I started this year planning to make the Kielder 100 one of my big targets. It’s a great event, with a fab atmosphere and gorgeous setting in the wilds of Northumberland. But with my qualification for the World Championships confirmed I decided I couldn’t do a 100 mile race 3 weeks before, and just after my first set of major accountancy exams. News on the street from the SIP Events team was that they were planning a 50 mile option – 4-5 hours riding, sounded about perfect to me. Having got all my ‘issues’ out of the way in the heat at the Grand Raid, the aim of this event then became to try and do everything as I would in Ornans in 3 weeks’ time.
We rolled out of the castle grounds behind a truck for the neutralised start. This was surprisingly long and there was the usual amount of idiotic sprinting along the outside of the pack to move 5 places forwards. I found the whole thing quite scary as people seemed to think nothing of grabbing their brakes and slowing suddenly. Once we got going however I moved through the pack pretty quickly. Everyone was obviously saving themselves for the 95 miles left to ride whereas I only had 45, easy!
We started climbing on wetter trails, soggy from the rain earlier in the week, when my chain suddenly dropped off and jammed behind both my front chainrings. I stopped and tried to pull it out but it was really stuck. A big yank whilst cringing thinking about my fragile carbon chainstays and it was free. As I did this I saw one of the other girls pass so I got going again hoping to catch her soon.
The muddy trudge continued for a little while and it was difficult to pass people but as soon as we were back on better trails I was moving forwards again. Until….. crunch another chain jam – bugger. Fixed and got going again, this time very annoyed at myself. Chris P (my better half) had warned me this might be an issue with my chain set-up (I was running a PF-30 adapter so I could use hollowtech cranks and use my 26 inner chainring) but I’d not had the issue before so hadn’t worked out which gear I should avoid at the back whilst shifting up and down at the front. So I made a mental note to self to be more cautious and shift only in the middle of the block!
Working my way through the field again I started chatting with a group of friendly guys (seemingly common in Kielder) and as we hit a short gravel descent passed them to get ahead before the next climb as I was climbing well. At that moment I heard a cyclists most dreaded noise pffffsssstttt…… thud. Back tyre went flat. Stopping at the side of the trails I got out my spare tube, tyre lever and pump. No wait, where was my C02 canister? Double bugger. At this moment Chris Green from South Fork racing was passing so I asked him if he had a pump. The kind man he is, he stopped and helped me fix the puncture and the motorcycle marshalls stopped for a chat as well (always pays to be friends with the organisers in these situations!). We rode together for a while after this, and I got a great tow along the flat into the wind (thanks Chris G) which is my real weakness and then got away again going up the next climb.
I wrote my race off at this point, but thought at least I might be able to get a good training session out of it. I had borrowed a powertap from a team-mate (thanks Steve) and was able to push myself to ride at the power I wanted for the rest of the 50 miles. I had a couple more chain issues but am thankful it happened in Kielder so I have had time to make sure the bike is mechanically fit to ride a World Championships!
The last 20 miles of the course were fabulous, inspiring views out over Kielder water and fun to ride rocky trails built by the local forestry workers. One thing though for race organisers everywhere to note: Sara and Paul, you were very near death when I was riding along the double track trail into the final feed station which consisted of boggy ruts and foliage which whipped you whichever side you rode on and seemed to go on forever!
Anyway I digress. Just after feed 2 the 50 mile route peeled off to the right as the 100 milers went left. I ‘dibbed’ my timing point and the lass marshaling informed me I was the first person through. I didn’t really believe her but carried on down to the bottom of the final descent thinking I was the first girl – which was nice! I went through the finish arch and dibbed in again and was asked ‘calling it a day then?’ I informed them I had just finished the 50 mile course to which their response was ‘oh, well you’ve won then’. Hmmm, won? What did they mean? Back at the castle I spoke to Sara (of SIP events) at which point we both realised I had won overall. This resulted in Sara going to check the course to see whether other riders in the 50 event had accidentally followed the 100 route (it’s ok Sara I forgive you – just).
But it turned out I had actually won, overall – madness…. Chris Green my knight in shining lycra finished first in the men’s 50 mile race and my cabin mate Tim Dunford won the 100. So even with all my mechanical mishaps it turned out to be a great day and my C02 canister appeared, squashed flat next to the car, along with the gel I was craving with about 5 miles to go. Better not do that next time.
So thats it, prep done. Time for the World Champs. I think I’m ready, well I had better be…