Monday, 7 September 2009

A Hard Day In The Office - The First Kielder 100

Yes, that's 100miles, not 100km as these events have been previously. This weekend the UK welcomed it's first, single lap 100mile endurance race, the SIP events organised: Kielder 100.

The build up to the event was great, with a high level of expectation on all sides and a lareg field with real strength in depth from all areas of the UK mountain bike world; dedicated XC racers, 24hr endurance soloists, marathon riders and hard core singlespeeders from all distances were all present.

Kielder 100 "Controlled" Start
SIP did a great job getting everyone organised and once we were all lined up at the start we were soon away, behind a quad bike lead out. The pace was high from the start and as soon as the bike pulled off, having strung the field out over a prodigious distance, it all kicked off immediately!

Trapped behind a few slower riders up the (immediate) first climb, I lost touch with the group and that set the tome for the rest of the day.

I broke free of the riders I was with and got my head down, watching the leaders working together and getting further and further away. Catching them wasn't going to happen. Drat. I swiftly concluded that the three 24hr races and a South Downs Double in the preceding two months may just have been too much! Still I'd come all that way and was determined to enjoy it. I kept the hammer down, but after a long season it just wasn't enough.

The day very quickly becoame a social day, if a hard one. I eased up, dropping off full race pace and let the riders behind me catch up, who happened to be Phil Moore from the KMP, Neil from Team Buff and Jon "chickens" a friend from Brighton. I rode with them for a while, and we chatted away, but eventually knuckled down and pushed on again for what was a day spent mostly riding alone in the wilderness, a really relaxing experience, despite the damp conditions.

Jooze Dymond doing her usual great job of capturing the spritit of the event perfectly: Riding alone in the wilderness
 (and experiencing lots of puddles on a very damp day!) Pic: Joolze Dymond

Toward the middle fot he ride, I found myself with Paul Errington, the leading singlespeeder. The ride became really exposed at this point and into what seemed like an endless headwind. Paul tucked in behind and I was happy to lend him a bit of a windbreak as he was riding hard and looking strong for the win. As we crossed the Scottish border the weather was truly atmospheric, havign a piper playing away as we rode over the border and paying our token pounds really added to the event's unique atmosphere.

Bleak conditions out in the open at the Kielder 100
Once we'd stopped at the main feed station, Paul pushed on and I settled down again, my legs whirring away; tick-tock, tick-tock on Sunday afternoon long ride mode. This was an epic loop indeed! Toward the end of the ride I found I'd dropped further back and was caught by Deano of Velo Club Moulin. We rode together for a short while but, upon hitting the 120miles to go sign, we both remembered it wasn't Sunday afternoon afterall, and we finally began to race again!

My heart rate finally soared and I found myself looking over my shoulder every minute or two. I managed to gradually inch away from Deano, but there was no sign of Paul ahead of me. I kept working hard all the way to the finish, eventually coming in a modest 19th (three 24hr races and a South Downs Double in the preceding 2 months really had been too much and my body complained), just a whisker behind Paul who did end up winning the singlespeed category. At the finish, everybody had their own stories of their experiences out on the course, we had all enjoyed it and the concensus was that something epic had certainly just happened.

Hearing tales of the pain-fest and cat and mouse that was the front, I think I had more fun on my day out than the leaders. The Kielder 100 was an experience I truly enjoyed and lived up to its billing. Despite the fun I had, I have however promised myself will be back to get the result I know I am capable of with a better start and a more disciplined ride. This is an event that's going to be in the UK events calendar for a long time and that I am sure will go from strength to strength. Congratulations and thanks to Paul & Sara at SIP for a grand, if somewhat hard, day out.

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