Pendle Hills, Bingley Bikes and Calder Trophies

Calder Valley Fell Runners – 22nd November 2021

Two major events and a prize giving dinner dominated the fell racing calendar last weekend: The punishing route that is the Tour of Pendle, the infamous Harriers vs. Cyclists and the BOFRA (British Open Fell Runners’ Association) Presentation Dinner 2021.

Bingley’s Harriers vs. Cyclists is a great – if somewhat crazy – event, steeped in history. This race sees fell runners take on cyclists on the same course. Runners watch cyclists whizz past them on the flats, & then overtake them on the ascent on the fells. Then the descent off the moor is something of a free-for-all, with spills aplenty – for the film aficionados, Calder Valley’s George Kettlewell describes it as something akin to the Raptor chase scene from Jurassic Park 3G.

For the 2021 race, 167 competitors lined up on the start line on two feet or two wheels to take on the 8.3km (5.3-mile) course, complete with its 288m/945ft of climb. Ilkey Harriers runners won first & second place in the men’s race – a bare half a minute slower than the course record set by famous fell runner Robb Jeb in 2018. This year, the first cyclist had to be content with third place, although the top 20 places were equally divided between runners & cyclists.

Victoria Peel of Hope Factory Racing was the first female over the line, in 35th place overall, winning the women’s race on a bike. Peel fared much better than one of her teammates who snapped his bike clean in two on the way down off the moor!

First over the line for CVFR was Mark Wharton, who decided against competing in the Tour of Pendle at the last minute & opted to go to Bingley instead. Wharton ran a cracking race, finishing the punishing route in 46:49 to take 62nd overall and third in the MV50 category. Reflecting back on a ‘brilliant’ race, which Wharton describes as ‘a proper fell race with the added jeopardy of a load of cyclocross riders careering through’, he highlighted how ‘brutal’ the ‘45-degree uphill start’ & the front-loaded nature of the ascent was, but how this allows for some ‘crazy descents’ on the return.

Mark Wharton Climbing Baildon Moor – photo courtesy of Dave Woodhead

Wharton’s ‘tactic’ was to ‘go all out on the climbs’, hoping to stay in front of the cyclists who typically end up carrying their bikes on the descents (& some on the tricky technical parts of the ascent too). This paid dividends, & he was delighted to survive the descent & finish third MV50, ‘but more importantly’ to also ‘beat about half of the cyclists’, which is what the race is about, after all!

Two further runners donned their red & white stripes in Bingley. Next over the line was George Kettlewell, who despite describing it as ‘a tough day out’, still found the juice to race the nearest runner all the way, edging him out, to finish a respectable 76th in 48:45. Third CVFR over the line was MV60 runner Steven Cavell, who ran strongly to finish second in his age category in 1:08:11.

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