Scottish mountain bike champion sets West Highland Way record

Scottish mountain bike champion Rab Wardell has set a new record riding the West Highland Way and described the challenge as “mega hard, ridiculous and kind of stupid”.

Wardell, of Glasgow, covered 95 miles of the route from Milngavie to Fort William in just 9 hours 14 minutes and 32 seconds.

He shaved around 14 minutes off the record set by Fort William cyclist Gary McDonald just a month before.

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Wardell, 35, first attempted the route nine years ago and said that in 2020 the goal was “not to push through the pain or suffer my way through it, but to use my head".

Champion mountain biker Rab Wardell  from Glasgow has set a new record cycling the West Highland Way. PIC: Wahoo/Brodie Hood.Champion mountain biker Rab Wardell  from Glasgow has set a new record cycling the West Highland Way. PIC: Wahoo/Brodie Hood.
Champion mountain biker Rab Wardell from Glasgow has set a new record cycling the West Highland Way. PIC: Wahoo/Brodie Hood.

As he pushed his way north past Inversnaid and Loch Lomond, he described the route as becoming “pretty hellish” as the ultra rocky tree-lined track gave little chance to build up a flow.

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He said: "It’s really slow going, trying to negotiate your way through these gaps and flipping lifting your bike over boulders.

"It’s mega hard, its ridiculous and it’s kind of stupid.”

Wardell described the “battle” of crossing Rannoch Moor in a headwind with almost two hours spent pushing through the bleak expanse.

He said: “That was kind of a tipping point. You are hitting it when you are already tired and there is still a long way to go.”

After the moor came the Devil’s Staircase, which climbs to 1,800 feet.

"It’s two big challenges back to back. You have been riding for seven hours and going through the highst point. It was an absolute mare,” Wardell said.

Then, on the road down to Kinlochleven, Wardell got a flat tyre that left him toiling against a negative mindset.

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But, following a spirited pep talk by endurance cyclist Keith Forsyth, who himself earlier completed the West Highland Way in 10 hours and 27 minutes, Wardell found his way again and cruised his way into Fort William in record time.

After crossing the finishing point in the town centre and learning of his record, Wardell said: “Why do I do these things?”

Wardell raced the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and has been a British Championships Medalist, Multiple Scottish Champion, Race The World USA Winner, Team Scotland and British Cycling Team representative.

The West Highland Way endeavour has been on Wardell’s mind since he first walked the route in 2007 as a recently retired 22-year-old professional mountain biker.

He trained for the West Highland Way cycle through winter 2019 and by June, despite having been hindered by Covid-19 restrictions, he was racking up 167-mile road rides as he aimed to bring his time down to below 10 hours.

To everyone’s shock, Fort William rider Gary McDonald then set the 09.28hr record across the route in early August.

With a new found pressure and objective, a date of September 17th was set for the attempt by Wardell, whose partner is Olympic champion cylist Katie Archibald.

With the record now in his name, Wardell is in no mood to rest. He said: "Now I’m thinking, what's next, what’s going to give me that hunger, that drive?”

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A film of Wardell’s West Highland Way mission has been made by Cut Media in collaboration with smart training and navigation company Wahoo

and California based bike company Santa Cruz.

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