, followed by Chris in 2:03:19. A consistent performance by Anthony Roberts moved him into fourth place and also first MV50.
Thriving on her strongest discipline, Philippa moved into the lead on the long switchback climb of the South loop. Recording the fastest bike split among the women (1:20:22) enabled Philippa to start the second run with nearly a two minute lead on Angela. Philappa knew there was no time to relax on this tough circuit. At the summit of Seat How Angela had pulled back a minute and now had Philippa in her sights. With just over 2km of mostly fast descent left, Philippa was determined not to relinquish her lead and held on to win in a time of 2:39:10. This was closely followed by Angela in 2:40:03, recording the fastest second run in 38:21 and also first FV50!
Carlisle Tri won the team category With Mark Ryan finishing 10th and David Milligan 28th. The relay category for pairs was won by Morgan Lloyd and Alec Duffield (Big Bear Bikes) storming round in a time of 1:58:34. First mixed pair was Shonah Dobson and Rich Holland (Cross Club) in 2:17:54.
A big thank you to Altura cycle clothing, Cyclewise, Up & Running Keswick for providing fantastic prizes and event support. Also to Whinlatter Forestry for use of such a fantastic venue and facilities, especially Paul Brown working tireslelly in the weeks leading up to the event to ensure trails were clear.