The challenge: could someone on a mountain bike complete the 171km (106m) Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) faster than the record time set by the current course record holder, trail runner Kilian Jornet?
Pro New Zealand mountain biker Matthew Fairbrother was the rider prepared to ride all day and through the night to find out. We won’t spoil the outcome for you – it’s more fun watching the nail-biting, 11-minute video yourself. But let’s just say, Fairbrother has more to contend with than arduous climbs and descents – his bowels need to hold out as well.
Established in 2003, the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) is considered one of the world's premier trail ultra marathons. This demanding annual event follows the route of the Tour du Mont Blanc, a classic long distance hiking trail which circles the Mont Blanc Massif and passes through France, Switzerland and Italy. The UTMB begins and ends in Chamonix and is regarded as one of the most difficult races in the world, with a total elevation of 10,040m (32940ft).
Since its inception, nobody has run its full length faster than Kilian Jornet did for the 2022 event. With a time of 19hrs 49mins 30sec, Kilian not only set a new record, but also established himself as the second male to win UTMB four times (matching Francois D’Haene).
It’s not a course that’s ideal for mountain bikers, and Fairbrother does a fair amount of carrying his trusty steed while sheep and donkeys look on. However, he does use a dedicated MTB track rather than the trekking trail at one point in deference to hikers at a peak period (which may explain the slight disparity in distances between his attempt and the establishes ultra-trail course). But it remains one hell of a challenge.
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