Pictures by Rupert Hartley
Camille McMillan’s series of Further events are all characterised by a couple of traits that won't come as a surprise to those who have crossed paths with the race director.
Firstly, the isolation of their start locations. From a spectacular refuge at 2000m above sea level in the Pyrenees, to a copse in the East of England, riders are rewarded for their efforts when they arrive on a startline.
Secondly, information for riders ahead of the races is thin on the ground, with essential advice distributed on a need to know basis. It's what makes these races unique, as riders imagine the terrain they might encounter. Will it be a ride or a walk?
Further Elements, in the Scottish Highlands, is new to the series but straight out of the Further playbook.
Just getting to the start line required the usual planning and a leap of faith from all the riders who travelled to take part.
Now everyone is home safely and mostly dried off, the series has a third race which couldn't sit better with its French and English siblings.
Corrour Station House hosted the beginning of the inaugural Further Elements.
Made famous by the film Trainspotting, the UK’s most isolated train station can be found next to the beautiful Loch Ossian between Rannoch Moor and Glencoe.
Trains in and out are infrequent and slow. The only other way in is a significant off-road ride.
Glorious weather bathed the area in the days leading up to the race, but inevitably the cold winds and rain blew in as riders started to arrive. The race's name was the first warning for what was inevitable at this time of year in Scotland.
For Further Elements, riders had to camp the night before. This, along with a lengthy kit list, was a requirement from Camille so he could check riders all had the equipment to stay safe over the course of the race, as packing light simply isn't an option at this time of year.
A 485km largely off-road ride awaited, with a neutralised start behind the gamekeeper's Land Rover providing a send off from the start.
Hardy souls, ultra enthusiasts and plenty of riders who had ridden previous Further events were joined by a few veterans of the Tour de France.
Last minute route changes were announced the night before, as news came through of swelled rivers and washed away bridges from the recent storms. Even this couldn’t completely remove the bog and river crossings that were unavoidable across the course.
The ride finished with two winners - Neil Phillips and Laurens ten Dam. Neck and neck for much of the race, Laurens was in the lead towards the end, but when his head unit ran out of battery meaning he was without navigation, he was forced to follow Neil to the finish line where they crossed arm in arm, with Camille awarding them the draw.
Neil adds to his first place finishes, having won the first edition of Further East in 2021. Laurens’ achievements are well documented, after a 22 year career on the road which included 10 Tour de France finishes (and a top 10 finish), but he is also no stranger to Further, having raced in the Pyrenees in 2020 where he finished 3rd.
Notable mentions must also go to Lee Craigie, Alice Lemkes and Philippa Battye who were the first women over the line, but the three riders chose to disqualify themselves for spending the whole ride together. Having vast experience of Scotland and of previous Further events, they chose to share the ride and proved in their own words that there are 'other ways to win'.
The finish at nearby Loch Ossian Youth Hostel provided a typically rustic welcome. Those lucky enough to finish within the Station House opening times could enjoy a fire and a warm meal.
Further will be back in 2024 with all three events.
More information can be found on the Further website in the new year.
August - Further Perseverance (Pyrenees)
September - Further East (East of England)
October - Further Elements (Scotland)