Paul & Gail finish!
Another day of sensational racing! Gail somehow overhauled Paul's lead to overtake him at 6.30am. Woken by a rain of gravel hitting his bivi from Gail's passing tyres, Paul quickly packed up his camp and hit the trail to set up a neck-and-neck pursuit. Paul finally got the better of Gail late in the morning, undoubtedly shouting a cheesy 80s action film style one-liner as he passed. It was an effective strategy and Gail was clearly rattled by the quip, losing more and more ground throughout the afternoon as the two riders negotiated the final 100km to the finish.
But this wasn't over! There would be one final twist in the tale: Paul was suffering with major tyre issues and was forced to stop to address the problem. As he worked frantically on his bike, the image of Gail appearing at any moment haunted his thoughts (probably) and midges descended to tuck into the stationary lycra clad buffet. Paul was forced to stop at frequent intervals, all the time Gail relentlessly closing in.
Luckily for Paul, there wasn't enough course left for Gail to catch up, and eventually he rolled up to the iconic John o' Groats signpost, sparks flying off rims worn down to bare metal.
"Guys, I made it too... just. Was about 40km from the finish when I had a series of tyre problems that took ages to fix. Meanwhile the Scottish midges took the time to feast on any available flesh, and with Gail the relentless-always-smiling-warrior getting ever closer, I was about to throw the towel in and the toys out of the pram at the same time. Regardless of how far we’ve come, we all share the same appreciation, the pain and joy, the ups and downs GBDURO brings - this is unique and no one an ever take that from us. It’s unfortunate that this year’s format has not allowed us to share our experiences together over a few beers. Congratulations to all the riders. This year, it has been extraordinary and forever memorable. Cheers, Paul"
Meanwhile, Gail pressed on in the darkness with the effortless determination that has characterised her race, a smile permanently etched on her face. She rolled up to the finish line only an hour after Paul, putting the full stop on a memorable chapter of racing between the two riders.
"What a beautiful adventure. Absolutely blown away by the support!! Oh my goodness, time to sleep and process." - Gail
Gail's unwavering positivity and immaculate appearance in every photo make it easy to forget she suffered a snapped pannier rack early on in proceedings that could have easily ended her race. Gail has looked in her element throughout, seemingly thriving in the adversity and wilderness, but make no mistake, this race has been monumentally hard for everyone. Huge respect to Gail for giving it everything to scrap it out with Paul, never giving up and fully embodying the spirit of the race.
As our riders enter double figures in days out on the trail, bikes and equipment are feeling the strain, requiring more and more frequent stops to replace worn parts and re-botch previously botched repairs. This cruelly makes progress slower towards the end, but I suppose that's counteracted by bikes getting lighter as food rations dry up.
"Ben Nevis in the background (I think). Epic riding today with stunning views. Pretty hot but cooling off now. Lost some time fixing bags and doing bolt check first thing so a late start. Just saw Adam has had to scratch. So gutted for him - this race is incredibly tough"
James managed to find one of the official GBDURO20 'Fan Zones' to make a brake pad switch with the added excitement of a live audience.
"Some beautiful night riding yesterday evening to get me to ~330km from the finish. Late start today as a result. Praying the bike holds together now."
Anisa is just approaching the Corrieyairack Pass. She should hit Fort Augustus just in time for a post-lunch Guinness with Adam before pressing on to start eating into the 380km to the finish.
Never Give Up