20th August 2020
We should be on the road heading to one of our favourite races. Heading down south France, to the mountains of the Pyrenees, specifically the Ariege. We'd be waiting atop a mountain the Pic of Rulhe holding the fort at the Mason Cycles CP, the only CP of the race. Awaiting the unknown, pouring love and praise for the racers, maybe sharing a beer and a cheer with them afterwards.
However, we're still in the UK, still on the farm, all is still. Quarantine rules mean we, like so many others, can't make our way to join our friends at FURTHER this year.
This year is particularly meaningful to us. It features several sections that we rode with Camille back in May 2019. These sectors didn't make it into the 2019 Race, but are appearing in 2020. You can see some of the sector features in the text that follows.
We visited Camille in 2019 to route find with him, Cal on his Bokeh and Camille on his ISO. The race and route of Further 2019 are now legendary in long-distance bicycle racing history.
Our friends Angus and Philippa both competed in Further 2019, riding to 2nd and 6th place. We were so looking forward to travelling down to the Ariege, greeting them at the C.P, and shedding a tear for them at the finish line.
Working with Further on producing images was another thing we were excited about. Cal with his inherited Linhof Super Technika 3, Camille on his Pentax 67. Being there to witness the spectacular events of 2019 Fourcat was an experience we knew could have happened again this year.
FURTHER celebrates adventure, art and culture via bicycle. Set in the wildest department of the French Pyrénées - Ariège. Ancient, unspoilt and bucolic France. Both borderland and heartland simultaneously, a place of refuge and resistance in history, and a regular destination for Le Tour. Ariège terrain is mountainous, forested, unpredictable. Here be wild boar, wolves and bears.
Race takes place in mountainous mixed-surface terrain and is electronically tracked via way-points through the French Pyrénées. Initially it would cross the borderlands of Andorra and Spain, but quarantine and travel restrictions make this impossible.
10 racers, 4 days of racing. It will be very, very hard. Racing starts on Friday, ends on Monday. They must finish by Monday, but they can quit whenever they like. There is one checkpoint.
Borderlands are made unique by their diversity, and this will be true for all aspects this race. One things surely on the the competitors’ minds will be wheel/tyre choice. We can say in actual fact that there is no perfect tyre for this race. There will be hike-a-bike, there will be tarmac, there will be heavy gravel, and there will be mountain bike territory. Perhaps a change of wheels mid-race will be an option. For 2020 Camille spent time investigating if there was an ideal bike for Further, riding a Bokeh throughout his route planning schedule. We came together with Further and Campagnolo to create a made in EU bicycle specced to win such races.
This race will challenge mind and body unlike any other ultra-cycling race. More than a competition, the racers ride test themselves against the forces of nature as they catch coo with Ariège.
Dedicated riders and some big names. Laurens Ten Dam, Christian Meier, James Hayden. Adventurous racers, names we have not before heard. Eleonora Balbi, India Landy, Sjors Mahler. Friends from 2019. Jon Woodroof, Bas Rotgans. Distance and Ultra racing offers equally footing for Amateur and Pro's to commune and compete together.
Camille cares deeply about his locale, as shown in the exemplary Further Race route composition. What 'direction' will this take the race?, Where does this place the racer in time?, How will they feel when they reach this point? What is the history of this place? Are all questions that are considered in piecing together the 17 Sectors of Further Race. Here are some notes on a few select ones.
Sector 3, Refuge du Rulhe
We are pleased to have found the Checkpoint for Further 2020. The amazing Refuge du Rulhe and just as in 2019, it will be a race defining point. Our aim is to get the racers to the C.P the first evening of the race ( 21st August ) and we know, like last year, most racers will not make it. The C.P will be open all day on the 22nd. We hope friends, family, fans will book a bed or enjoy a good meal at the Refuge and make a special event of the C.P.
A high point, a place of significance. Situated at 2185m, accessible by foot, cycle or helicopter. Refuge du Rulhe is a manned refuge station in spectacular surroundings. A paradise in the mountains. With hot food, beds and friendly staff.
In passing would riders choose to have a night in the Refuge? Have a beer and proper meal? Would they continue with the race or stay in paradise? What state would they arrive in?
We'll be following as dotwatchers, but in our hearts and minds we long to be there, at 2185m. At Refuge du Rulhe, Further C.P.
Sector 7, Carlong.
A magnificent rock. Our fondest memories from our visit to Further HQ involved riding this section 'The Rock' know as Carlong and gazing out over the Saurat valley with a view that realises the mythical 'crystal bridge' as told by the Cathars. Located a few hundred meters above HQ featuring some rooty singletrack, gruelling climbs over plateau and a steep switchback descent.
Sector 10, Biros Valley
The ancient mines of Bentaillou: the spectacle of desolation, a fantasy of another civilisation. Remarkable switchbacks up to crest this beautiful valley with remnants of a recent industrial past long forgotten. The trophy for Further was found here.
This is not to be taken lightly. It is an out and back because Spain was taken off the menu. The track was made for oxen and is carved out of a wall. The track goes to the abandoned mine of Bentaillou. The track starts in the forest and is almost a cliff road, there is nowhere to sleep on the way up, at the mine at the top is patrolled by sheep at night. Please, take care here.
This year we cannot have a rally, We don't believe we should have a rally. We have an amazing location for the start and finish and obviously we will be together, but in a new way. Our feeling is that we have to concentrate on having a beautiful, hard event.
A race that adapts. A focused field. A French route. A single photographer. 16 Sectors.
Further 2020 comes with full concentration on Race. This new focus raises the intensity and we're excited for what's to come.