Is the Bison Duathlon the new Ballbuster??
The Ballbuster was one of the first events in the UK to gain iconic status. Launched in 1990, the notoriously tough event was considered one of the toughest endurance challenges in the UK and became a must-do bucket-list event for every multi-sport athlete in the country.
Set in the picturesque setting of the Box Hill National Trust site, the course tackled five laps of an 12.5km loop that finished with the famous Box Hill climb. The first and fifth lap were tackled on foot with the middle three laps on two wheels. While the 38km of cycling were nothing too remarkable, apart from the three climbs up BoxHill, the 25km of descending and ascending back up to the top of Box Hill, immortalised the event in multisport folklore.
The event attracted the best of Great Britain’s duathletes who often used it as an end-of-season showdown.
After the 2012 Olympics, the Box Hill area became a mecca for road cyclists wanting to tackle the famous Box Hill climb used by the cycling road race. Every Sunday morning the area was swamped with thousands of cyclists wanting to emulate their TeamGB heroes. Unfortunately, the Box Hill climb and its surrounding roads became busier, and the viability of holding a safe event on the course diminished. Post-pandemic, the organisers have been forced to declare that the BallBuster will be no more (for the foreseeable future at least).
So with this popular event leaving a huge hole in the multisport calendar, what events are there to take its place??
Enter the Bison Duathlon!!
Starting at Dunstable Downs, another National Trust site just outside the M25, the event begins with a 2-lap trail run of 13km that incorporates the footpath climb alongside Bison Hill each lap.
The bike course then heads out in to the Chilterns to tackle the climbs of Ivinghoe Beacon, Bison Hill, and finally the ‘relatively’ gentle, Dunstable Downs…..twice! After the 46km bike, the final run is a single 6.5km lap of the trail run, finishing with that climb again up the footpath alongside Bison Hill.
So how do the two races stack up against each other? Well they both have their transitions on top of a hill, guaranteeing an uphill run and cycle at the end of each section (no easy rides in to transition here).
What about the numbers ??
The BallBuster = Run1 12.5km (225m) – Bike 38km (675m) – Run2 12.5km (225m)
The Bison = Run1 13km (260m) – Bike 46km (688m) – Run2 6.5km (130m)
The statistics suggest a similar course, but the difference between the two comes in the profile of the climbs on the bike:
The Ballbuster’s climb of Box Hill is 4km long with an average gradient of 4%, and a maximum of 9.6%
The Bison Duathlon bike course uses the three climbs of Ivinghoe Beacon, Bison Hill and Dunstable Downs.
While the 1.6km climb of Ivinghoe has a fairly tame average of 4.5% and only a max of 7.2%, the back-to-back climbs of Bison & Dunstable differentiate the courses. Bison may only be 1km long but with a sustained kick up of well over 15%, the legs are certainly going to feel it. With the 1.5km drag of Dunstable coming straight after, those who can handle the lactic burn of Bison and push hard to the top Dunstable will be the ones topping the leaderboard.
Without doubt, they are both tough courses. Which is harder, maybe we’ll never know?
One thing that is for sure, the Bison should not be underestimated. Can you tame it?
Next race 28th April, 2024