Friday, 16 April 2010
Best of British
There are some things Yorkshire does well: the Black Sheep Brewery, Climbing Works rock climbing centre in Sheffield and the Town Street Tavern in Horsforth (just don’t buy the Jungle Juice.) And then there are things Yorkshire does very well – one of those being cross country mountain biking which is lucky because on 24 April the UCI Cross Country World Cup / kicks off in Dalby Forest near Pickering next weekend. It’s the first time in a decade England has hosted a leg of the World Cup (there are nine in total) and sees the best mountain bikers from across the globe compete on the 6.5km course. It sits in an area just under one square mile making it pretty spectator friendly. But if you fancy a slightly larger challenge than balancing your Clif Bar and Lucozade on your knees as you watch, you still have time to sign up for the Dalby Dare which is taking place during the weekend. It’s a public mass participation race which sees riders cycle a timed lap of the World Cup course under race conditions before plunging off onto some of Dalby’s other excellent trails. Think you’re hard enough?
Crossing the border into Scotland, Fort William will once again be the setting for the UK instalment of the Downhill World Cup event on 5 and 6 June. This race is legend with some of mountain biking’s greatest moments being played out on the course (par example - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiXh2bJ3SXk). It’s also a great opportunity to get to grips with the trails of the Nevis range which open on 10May so aspiring gravity gods can test their skills on the ‘Off Beat Downhill’ run before the pros descend on the area. And it doesn’t have to be all about extreme mountain biking. Last year the Nevis red run opened, a 5.5km route accessed by gondola, becoming an immediate hit with its intermediate-friendly planning. Two words: midge nets.
Over in Ireland, 22 August sees the inaugural Sky Ride Etape Hibernia kick off in County Clare, starting and finishing in the town of Ennis. The road challenge is 84 miles long and open to anyone aged 18 to 80 (which probably seems quite restrictive if you’ve ever ridden in the Alps and been overtaken by a 94-year-old on the Col de la Croix Fer.) Particpants have around six hours to complete the course which traces the beautiful west coast for a large part – let’s hope the sea winds are kind. For a taste of the off-road riding in Ireland, check out Break the Cycle MBR which has a feature on the Emerald Isle or talk to First Tracks Guiding who run mountain bike courses in County Down and County Armagh. If you want to ride on location then you can book accommodation with Rostrevor Holidays.
And finally into Wales where the Tour of Pembrokeshire is back for its third year. Sportives such as this have become extremely popular in the last few years with great routes springing up around the country. The ToP offers three distance choices – depending on your fitness you can sign up for a 63, 84 or 117-mile route. Each one starts and finishes in Saundersfoot and takes in an ample portion of the Pembrokeshire coast. Cycling traffic free roads in the area is possible without a gruelling 117-mile race though. Sustrans’ Brunel Trail runs from Neyland Marina (opposite Pembroke Dock) up to Johnston and is a gentle four-mile trip following the Cleddau estuay. You may not earn a huge post-ride pasta feast but you will be able to soak up the atmosphere of the ToP without busting a lung in the process.