A high quality field lined up for the 4th Whinlatter off road duathlon and the standard of racing certainly didn't disappoint as an epic battle ensued throughout. Whinlatter is described as England's only true mountain forest and with 1100m of ascent incorporated into the 7Km/18km/6km course with barely a flat section of trail, this gives an indication to the toughness of the event.
The men's line up included 2011 ITU Cross Triathlon age group World Champion Harry Coates (Wallsend Harriers) and GB international mountain runners Chris Steele (Keswick) and Ricky Lightfoot (Salomon).
The women included adventure racer Sally Ozanne who was up against the likes of ultra runner Vicci Mousley (Team 9Bar) and fell runners Molly Ralphson (Trawden AC) and Lizzie Bowler.
Outlining his intention from the start, Ricky stormed into the lead on the initial 7k run and set a furious pace with only Chris able to stay with him. Both were clearly thriving on this type of terrain opening up a gap on the rest of the field. Ricky stormed into T1 in 27:03 followed by Chris in 27:10. However, neither could relax as Harry was next in 28:03.
The 18k mountain bike route incorporates the iconic south Loop of the Altura Mountain Bike Trail, renowned for it's testing series of switchback climbs and technical singletrack descending. Ricky and Chris continued tussling with the lead but demonstrating his class on the bike Harry caught the two leaders on the long switchback climb up to Hospital ridge, set amidst the awesome backdrop of Grisedale Pike. Also closing the gap steadily were established duathletes Mark Ryan and Mike Pluckrose (Carlisle Tri), both past winners of the overall High Terrain duathlon series.
Not stopping to admire the spectacular views across the peaks of the North Lakes, the leaders hammered across the technical traverse along the top of the ridge, with no one prepared to give an inch of ground. An exhilarating descent of flowing singletrack littered with berms, rollovers and ledges brought the riders back to the trailhead. Anyone not studying the route would be in for a shock as riders were faced with a final punishing climb leading back up through the forest before a final rapid descent into T2.
On this final climb all five grouped together and entered T2 with only 30 seconds separating the five leaders, with Mike posting the fastest bike split of 1:01:43.
The final run was a 6k circuit made gruelling by the steep and relentless singletrack climb to the summit of Seat How, one of the highest points in the forest. Exiting T2 in 5th position Ricky once again stormed into the lead quickly passing the other four. No slouch in the running discipline, Mark commented 'I've never seen anyone run away up a hill so fast and almost looked down to make sure I was moving'.
However, this time he wasn't going to be dictating the pace as Harry moved alongside then opened up a small gap on the steep and sinuous climb to Seat How. Ricky finally regained the lead at the summit but was pursued by Harry every step of the way with the pair clocking sub 5 minute mile pace on the descent back through the forest. With the finish finally in sight Ricky held on to win in a time of 1:57:48 posting a 23:54 run split, followed 11 seconds later by Harry in 1:57:59. Despite being unaccustomed to running off the bike, Chris followed next in 2:00:17.
In the women's race Molly was first into T1 in 34:39, followed by Sally 35:27 and Vicci 36:35. Sally built a solid lead on the bike and won in a time of 2:27:27 followed by Molly in 2:34:01 and Lizzie in 2:44:07.
The Relay Pair category was won by Rin Colombi and Steven Hope (Breeze bikes) in 02:08:50. In the Mixed Pairs category Craig Dring and Hazel Sutherland (Arragons Tri Club) 02:19:54. First Female Relay Pair were Sally Pattinson and Ruth Asbery (Team Breakpad)
The Whinlatter Duathlon was always going to be a tough challenge: "I was really digging deep and didn't know how much longer I could hang on for as there always seemed to be 'one more climb'. It was such a relief to see the finish line appear" and that was from the winner!
Ricky Lightfoot (Salomon) 1:57:48
Harry Coates (Wallsend Harriers) 1:57:59
Chris Steele (Keswick Bikes) 2:00:17
MV40 Mike Pluckrose (Carlisle Tri) 2:01:22
MV50 Anthony Roberts (Derby Tri) 2:13:31
Sally Ozanne 2:27:27
Molly Ralphson (Trawden AC) 2:34:01
Lizzie Bowler 2:44:07
FV40 Marie Louise Ridley (Durham Fell Runners) 2:55:17
FV50 Becky Weight (Bingley Harriers) 3:02:53
Rin Colombi/Steven Hope (Breeze bikes) 2:08:50
category Craig Dring/Hazel Sutherland (Arragons Tri Club) 2:19:54
Sally Pattinson/Ruth Asbery (Team Breakpad) 2:45:22
Keswick Bikes (Chris Steele (3rd), Chris Hope (6th), Andrew Wrigley (9th).
Full results can be found at www.highterrainevents.co.uk
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