We are now in the third year of sponsoring the Paria Magic Rock Racing (PMRR) cycling team, and our objective from the outset was to bring together a group of riders who mirror the DNA of Paria and Magic Rock Brewing: No attitude, no egos, no doing it for the 'gram - just good people who take their racing seriously, rather than themselves.
PMRR was initially made up of a handful of riders who were looking for a no-bullshit cycling team that brought all of these elements together. The female team was established within a year, and we quickly realised that this would become a vibrant collective with no boundaries that would take us on some truly wild rides.
Year 3, and here we are - a strong cycling team representing male and female riders across various crits, races and now ultra endurance events.
The GBDURO, best described as a "scrappy rolling picnic through Britain's ever changing landscapes", is a 2000km self-supported bikepacking enduro from Land's End to John O'Groats over road, gravel, singletrack, and everything in between. This year, one of PMRR's newest recruits Vic Peel was one of the lucky riders who got to take part.
Having met vic at the Paria Paperboy ride back in August, we were blown away about her mellow attitude to the enormous challenge that was rapidly approaching. Totally unphased, we could have been discussing a casual dog walk rather than a first venture into unsupported bike packing that would take her across the entire country.
We wished her well, knowing that when it was all over we would be desperate to hear all about it. Vic has kindly shared a full run-down of the highs and the lows, so us weekend warriors know can hear what it's like to live that wasteland dream, whilst representing the North's finest...
What do you do, where are you from, and what's your turn-to snack?
I currently live in sunny Barnoldswick, Lancashire, a stone's throw away from the family dairy farm where I happily spent my childhood years. Day to day, I’m an Electrical Maintenance Engineer working on a chemical manufacturing plant, not too far from home which makes the perfect commute by bike all year round.
I’ve had a varied sporting background: mostly consisting of fell running for my local team and county; motorcycle trials to national level and the equestrian disciplines of showjumping and eventing to a good regional level, all before finding my love for two wheels and pedals!
My turn-to snack... tough one for a complete foodie! As this Q&A is bike related, pre-training/mid ride, I usually tuck into a bagel with a slither of raspberry jam, or for a long ride, lemon curd and peanut butter goes surprisingly well together (try it!)
What the hell prompted you to take part in the GBDuro?
To be honest, I’d not heard of the race before January until Rich from Magic Rock Brewing phoned up asking if I’d represent Paria Magic Rock Racing in the event, as MRB had recently been accepted as a sponsor for the race in exchange for the opportunity for one of the team to compete (ideally female in order to keep the male:female entries thereabouts 50:50). I’d not long since joined their race team in order to gain some good road racing experience within a team, so it was a huge honour when I was the teams first choice of rider.
I’ve been working with a sports and performance nutritionist for a few years now, so we adapted my diet to enable my body to run as efficiently as possible for endurance for a few months on the lead up to the GBDuro, and tailored my training, on and off the bike, with endurance goals in mind also. During this time, I continued to race the last events of the cyclo-cross season, got my teeth stuck into XC MTB racing and finally collected all the points I needed to ‘graduate’ to a 3rd cat road race license after COVID obliterated my previous year’s plan. I also took my bike and kit on a couple of mini bike packing trips around Lancashire and the Dales to get used to my equipment and sleeping arrangement etc, with aims of being completely self sufficient for the duration of the trips.
How did you feel just before it all kicked off?
I was a complete mess of emotions before the race: excitement and apprehension, as I love a good challenge that pushes me well out of my comfort zone but had no idea how this one would turn out. To be fair I was terrified, 11 days of maintaining self sufficiency is a big ask for someone who is nowhere near a seasoned bikepacker/endurance athlete.
What bike did you ride, and how did it perform?
I was lucky enough to ride a beautiful Juliana Quincy supplied by Jungle Products, and was built up by my mechanic at Hope Technology (my CX / XC MTB team). The Quincy was built up with Hope’s purple components and their Fortus 23 wheels with Sram Rival 1x groupset, to optimise the bike for endurance on all terrain. Overall the bike was absolutely spot-on, comfortable on the road, quick and very responsive off-road, thankfully I had no mechanicals either, bar 1 puncture that sealed on the Stans sealant. It's my dream gravel bike and I wouldn’t have changed a thing 😍
What kit did you wear?
This was a little bit of a concern of mine prior to the race, I couldn’t decide what bib shorts to take as this part of my kit choice could potentially have been make or break of the race. Paria sent a couple of pairs of their new gravel cargo bib shorts to test, however I was naive and didn’t try them beforehand.... it turns out they were the comfiest shorts I have ever worn! I also took my PMRR short sleeved and a the new aero PMRR long sleeved Jersey ahead of the release to the team. Merino socks were a must for this epic as I hate cold toes, and my trusty Storm Shell jacket for the damper weather. My Giro MTB shoes were comfy as hell throughout but the hike-a-bike has taken its toll and they’re now very much worse got wear - nothing I didn’t expect though.
What could you really have done with which you didn’t think about?
I should have really researched the race route: noted down where food/bike shops were, hotels/B&Bs/other places to stay en route. Instead I took each day as it came, and restocked with food wherever I felt I needed to, water wherever I could and stayed wherever was appropriate. Turns out I didn’t make bad judgements throughout but if I had drawn a bad hand for the day, I could have very easily come unstuck.
Would you do it all again?
Probably not, I went and achieved what I set out to do- the top 10 finish was a massive bonus when reaching John O’Groats. I’m not a massive believer in returning to races over and over again (unless it’s part of a race series or if I have the potential to win), especially one that extreme in all ways, it took a good 8 months of prep mentally and physically, and many sleepless nights making mental lists of kit, equipment and thinking through every situation the race may put you through, that itself was a massive strain on day to day life.
What spurred you on?
Ultimately, the thought of failing and not making the finish line. I always aim to finish a race by hook or by crook, unless it’s unsafe or unreasonable for me to do so, like injury or damage to my equipment that I would be unable to fix myself. From the start, Magic Rock said there was no pressure to finish the GBDuro, just give it a good stab and see how you go. I felt there was that much emotional involvement from them and all of the other sponsors, who without, my race wouldn’t have happened, that I had no choice but to give it my all. Seeing friends, family, teammates, supportive dot watchers, and reading so many supportive messages along the way was motivating for sure.
What was the lowest point and highest point, emotionally?
Seeing familiar faces were high and lows all in one, to be honest, it was amazing to see so many friends, family and colleagues around Lancashire and Yorkshire yet I burst into tears every time I set off on my way again. I must admit, there was many low points, mostly from mid to North Wales, there were so many ridiculously steep climbs, annoying all paved but too steep to ride up, many of times I was pushing up these hill and have teary tantrums but all I could once the tears had dried up was laugh and just crack on again.
Would you take on another challenge like this?
I’m always looking for a new challenge- I’m very keen to keep in touch with the ultra endurance racing scene but try some other races, 4/5 days maximum perhaps- my main focus next year will be the 3 Peaks Cyclo-cross however that doesn’t mean I can’t load my bike bags for an ultra endurance race again. The Dales Divide has caught my eye... watch this space