Distance: 7km Trail Run/18km Mountain Bike/5.5km Trail Run
Clear, crisp autumunal weather greeted competitors at this year’s Whinlatter Duathlon, just west of Keswick in the northern Lake District. Despite the relatively short race distances, Whinlatter is described as ‘England’s only true mountain forest’, giving a hint as to the severity of the route.
A strong field lined up for the start, including former international fell runner and adventure racer Phil Davis (Team Cyclewise Altura) and last year’s second place finisher Chris Hope (Keswick Bikes). Strong local mountain biker and multisport all rounder Philippa Liles (Keswick) was also back to improve on last year’s third place finish.
The initial 7km run took competitors around the newly created Masmill Oakwood trail, with panoramic views over the Skiddaw fells and Bassenthwaite Lake nature reserve. Content to stay with the lead group for the initial fast section Phil moved into the lead once the route started climbing back up the appropriately named ‘Heavy Sides’.
Starting with a full circuit of the Quercus, with its flowing singletrack and gradual climbs, the 18km mountain bike section then links onto the Altura South loop, climbing a series of switchbacks to over 500m amidst the awesome backdrop of Grizedale Pike. The top of the climb provides superb views across the peaks of the North Lakes, not to be admired for long as competitors were faced with a huge rock slab marking the start of the long descent back to T2.
With an incredible display of strength, Phil increased his lead on the MTB section recording 59:56, the fastest bike split of the day, entering T2 with a four-minute lead.
Thriving on her strongest discipline, Philippa moved into the lead on the long switchback climb of the South loop. Recording the fastest bike split among the women (1:20:22) enabled Philippa to start the second run with nearly a two minute lead on Angela. At the summit of Seat How, Angela had pulled back a minute and now had Philippa in her sights. With just over 2km of mostly fast descent left, Philippa was determined not to relinquish her lead and held on to win in a time of 2:39:10. This was closely followed by Angela in 2:40:03, recording the fastest second run in 38:21 and also first FV50!
Carlisle Tri won the team category with Mark Ryan finishing 10th and David Milligan 28th. The relay category for pairs was won by Morgan Lloyd and Alec Duffield (Big Bear Bikes) storming round in a time of 1:58:34. First mixed pair was Shonah Dobson and Rich Holland (Cross Club) in 2:17:54.
A big thank you to Altura cycle clothing, Cyclewise, Up & Running Keswick for providing fantastic prizes and event support. Also to Whinlatter Forestry for use of such a fantastic venue and facilities, especially Paul Brown working tirelessly in the weeks leading up to the event to ensure trails were clear.
The next duathlon is Kielder on 4 December, set in the Kielder Forest Park in Northumberland.