Proper Puffer Weather

Tucked away just North of Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland is a well-known mountain bike race called the Strathpuffer.  All about endurance, this race has about 1,000 racers, being a combination of solo entrants and teams.  They aim to complete as many laps of the 13km track as they can within 24 hours.

As you enter the main area there is a fantastic feel of community.  Bikes are laid everywhere in preparation for the Le Mans-stye start.  Teams are setting up camps, and generators, firewood and bags of food are being carried.  All this while spare inner tubes and tyres are slung over shoulders.  Everyone is happy for a chat and everyone is excited about putting themselves through a long race in minus conditions. 

The Puffer prides itself on wintery conditions.  This year they got it as one rider shouted, “This is proper Puffer weather”.  With a heavy snowstorm running up to the race, the stage was set perfectly.  Temperatures dropped down to -9 with ice and snow covering the trail throughout.  The elements along with the length of time makes this race.  Riders may have 24 hours to smash out laps but they are plunged into 17 hours of darkness and low temperatures. 

With a few hours of daylight and a stunning sunset, the darkness sets in.  Riders’ lights are turned on and all around the camps fires are lit.  As one rider comes in another one heads off and support teams (dedicated friends and family) are on hand to check bikes, warm up, feed and water riders.  Through the night and into the early morning the temperature keeps dropping but it didn’t stop riders from putting in the laps. 

As the sun rose, riders continued to battle through the last few hours to get the last laps.  With a lack of sleep and energy depleting there was still smiles on the faces of many as they rode hard to the finish to be greeted by hecklers.  Maybe even a bacon roll and a cup of tea, if they’re lucky.

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