This Saturday saw Jonathan Harris and me in Northumberland for the fourth running of the Kielder 100 mountain bike race. 100 as in 100 miles and 100 per cent off road. And just one lap. There was a fifty mile option - but where would be the challenge in that? We were to cover a myriad of trails around Kielder forest and travel over the border into Scotland to ride the trails of Newcastleton before returning to Kielder Castle.
We were just in time for the start at 6.30am. OK for Jonathan who, being seeded sixth got straight to the front of the starting grid. I had to go to the back of the 500 or so other riders, but quickly moved up through most of them after the gun went off.
So began a long day of fire road, boggy trails and rocky singletrack. The man made MTB trails in the forests are really well put together and flow nicely. They're good fun to attack and break up the monotony of fire road climbs very nicely. There's very little flat road/trail. Occasionally the trees part and there are 20 mile views. Most of the time you are concentrating on the next corner, the terrain, your heart rate or your refuelling strategy.
About 50 miles in to the race a steep zig-zag climb takes you onto a mixture of boardwalk and rocky trails over into Scotland. With (too) much enthusiasm after passing a few people on the climb I attacked the trail but my front tyre rolled off a rock and high sided me off the bike. I landed on my head and knee and had to take a little time to collect myself (and repair a broken helmet). The people I had just passed came rolling by at a more sensible speed. Getting back on the bike it was obvious that my knee was a bit bashed up but working so I cracked on and rode over the border.
Stopping at a checkpoint for tea and butties in Newcastleton it was a shock to hear Scottish accents. I don't often cycle far enough for accents to change! The other thing that was changing was my level of fatigue and the discomfort in my knee - both going up. Still, there was really only one way back and it was marked with race signage - 30-odd miles left to the finish.
So, the slog carried on. Still great trails, but not the energy to enjoy them to their full effect. The eighty mile sign came and went, then the ninety mile marker. More tired, more soreness in the knee and now in back and shoulders too, but only ten miles left. How long could that take? Quite a while as it turns out, but finally the last climb was over and a rocky descent delivered me to the finish. Knackered.
Full distance - 102 miles. Height climbed - nearly 12,000ft. Top Speed - about 35mph. Av Speed 9mph. Time spent scoffing rolls and jaffa cakes - too long. Final position - 75th of 380 starters. My race time 10 hours 53 mins. Winning time - 7 hours 52mins (a course record and very, very quick).
Jonathan's race ended a couple of miles from where I crashed. He slid off the boardwalk section, gashing his eyebrow in the process. Sensing that he needed treatment he took the sensible option and rode nine miles back to base, took a trip to A&E and got patched up. A massive shame for him as he was going really nicely - well inside the top ten. I have no doubt that he'll be back to have another crack at the K100. Also, huge thanks to Jonathan for driving and organising - he did a brilliant job.
And I thought today's G1 ride to Rye was tough!
Great write up Simon. You got a very good result, especially considering your crash. Were the boardwalk sections slippery or did fatigue play a part?
I hope Jonathan is ok.
Thanks for the thoughts, but I'm fine.
The boardwalk section where I crashed was a little greasy, but then boardwalk corners are always sketchy. I just misjudged it. There was a chicane and it was overlaid with chicken wire so I railed it in to the corner. Flipped the bike the other way for the second corner and that's where the wheels went. I hadn't spotted that they'd chicken wired the first corner, but not the second.
Feel a bit foolish, but I wasn't the only one to make the mistake. Chatting to a friend on Twitter yesterday, he went down in exactly the same place only a matter of minutes later!
I blame those 29ers. Shocking handling...
Nice report, Simon.
With a strong wind, I made the decision to try and stay in a group for as long as possible. So, my race started at a pretty relentless pace as I went out with the lead group of about 20 riders. That group gradually whittled itself down and ultimately splintered. I couldn't keep up with the top guys, so dropped off aiming to keep a nice tempo pace for the next 70-odd miles without getting overtaken. Easy!
I went through the 51 mile checkpoint in 7th or 8th place in just over 4 hours. I was suffering from my earlier efforts, but was still on for a good time and took off on the trail towards the Scottish border. Then riding a boardwalk section through the woods, I took a corner too quickly and my wheels went from underneath me like I was on ice. First thing I knew about it was when my head hit the planks. This was shortly followed by blood. Lots of blood. And an unpleasant throbbing sensation in my hand.
With no real idea of how bad the injury was and with over 40 miles to go, I took the relatively easy decision to pull out and head back to Kielder. There I got cleaned up by medics and sent off to Hexham A&E, where they glued one of the gashes, steri-stripped the other and x-rayed my hand (soft tissue damage only). Back to Kielder to wait for Simon to finish and then the battered and bruised Avanti team began the long journey back South.
A painful day on many levels, but enjoyable too. Will undoubtedly be back next year for more punishment, and hopefully a better finish.
Well done both of you. Sound like a real epic. Great effort, and its clear that Jonathan would have gone onto a good result if the crash had not happened. Crashing seems to be part and parcel of MTB riding !. I did the BHF London to Brighton off road ride on Saturday., and mananged to lose concentration and fall off, and that was on the flat !. It much more tame affair, with 75 miles of bridleways, disused railway lines and some very nice single track. Steve
Steve, Please could you post a new thread with a review/report of the offroad L2B, as this is something I have considered doing and would be interested to read this.
very well done indeed to both you boys competing in a gruelling Kielder 100 as usual
While us mere morts settle for a easyish road bash
Didn't realise this off road thing was so tough !
There's now a review of the race on Singletrack:
See if you can spot anyone we know in the second photo...