The Grizedale Mountain Bike Challenge celebrates its eighth birthday on Sunday, September 21 in the Lake District.
The mountain bike endurance charity event has raised over £50,000 since its inception, and always proves a popular challenge for all abilities of rider.
This year’s course is ten miles longer than previous years at forty miles and as such is sure to produce a sense of achievement for those that cross the finishing line.
BikeRadar contributor and 2007 GMBC rider, Marcus Farley talks to co-organiser Richard Staton about the event’s history.
BikeRadar: How did the Challenge come about?
Richard Staton: The Challenge started in 2001, the year of Foot and Mouth. It was touch and go as to whether or not it would actually go ahead but the Forestry Commission decided in September of that year to open up its land even though there were farms close by still with the disease. So, go ahead it did with 100 entrants who followed a much reduced course, but one which the Challenge has roughly followed ever since! Essentially at that time the organising team was just made up of a group of mates who used to ride together and fancied having a go at an event having competed in NAMBs, NEMBAs and Polaris Challenge events all over the UK. We spotted even then though that the future was in enduros not cross country ‘race’ style events.
BR: how it’s gone over the years? Has it been a rocky ride?
RS: Since 2001 the event has grown to its current level of around 700 riders and enjoyed generous sponsorship by The North Face who constructed a trail in Grizedale, completed in the 2005/6 season. We’ve had quite a few different courses of varying success, but its popularity has never been in doubt, as we have entrants who come back year after year! The weather has always been a factor as well, with last year seeing probably the worst conditions ever but ironically one of the best courses to date. The key to a good course has been to offer a genuine mix of terrain with not too much of anything. Signage is something we worked very hard at getting right and it did take us two or three years! We now use black plastic A5 boards with a bright orange arrow stuck to it and then stapled to a post, anything else just gets removed or stolen in an attempt to disrupt the event! Fortunately we have never had any very serious accidents, although the Air Ambulance has been out a few times over the years!
BR: What type of competitors line up on the start line?
RS: The great thing about Grizedale is it doesn’t matter who you are, so long as you’re ‘bike’ fit. The youngest we have had is 12 and the oldest in his 80s! We get Pro riders, Barrie Clarke has been a regular, finishing in astonishing times, through to groups of mates out to beat each other or just do better than last year. Some take over six hours to finish which is a long day out but they do get round!
BR: It’s hardness is legendary, just what is it that makes it so demanding?
RS: Entrants are surprised at just how hard it is as there are longer challenges out there! This is the nature of Grizedale, which is best described as an egg box, you’re either descending or climbing, and unfortunately the climbs are far longer! We also stay within the forest which means the course bends and twists about making it even harder, as you tend to find yourself climbing back up that hill unbeknown to you that you just enjoyed coming down! But if it was easy that would be very dull and I don’t think people would come back so much!
BR: Can you tell us about what you do with the money raised, which charities benefit?
RS: Our main charity is Marie Curie Cancer Care and the Challenge must have raised well over 50k by now. We did decide a few years ago to split the money across Marie Curie and others, which have been Eden Valley Children’s Hospice near Carlisle and the North West Air Ambulances.
BR: How do people enter this year’s event?
RS: The best way to enter is to go to www.gmbc.co.uk, and download an entry form and sponsorship form. You can also use Paypal on there if you wish, although we still require a signed entry form for our records.