Excited or terrified. Maybe both. It was difficult to gauge what emotion Claire favoured on the morning of Further. The same could be said for every rider as they dispatched an obligatory croissant and coffee before preparing themselves for a proper adventure in the Pyrenees.
We caught up with Claire when we arrived at the beautiful ZeroNeuf escapes the night before the race. Having just filled up on a bbq dinner she quickly said her goodnights and made a beeline for the relative luxury of her tent and with it the last night of good sleep she would have for the whole weekend.
The morning of the race wasn’t just about croissants, coffee and the best plum jam you will ever taste. There was a compulsory bike check for each rider. Stood in a queue, their favoured machines in hand there were plenty of glances cast at each other’s equipment. Have I packed too much, or have I packed too little must have been questions flying around the heads of those about to race.
The last decision for Claire was which jersey to wear? With the Hunt Bike Wheels jersey chosen and her bags cinched tight we simply had to check out her bike.
An understated colour scheme adorned the titanium gravel bike from UK specialists Reilly Cycleworks. A subtle blend of flowing hydro-formed tubing as well as custom engineered dropouts along with a sleek brushed titanium finish meant that Claire certainly looked the part.
But it isn’t just looks that makes this bike stand out. Big tyre clearance allowed Claire to ride some pretty chunky rubber. 650b x 47mm WTB Venture tyres, set up tubeless on Hunt dynamo wheels meant that the contact patch to the ground was large and stable enough to give Claire all the grip she needed when tackling the oh so tricky gravel sectors en route.
Onto what you can’t see from the photos. The Reilly AXIS tubeset is designed around being as stiff as possible for maximum power transfer whilst also being super comfortable. Not only is this tubing stiff and comfortable but it is also remarkably light. For a ride where a large proportion was spent carrying the bike on your shoulder these properties were ideal.
With her bike bags packed it was time to for Claire to get on the road. Catching her at the second gravel sector, we cheered her on and wished her the best of luck for the upcoming ascent of Mont Fourcat.
Further was a brutal race that only saw 8 people finish. Therefore most of the racers, including Claire were forced to scratch. In her case, following two days spent riding and hiking through searing heat with a looming time cut in sight. Late on the second day Claire and good friend Jo Burt found a campsite, ate a four course meal and took some much needed rest. Having not come across food for the entirety of the second day they were empty and needed sustenance.
We found them halfway along sector 11 on the third day, as they valiantly chose to join back onto the route and finish off the last three sectors. Relieved to see they were alright we waved them on their way, only to find them again at the end of the sector atop the Prat d’Albis and then again on our march up the descent from sector 12. There was no avoiding each other.
Back at base after a gruelling three days we spoke to Claire. It was clear she wasn’t disappointed to have scratched, after all she had been on a crazy adventure in those majestic hills. Instead she was excited for the next adventure. The next time she gets to ride her bike, the next time she gets to sleep under the stars.
Further was a tough first ultra race to have entered. Partly because of the parcours but also because it was the inaugural event. No-one knew what to expect. For that reason the camaraderie between all involved in the race was strong, friendships were made and plans created. With that in mind, Claire will be back shortly as she embarks on the Torino – Nice rally. We can’t wait to hear how it goes, and from all of us at Breakaway we salute you!