As 2023 comes to a close, we can look back at an eventful (literally) year. With Mountains of the Merfynion making its debut, this year saw three events take place and almost 100 riders sign up. Some old faces returned and many new faces appeared, but all the riders came home with stories to tell.
And when looking back, it is these stories from the road that stick in our memory. Ultra-endurance cycling is a strange sport; we love to celebrate those rides of sporting perfection but are equally fascinated when it all goes wrong!
Therefore, this year we’ve decided to remember those stories by assigning some very tongue-in-cheek awards to celebrate the most memorable.
The Digital Detox Award
Pavel Macháček (with an honourable mention for Thomas Becker)
Losing your phone during an ultra is surprisingly common, but Pavel was unfortunate enough to have this happen on the first night of MOTM23. He spent several hours retracing his route to look for it without luck.
Unperturbed, he continued onwards and managed to complete the entire ride without a phone. Given he was in an unfamiliar country, this was particularly impressive. But even more incredibly, he managed to unintentionally time his ride so that he didn’t need to make use of any the three diversions on the route. Who knows how he would have found his way around if he had been less fortunate!
We also have to give an honourable mention to Thomas Becker, who left his phone at a petrol station on day one of WWC23. This cost him several hours going back to collect it and he ended up finishing in second place overall.
The Suffering in Style Award
Maria Hernandez Enriquez
In this case, a photo says far more than we can here. Maria may not have finished WWC23, but they managed to look more relaxed and stylish 36 hours into an 800-kilometre ride than most of us can dream of during a day ride to the beach.
The Gary Lineker Appreciation Award
Most of us get to a hotel at the end of a long ride and crawl into bed almost immediately. However, if you’re a true fan of the beautiful game and find yourself doing some cooldown stretches at 10:30pm on a Saturday night then apparently it’s only natural to tune in for a bit of Match of the Day.
Patrick confessed to doing this during WWC23, although he admitted that the Lineker and company’s witty punditry wasn’t quite enough to stave off the sleep demons. After a few minutes, he fell asleep on the floor of his hotel room with the TV still on.
Employee of the Year Award
Going to work the day after you finish an ultra-endurance event can be pretty brutal. But Brynn took this to a new level at MOTM23 by finishing on Monday morning and going into work that afternoon. Quite how useful he would have been is debatable, but we have to commend the effort, especially given he slept barely more than an hour during the entire 900km ride.
The Conquer Your Phobias Award
Anyone who has ridden in rural parts of the UK will know that cattle grids are a regular occurrence on smaller roads. Therefore, having a phobia of them thanks to a bad crash previously would not be ideal when tackling TPA23. However, this is exactly what Sarah found herself facing.
On day one, she was walking around the cattle grids, trying to avoid riding them at all costs. But slowly, she gained some confidence and by the time she scratched just over halfway, she was beginning to ride over them more regularly. Despite the disappointment of scratching, overcoming this phobia is something to celebrate.
The Dave Brailsford Marginal Gains Award
Nick Hodgson and Justyna Sieber
Tactics and kit choices play a huge part in our sport. Often riders will adopt a strategy or select a piece of equipment that they feel gives them a small advantage. However, the logic behind some of these choices can be interesting and it sometimes seems like riders finished in spite of them, rather than because of them.
Take, for example, Nick’s choice to fuel himself on a mixture of canned fruit and rice pudding during WWC23. You can’t deny the convenience of this fuelling strategy, but it takes a true believer to overlook the possible downsides of lugging tinned cans up every climb in the south west.
Similarly, Justyna’s choice to use Tubolitos during MOTM23 makes sense when you see the weight savings. But after two punctures in the first hour, followed by several days of endless repairs and buying spare tubes, you have to think that perhaps there is a reason why tubeless is more popular.
Best Choreography Award
Louis Moorhead and Bruce Edwards
What should you do if you reach a selfie checkpoint alongside another rider? Well, of course, you should include them in your selfie. But Bruce and Louis opted to go a step further by choreographing an elbow-themed celebration truly befitting of the summit of Devil’s Elbow. We may have to make this mandatory for next year.
The Young Gun Award
Ultra-endurance sports tend to attract an older demographic. This is partly due to the fact we’ve all lost our top-end power and need to find a discipline where that doesn’t matter. But it’s also because experienced riders who exhibit good decision-making generally do much better.
Therefore, it’s impressive when we see someone bucking the trend. At 19 years old, Oliver was the youngest rider at MOTM23 by some distance. But despite a relative lack of experience, he conquered the route with little fuss, riding through the night (for the first time) on the final day and leaving more experienced riders in his wake. Chapeau!
Defender of the Rim Brake Award
It’s rare to see a rim-brake bike towards the front of the pack in an ultra-endurance event these days. But Nick showed that rim brakes are not dead yet with his storming first-place finish at WWC23, completing the route in under 40 hours and setting a new FKT. It was clear from the start that his approach was to go as light as possible, and this is still one area where rim brakes can claim an advantage.
The Attrition Award
Clare Walkeden (with an honourable mention for Sam Davidson)
Admittedly, this award could go to pretty much every rider. But Clare deserves a special mention for unintentionally riding the hardest available version of MOTM23. By not taking the first diversion and then having to take the second, she succeeded in not shortening the route at all and, in fact, added both distance and elevation, as well as some nasty hike-a-bike. Despite this (and a very unhappy dynamo), she still finished well within the cut-off.
An honourable mention goes to Sam, who discovered during some post-WWC23 maintenance that his bottom bracket was incredibly stiff. He likely rode a good chunk of WWC23 with an unhelpful amount of extra resistance…
The Emotional Rollercoaster Award
The Wild West Country route is, by its very nature, a route of literal highs and lows. But Calvin experienced the emotional equivalent alongside this. After scratching last year with a knee issue, he returned for redemption and was riding strongly all the way to CP3.
Suddenly, his knee flared up with only 25% of the route left and, despite a night of rest, he was barely able to walk on it. He texted to confirm he was going to scratch, but then a phone call from his wife changed his mind. He pushed onwards and, miraculously, his knee began to ease up. Eventually, he finished riding strongly again, arriving to a hero’s welcome from his family.
The Close Shave Award
Often some of the best stories are near misses rather than outright catastrophes. This was the case with Rhys at MOTM23. He noticed his gears weren’t shifting well but couldn’t spot anything obviously wrong. As he was walking his bike over a rocky section above Devil’s Elbow, the rear wheel simply dropped out of the frame.
It turned out that his thru-axle had somehow worked its way loose and eventually fallen out completely. It goes without saying that he was incredibly fortunate this happened when he wasn’t on the bike! He managed to find the thru-axle and put the wheel back in – both he and the bike unscathed by this very near miss.