The Dukes Weekender may only be two years old, but it is already a firm favourite among many bikers in the UK. The combination of closed road hill-climb, Dukes Gathering social event and Gravel 'enduro' brings together a mixed bunch of cycling enthusiasts, ready to face the challenge head on and have fun.
I opted to race the hill-climb and gravel enduro separately this year, racing my Moriarty Criterium Pro up the Dukes Pass and my Santa Cruz Blur in the gravel enduro. I made this choice to see exactly what was faster on the gravel... XC race bike, or a purist gravel weapon like the Santa Cruz Stigmata.
The field assembled for this year was incredible with World Cup track gold medalist John Archibald setting the fastest time for the Dukes Hill climb at 5:20, closely followed by XC MTB Olympian Grant Ferguson with a 5:25. I came in with a time of 6 minutes on the hill climb. Nerves got the better of me with Grant and John both chasing me down. I set off too hard and miss-paced my effort. You can check out my race on Strava.
On Sunday it was gravel-enduro time and I set off with the final group on course. It was great to see Nick and Sarah Craig travelling north to ride in the Trossachs, as well as Santa Cruz x Sram Enduro superstar Mark Scott aboard a very bling Stigmata! Mark has a reputation as one of the fittest enduro racers in the world, and he demonstrated that with a blistering time in the hill climb. This put him well in contention for the 'Full Dukes.
I had a blast on course with a lot of my friends, but unfortunately recorded a timing problem on stage one. I didn't ride close enough to the timing gate to activate my sensor, so unfortunately it was a DNF on the day for me. I did my best take it on the chin and keep smiling, and in hindsight, the awesome trails in great company mean way more than any result. To set the fastest time on the final stage for the second year in a row was a consolation too! Check out the ride on Strava.
Massive congratulations to Kerry MacPhee and Mark Scott for taking the win. Mark also settled (in my mind at least) that a gravel bike is faster that an XC bike!
With the Dukes Weekender over for another year, it just leaves us all wondering how the team are going to make year three even better? If you missed out then check out the highlights film below.
I'm taking a short break before tackling some new challenges for winter 2019. I'm going to be taking to the boards of the velodrome on a Moriarty Pursuit bike, and spending some time in the gym as well. I have some big goals in mind for 2020. It's time to get to work!
'til next time,
Over and out,