The MERIDA EX ENDURO presented by Shimano has another great year
80 riders, 23 stages, over 100km of distance and over 4000m of climbing. Great food and drink, stunning scenery, uplifts for the biggest climbs, plenty of social, plenty of fun, plenty of good times with good friends both old and new. Tea stops, dinner parties, BBQs. THE MERIDA EX, presented by Shimano is something very special indeed.
More than your usual race, THE MERIDA EX takes the enduro format and zooms straight in on the elements that keep people coming back again and again, the bits that so many other races forget. That is, everything that makes a weekend away on two wheels so fun. This year, of course, it had a slightly special edge as it also served as the launch event for the all-new ONE-SIXTY and ONE-FORTY range.
Returning for its sixth year, THE MERIDA EX was a welcome return after a couple of turbulent years for all of us. It was a chance to get back together with friends, celebrate a love of riding bikes and just do what we all love without any of those ‘real world’ worries. With all the food, drink, entertainment, mechanics and accommodation provided, the lucky 80 riders need simply turn up and worry about nothing except keeping their legs spinning.
There are a few highlights that make THE MERIDA EX what it is, and it’s Exmoor’s trails that put on the big show. Split over three days, riders are treated to a 100km tour of Somerset’s finest, with everything from old-school moorland gallops to tight, twisty and tech singletrack.
There’s off-the-back steep, white-knuckle-fast and everything in between. In the trees, in the open, face-achingly good descents and leg-burningly tough ups. Just ask MERIDA-sponsored Olympic Champ José Hermida about those climbs, he joined us for the weekend as a special guest for his first-ever enduro race. It’s said that he even broke a sweat once or twice over the course of the event, not least on the infamous Vominator climb!
Peppered throughout each of the three days are several ‘special’ stages, raced against the clock with your total time adding up to your overall result. Fastest down wins, enduro race style. These stages are the creme de la creme of Exmoor’s mountain biking, hand-picked as the very best we have to offer. Whilst THE MERIDA EX isn’t really about winning or prizes or podiums, this year’s stages were abuzz with friendly competition as riders went against the clock, against their mates and against their own personal challenges.
A real treat of the race was the Exposure Lights night stages. Riders took a short break on Friday afternoon and once day turned to night, Exposure set out three exciting stages to be raced under the cover of darkness. Exposure lights were given to anyone that needed them and many sampled their first-ever chance at riding in the dark. We celebrated with a BBQ, plenty of drinks and a knees-up with our friends at Horner Farm. Locally sourced produce sizzled, reggae beats were spun, and Bristol Beer Factory’s finest flowed.
That wasn’t the only big feed or knees up of the weekend, of course. THE MERIDA EX puts great food and celebration at the heart of the event and riders get every meal and everything apres-ride drink provided, for no extra charge.
Every day starts with a cooked breakfast, there’s a vintage tea stop on the way round, and we end with a slap-up feast back at the race village, with plenty of drinks in the help-yourself bar.
Saturday, our final night, was the main event and head chef Ian Luff rolled out gourmet pie and mash, all served-up dinner-party style with a pub quiz and DJ. If you’re thinking of racing next year, keep your eyes peeled on track, and you’ll see the answers to a few quiz questions on the way round!
A final mention goes to a few of the people and brands that helped make this year’s EX so special. First, Shimano who were on hand all weekend to keep riders rolling. They provided tech support, free-of-charge replacement components, advice and expertise and made sure plenty of riders completed their weekend.
Thanks also to RaceFace who hosted their own special stage each day. To make sure it wasn’t just the fast guys and girls that won prizes, they gave away RaceFace Indy Knee Pads every day to the rider that placed in a specific position on their stage. High five, RaceFace!
A huge ‘cheers then!’ to MERIDA, Shimano, Exposure Lights, National Trust, RaceFace, RideBontrager, RideGuard, Bristol Beer Factory, Disco Brakes, Carbon Cycles and Cams Cycling for their support. Also to our team of staff, marshalls and course builders who create the very one-of-a-kind route that we’re able to enjoy.
THE MERIDA EX, presented by Shimano, drew to a close on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Allerford, Exmoor. Riders were treated to a final leftovers feast while sharing their own tales of glory and catastrophe. We’re, of course, biased but the feeling of satisfaction at the end of an EX weekend is like no other as 80 riders toast their shared adventure, without a care in the world for who won, went fastest or took home a medal. However, talking of medals, it would be remiss of us not to mention the fact that the overall podium was dominated by athletes aboard the new ONE-SIXTY, with Toni Ferreiro taking pole position and Markus Kopp of the marketing team taking an impressive second place.