22nd July 2021
Exclusive Interview | Angus wins the PanCelticRace2021!
The Pan Celtic Race 2021 was won in triumphant style by Mason supported rider Angus Young. The PCR is a self-supported ultra-cycling race, exploring the Celtic Nations of Cornwall and Wales, and parts of the Celtic south-west England. This 1995km adventure has over 27000m of climbing and places emphasis on cultural identity and historic locations unique to Celtic heritage.
Angus raced on his Mason Definition, finishing his race in 5days, 3hours, 46 minutes. With just 14hrs 25mins stopping time in total. Impressively efficient for Angus' first road ultra event.
We caught up with Angus in a brief interview that you can read below...
Images above: PanCelticRace 2021
You are now experienced in your preparation for off-road races. Did you change anything for your first road event PCR?
So as far as preparing my body there wasn't too much in it compared to off road events. The usual mixture of steady distance and short sharp intensity. I have recently been enjoying the local thursday night changang to help inject a bit of pace into things.
Kit wise, aside from the obvious of using a road bike the main thing is probably that you don't need to take quite so much by way of spares as you are much less likely to be stranded in the middle of nowhere and catastrophic failures are less common. Having said that, some riders did experience race ending mechanicals.
Perhaps the biggest thing going into this was how much research you have to put into the course and resupplies etc. I put a good few hours into looking at when shops would be open and any key climbs/features etc. With hindsight i could have put even more time into this.
How valuable was the 3Peaks record breaking ride for your PCR prep?
It was more of a mental thing really, I knew that I had fast legs and that if I was able to ride consistently without any major issues there I was in with a shot at the win. 3Peaks was also a great motivator for me over the winter and spring so it helped me arrive with good physical fitness. Conversely, I was still feeling the fatigue from the attempt five weeks prior so I did have that in the back of my mind.
What was the PCR course like?
The course was awesome. Starting in Cornwall we were subjected to the relentless short(ish) punchy climbs on lanes with grass down the middle. These slowly merged into the more rolling hills as we headed back east into Devon then past my local roads in Dorset towards Stonehenge. The odd off road sector kept things lively and made me wish that I opted for 32mm tyres as opposed to the 28mm I was running.
Moving across Bristol and into Wales was fairly straightforward. We were treated to a few longer climbs going across the Valleys before descending into Port Talbot. From here Pembrokeshire was beautiful if a little stormy but it prepared us for the "high" mountains of Mid Wales and Snowdonia which featured the Rhayader mountain road and Bwlch-y-Groes AKA Hellfire Pass. After we had ticked off these it was just a case of knocking out the last few hundred miles across the Llyn peninsula and the lap of Anglesey, the last bastion of the Celtic Druids, before finishing at the race directors house in Llandudno. Overall it was a killer route that was able to test your mind and body whilst allowing you to experience the beauty of the countries through which it passed.
Looks like you had fun. Was it?
I had an absolute blast, loved every moment of it. One particular highlight for me was going over the Rhayader mountain road into the Elan valley at sunset during the Euros semi-final. I had one of the most beautiful roads in the country to myself at a magical time of day.
...I headed north and was pleasantly surprised by the technical nature of the gravel sector that had been put in to avoid the A-road up to Stonehenge. I was just starting to rain again and I was thanking the cycling Gods that I was going through it in the relative dry and that my 28mm tyres managed to stay inflated (tubeless for the win). Coming past Stonehenge I was greeted by a series of Dotwachers who had come out to cheer me on. This is always a real boost for me and I'm not sure how I would cope without it...
You have a strong calendar of events this year, and no doubt these have all been carefully chosen to bolster your subsequent attempts. What is the peak race for you this year and can you give some insight into how you choose rides?
For me GBDURO is my main goal for the season. It almost goes without saying that I have unfinished business with that event. Aside from the fact that I love racing, other events in the lead up to it are mostly there to keep me motivated through training as well as getting some decent racing mileage into my legs.
Being a teacher is a double edged sword, whilst you do get a good amount of holiday to work with you don't have any control as to when you take that. What this means is that usually I have to set some time aside and then find an event that fits into the schedule. Luckily, there are so many events that I am never short of things to do. Additionally, I am full of ideas for things like the 3Peaks that I can do under my own terms.
Are you managing the time to teach and race OK?
Yeah, just about. It just means that I have to get up early to train and then go to bed a little later. I am lucky that as part of my job I get to coach the running and mountain biking at school which just helps add that little extra training time.
Do you coach yourself or are you coached?
I have been working with my coach Brad for about three years now, Its great because he really understands my life and schedule as well as what my history and goals are. It takes a long time to build that rapport with someone and its invaluable. What this means is that I rarely miss sessions due to lack of time as everything is already structured around my week and time commitments so it just works. I think that its essential if you are trying to fit a large volume of training around a full time job with long hours.
Tell us about your bike setup (s) What do you look for in a good setup for bikepacking races? Qualitative things, not just components etc, please : ]
So the main characteristics that I am looking for are comfort and reliability. To this end the Definition is perfect: the geometry and tubeset take away much of the added strain associated with long days in the saddle. Additionally, it is also stiff enough to ride well whilst loaded up with the extra weight of bags without feeling too flexy. I'm also not paranoid about putting a crack in the frame if I come off or knock the bike over as you might with carbon. Di2 is essential in my mind as after a few days your hands can get very tired from pushing the gear levels over and making it a simple button takes that pain away. It's also very reliable and as long as you remember to charge up (I had to twice) it works flawlessly.
Secondary to the above I also value speed so aero comes next hence using the Hunt 48 limitless wheels, the Deda Jet one aerobars, and the DHB Aeron LAB skinsuit. These are all very fast components but do not compromise too much when it comes to comfort. Furthermore, I opted not to run a dynamo and use batteries and use an Absolute Black graphene waxed chain to help with my rolling efficiency.
All my bags were made by Ross at Straightcut Designs in Edinburgh, small scale custom bags are great when trying to maximise carrying capacity. When packing I always make sure that I have a good amount of slack/overflow space in the bags as once you get rolling things will inevitably expand and you don't want to be overfilling your bags.
Who are your main competitors? (none because you're racing your own race and no one else?)
I would be lying if I said that I was only trying to race myself. I do find it tricky to not look at the tracker and constantly see where my competitors are. PCR this year I was much more disciplined and rarely looked at it. I think that I am getting better at just riding my own race as in the long run that's the fastest way to the finish. For GBDURO this year there are some very fast folks on the start list so im looking forward to having to turn myself inside out for the win.
Racing or touring?
Racing, whilst touring is fun, you can't beat that satisfaction you get by going through the process of preparing for, racing your heart out and then reflecting on a race.
How does it feel to be supported by Mason?
It means a lot to me to be supported by Mason. Right from the start of my ultracycling career three years ago Dom helped me out with a job for the summer doing odd jobs around the barn. From there the wealth of knowledge and experience that the team possesses has really helped set me on a course to success. I think that without the support there is no way I would be racing at the level that I am today.