Take Only Photos: Capturing GBDURO With Markus Stitz

The organisers of GBDURO, The Racing Collective, do everything they can to reduce the environmental impact of the race, so when it came to recording the race in 2022, Markus Stitz ditched the media car and opted to capture the unfolding race from his saddle, using public transport to keep ahead of the riders. Read on to watch the film and find out why Markus embraced a ‘leave no trace’ approach to recording GBDURO.

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Markus stands on a remote track, filming GBDURO riders with a drone

GBDURO is a 2,000-km bikepacking race that stretches across the length of Great Britain, from Land’s End to John O’Groats. The terrain is mixed, with 4 stages incorporating everything from gravel tracks, rural roads and singletrack trails. This year, Mark Beaumont – the current round-the-world record holder – entered the event as his first-ever competitive race, eventually winning in dramatic fashion.

To reduce the environmental impact of the race, GBDURO is run as a ‘#noflyride’, meaning that riders must get to and from the start and finish without taking a flight. When Apidura Ambassador Markus Stitz was tasked with creating a documentary on the event for Shimano, he opted to use only his bike and public transport to capture the unfolding race. Watch the film below, and scroll down for further insight from Markus on the logistics behind-the-scenes.

 

Documenting a bikepacking race is difficult at the best of times. Races often lure riders onto challenging terrain where a conventional vehicle might struggle to reach, and riders slip into strange sleep patterns, often resting very little and riding deep into the night. Trying to document a race of 60 riders stretched out across multiple 500km stages is no mean feat, but especially so if you limit yourself to only bicycle and public transport.

Few would be more qualified for the job than Markus Stitz, a man that has plenty of experience taking the ‘harder option’, having been the first person to cycle around the world on a single-speed bike. Despite trying to focus on Mark Beaumont’s first-ever competitive bikepacking race experience, Markus also captured both the scenery of the surrounding landscapes and the community behind the scenes, all while juggling public transport logistics to make sure he was in the right place, at the right time.

“You may well ask yourself: Why go through all of this, when I could have hired a campervan, followed the riders along the route, filmed them on certain locations, and wouldn’t have all the added logistics that came with only using a bike and train trips?

For me the answer is two-fold. Even with the added benefit of hindsight, I wouldn’t change my approach. The first reason for me: by capturing the race the way I did, I was able to get access to the riders. I didn’t get treated as a ‘media team’ at all. Riding in the miserable weather conditions the riders had to endure during GBDuro this year, sleeping rough most of the time, and even having to fix my bike when my front brake stopped working – all of this made me appreciate what the riders went through.

When I popped up at random places along the route I had worked hard to get there. I could at least imagine what went through their heads and tried to capture those moments as well as I possibly could.

The other reason was access to the places the race travelled through. The most beautiful sections of the route were often not on roads, and therefore only accessible by bike or foot. While England and Wales have byways, on which 4x4s are allowed, Scotland’s access rights for walkers and cyclists are excellent, but byways don’t exist. Getting landowner permission to drive a vehicle would have required knowing how the race shaped up in advance.

By taking only my bike and public transport I made sure I stayed as true to the ethos of bikepacking, leaving as little trace as possible. Not just in the race, but also on the way to and from the race. This approach also delivered the best possible results, as it allowed me to make a film that captures as many facets of a bikepacking race as well as possible.”

For a more in-depth look at Markus’ experience over 11 days documenting the race by bike and public transport, be sure to read his full report on CyclingTips.

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