Strathpuffer 2019: Part 1. The Lead Up - Pedal Progression


16 January 2019

Strathpuffer 2019: Part 1. The Lead Up

Many of you may have heard of the Strathpuffer. It’s got a pretty legendary reputation on the UK mountain bike endurance circuit as being one of the toughest races out there. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, what is certain is that it has some… shall we say… unique selling points that, on paper, make it sound pretty hectic. For that reason it ends up on a lot of Mountain Bikers ‘to do’ list. Ollie and myself are no different and back in Spring 2018, whilst ‘feeling fit’, we decdied that 2019 would be the year to give it a go! We’ve entered as a pair.

The Event:

The Strathpuffer follows the tried and tested 24 hour MTB race formula. Mass participation, entries can be solo, pairs or quads (Strathpuffer has a special catagory for Schools – yea crazy – which are teams of 8). The track is 10-15km off-road loop (it changes a bit each year). You can ride as much or as little as you like, you can stop, eat, sleep, have a poo, go grab yourself a pizza or burger king if you fancy BUT if you want to win you need to complete more laps than any other team in your category.

In Strathpeffer, where the event in held, there are only 7 hours of daylight per day at this time of year. Strathpeffer is north of Inverness by the way! Last year temperatures reached lows of -12 degrees C and there was thick snow and ice! This year it looks like we might get off lightly with lows of just -2 forecast and light snow and ice expected.


Training has been varied but I can honestly say, we’ve both done a bit! Some of you may have read that Ollie had a good run in the Pivot 24/12 back in July. Matt on the other hand, hasn’t raced since 2011!

The timing of the event, being just after Christmas, makes things really tricky so far as fitness is concerned. We both love food and delicious beers. Need I say more.

For me personally, the majority of my training has been done on my singlespeed road bike, extending my commute and heading out for loops through the city after dark. Obviously, I’ve also been out on the mountain bike and am half way through a football season too which has helped with regular cardio and stretching. But that is about it!

Ollie has been mostly focusing on turbo training and has been getting out on the mountain bike for shorter rides where possible. This was backed up by a 100 mile ride of the South Downs Way, which is about the only endurance training he’s done. That’s twice as long as my longest ride this year… hmmm!

Last Week Of Prep:

Getting everything you need together for 24 hour racing is long! When you add to this that you may need to prepare for snow, ice and -5 weather you need to be even more careful that you are not missing the any of the important bits. Having spoken to several people who have done the puffer it was clear that we would need to think carefully, take all advice on board then ultimately trust that we know whats best for the our approach. Weather watching has also been on for the last week, trying (probably in vain) to predict what conditions we are likely to experience. A bit of last min panic buying, base layers, socks, gloves, gloves and more gloves and some very precautionary spike tyres and the kit’s in place. We’re both opting to ride short travel hardtails.

Ollie Says:

” When I signed up for the Puffer I was in mist of optimism, feeling pretty fit just prior to taking part at Pivot. My ‘training’ has been a lot less structured and I have had less time than I did for Pivot. Also I underestimated how hard it was going to be to ‘be good’ over Christmas – I think I managed not to go backwards in December but I am fairly sure I didn’t make any progress! Still, I have the experience and confidence that I can make it through the 24 hours and the knowledge that will hopefully ensure my prep is good. One of my biggest lessons from Pivot is that a very significant part of 24 hour racing is about making sure your preparation and planning is the best it can be! Aside from the racing the weekend itself is going to be a feat of endurance with an 1600 mile round trip to Inverness at either side of event, I feel like the real ‘end’ isn’t till we actually arrive back in Bristol on Monday morning. Right now I have nervous itchy feet and all I want to do is get on my bike and get on track.”

Matt Says:

“I can’t believe it’s here already! Back when I actually enjoyed endurance events, I dreamed of one day racing the puffer but now it’s here I’ve got match day nerves already and we’re still a few days away! My wife, Ally will be my pit crew and I’m strangely excited for her to see me suffer. I’ve often talked about the ‘good old days of racing’ but it was so long ago, she wasn’t on the scene then. There are no expectations for results but I just want one of us to cross the line in the morning having had a rider on track start to finish throughout the race. I’ll be riding a borrowed bike, kindly lent to me by a coaching customer. I’ve not actually ridden it on a trail yet but I should have plenty of time to get used to it once racing! I’m stocked up on malt loaf, bananas and energy gels. Perhaps the only thing I’m lacking now is a decent podcast to get into whilst I’m on track!”

We’ll have a full race report (part 2) once back and then some feedback on the aftermath (part 3) all coming soon!

Wish us luck!


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