On Saturday 10th March 2012, 100 competitors from across the UK made their bid to set the quickest descent of CairnGorm Mountain in the first ever extreme biathlon. As melting snow gave way to dirt and rocks, participants raced across two seasons in one day, with the fastest demonstrating amazing skills on both skis or snowboard and mountain bike. Oliver Carter was crowned overall champion of Red Bull 50/50 and king of the mountain.
Word spread thick and fast as competitors travelled from far and wide to take part in the adrenalin-fuelled race, hoping to win the dynamic downhill challenge and come away with the Red Bull 50/50 winner’s title.
As the sun rose and the mountain mist rolled in over the Highlands, competitors began arriving from 7am. After a hearty breakfast, registration and a detailed briefing, qualifying for the event kicked off at 10am sharp. Competitors set two timed runs on both the snow and dirt sections of the course, which were then combined, giving each entry an overall time by which they were seeded for the main event.
The main event began at 4pm as the first of the 5-man heats headed up Cairn Gorm, with 5km of mixed terrain between them and the finish line. Racing across snow and dirt in one day made for a tough competition as the racers were challenged to the limit across the complex, downhill course. Moguls, berms and kickers were among the many obstacles, but the most complex element was the snowline transition from skis/snowboard to mountain bike, where the race was quite easily won or lost.
Oliver Carter from Boat of Garten posted an impressive time of 12 minutes 9 seconds to become the first winner of Red Bull 50/50. Second place was snapped up by local lad Liam Moynihan with a time of 12 minutes 41 seconds. Closely followed by Frazer McNeil in third with a time of 12 minutes 52 seconds.
A delighted Carter said ‘Red Bull 50/50 has been wicked. It’s been awesome to mountain bike at CairnGorm. It was pretty tight racing in our heat, so fast down the boarder cross track - speed tucking and running out of gears, it was amazing. I hope to be back next year to retain the winner’s title!’
Poor winter season at CairnGorm
Following two outstanding snowsports seasons, this year has been a massive challenge for the team at CairnGorm Mountain. The season is shaping up to be one of the worst since the funicular was built and amongst the worst on record. For the operators not to be skiing in March is something they have not experienced before. Like all Scottish ski areas they are trying to diversify their business to maximise opportunities outwith skiing for the area and today’s Red Bull 50/50 event is a great example of how they are doing this. Putting on the ski/board and mountain bike biathlon provided a huge challenge to the team on the hill in preparing a race course out of very little snow including some great features to test the competitors.
The company believes it is important for the whole area that events like the red Bull 50/50 take place, particularly in poor snow years, when the attraction would otherwise have been very quiet with this level of snow.
Commenting on the event CairnGorm Mountain chief executive Ian Whitaker said:
“It has been great working with Red Bull and No Fuss Events to put on the 50/50. Whist the weather has made this more of a challenge, the focus from everyone has been about preparing a course that provided a great experience for the 100 competitors taking part and for the many supporters and spectators who came to watch this unique event. We look forward to it becoming a regular fixture on the CairnGorm Mountain winter calendar.
The company sees a great opportunity with mountain biking to develop an experience that will work with the great bike routes that already exist in the area and also compliment the other mountain bike centres in the Highlands.”