- Chippolini On guard
I had my hands on the Kielder 100 Vets trophy, no dream, it was in my house. OK so I was returning it for last years winner Slash Ashby as he couldn’t defend the title this year.
It’s as close as I’ll ever get though, the speeds are rising as the freshman 40 plus riders this year includes Ant White, Rich Rothwell and Mark Spratt, all title winners in the 24 hr field. It was going to be a battle to maintain my two previous results of being in the top 10.
This time some lodge accomodation was going to help, removing the camping/midge/getting up in the dark stress, should be worth a few mph in the race surely.
Signing on it was good to see I was given number 508 in recognition of my eighth place last year, so now I could check out who the other fast boys were. Saturday was spent eating loads and meeting old friends, and it turned out we (DaveL singlespeedz singular) were sharing the super luxery lodge with last years race champ Andrew Cockburn.
Race day dawned and the forecast all day rain was on. The place was heaving it was the biggest entry yet and we got a good slot up near the front as the pack rolled out in rain behind the vehicle. Unlike last year I lost sight of DaveL immediately, and settled into a pace I was happy with as the leaders stretched out of sight. Pretty soon it was apparent I was feeling pretty good, and after disposing of a few brake heavy riders on the first singletrack it started to stretch out. Briefly riding with Mel Spratt the two times ladies winner I got a little worried as I rode away from her. My goal was to beat her, she’s had that honour for both years, but this was to early to be leading her on previous pace. I felt great though, and with the risky choice of leaving the well worn Aspens on for the speed, I was flying past plenty of riders on the fast fireroad descents.
Dropping down a thin shute carved into a grassy bank I braked….nothing, not good and not wanting to crash at a faster speed than I was going I ditched sideways into the soft ferns. Running to the bottom confused I got back on and started to ride again with a twisted seat post, no good i should stop and sort it. Mel passed again shortly afterwards, looking like she was climbing way stronger than me I marvelled at her fitness and just resigned myself that it was back to normal years were I try and save it for the end to improve moral.
The lack of brakes was wierd, there wasnt that grinding noise from premature wear and not being amongst other slower riders I hadn’t even used the brakes much. The next few fast corners showed that it needed huge handfulls of brake to slow up, not much control and full 4 finger braking, uh oh. I had some cheap pads fitted from XCRacer shop, they had seemed fine in last weeks Peaks muddy descents, but now it was like breaking with wood onto wood.
Some of the earlier sections are proper technical twisty singletrack with jumps, last year attacked and enjoyed to the full, even though my fork was shagged and almost rigid. This year it was just a relief to get down, braking was bad, and the front was either on or off, I seriously doubted my chances of surviving and had to skip all the jumps and keep the speed down, totally alien to me. The next section saw a fast transition from fireroad over a large rocky dropoff, there was no way I was going to leap over that at the speed I was carrying, frantically trying to scrub enough speed to roll over, it was to late and the crash was coming.
Getting back up I was lucky, a little bash to my shin, a rider changing his pads on the entry had a good laugh though. Right now I was thinking damage limitation, and then a few corners later when a psssst! sound appeared in the front tyre while climbing I feared the worst. Stans did its job though and on we went, the cornering technique now was one finger on the bars, 4 on the whole lever and squeeze as hard as it gets. Foot out waiting for any problems as the front tyre chirped as the brake switched to ON. Fast fireroad corners, well it was pointless braking for them, hang on foot out and concentrate on proper racing lines, loose and dangerous but I starting to love the battle. I passed several riders mid corner who must have thought I was a right cock!
Over the border into Scotland on some high level rocky trail I climbed a section of trail I’d struggled on easily, confidence rose I was riding so much better and my average speed was up on the 10mph target. At this point I was convinced my rear tyre was very soft, more sections of jumps and rocks followed and again I found myself riding slower than I’d like just incase; this was no place to stop and get cold. Stopping at the (bag)Piper on the hill to pay a donation for luck, it was then the drop to the Newcastleton trails and the 60 mile checkpoint, where last year there was great food and tech support.
Just before the trail centre carpark a new section of track appeared, a grass bog is the only way to describe it. It was obvious that hardly any bikes had been on it so far, it should have been a marshy mud mess, but you could almost count the tracks in it. This boosted me again, I was doing all right after all. The checkpoint was different this year, not the warm inviting stone buildings, but windswept tents. Grabbing a trackpump first I then realised the rear tyre was at a perfect pressure, and turned to the brakes. I had two spare sets of pads and decided some rear action was needed if I was to enjoy the next section of Newcastleton swoopy downhill tracks. As suspected the rears were about half worn, but glazed over, some half worn sintered ones went in. By now shivering had set in so even though I had tons of stock it was hit the food tent time.
A cup of tea, drunk at the same time as a coke for the caffine, and cramming chocolate covered rice crispy slices in did the trick. The opportunity to grab some paper to clean my shades was not to be missed, the few other riders in there looked battered, thick dirt on their faces and red eyed. Not for the first or last time that day helpers commented on how clean I looked and did I know a short-cut. It still amazes me that riders dont use front crudguards in these conditions, it’s a cheap way to more speed in my book. In the eating frenzy I made the schoolboy error of pouring about 6 scoops of SR3 powder in one bottle from my stash….muppet.
Off again, and at last some fun, attacking the trails on the downhill singletrack, ace, back brake only and minimal to make sure we last to the end. Then its a long steady climb back up to the Kielder area and England. I settled into a steady rythm trying to ignore the noises coming from the chain, the front ring was on the edge of chainsucking and kept picking up, soft pedalling and no violent efforts were how to control this. A rider appeared in the distance, I was gaining and by the time I reached him I was going so much faster I couldn’t even say hi to him as I shot past. then another, and another, again I was boosted and feeling great as we reached 80 miles. My bottle exploding with fizzyness and being undrinkable was a hickup, but I could handle that.
At the 80 mile CP two lads were leaving as I arrived, “yes I am really clean, and no I’ll fill my own bottles thank you it’s complicated”. Decanting the sickly mess into two bottles, diluting and drinking I created something drinkable and didnt even bother with food. I was ahead of the game with bulging pockets. It’s a long hard climb from here, but again I caught the other riders easy, destroyed them and ploughed on. Another 10 miles on and some of the fastest downhill bits on muddy double track have to be treated with respect, shades on the end of my nose looking over them I can’t believe I got away with it, very scary times.
The last 10 miles is etched in my mind, every lump, I died a thousand deaths here the first year. It starts with a very rocky switchback climb that just dosen’t flow and just climbs on singletrack for 5 miles. I passed another 3 riders here this time, I just could not stop smiling such a contrast to previous years. The final descent came too easily, super fast and smooth it was hurting to to haul the brakes on. The rear had gone the same way as the previous pads and the front was back to locking up into every corner, I didnt care this was a done deal.
9hrs 5o min on the clock, I’d smashed my 10 hour target, (actual ride time 9 hr 35) beaten last years time which was in perfect conditons. Sinking the finishers beer my printout said I was 18th home, but as suspected only 7th Vet, those cruel young vets. LOVEd IT.
Mel came in 45 mins after me, she still won easily, but I’d overcome my Nemesis 😉
1st. Ben Thomas 08:00:50
1st Rich Rothwell 08:28:59
2nd.Ant White 08:29:39
Here’s the brake pads I finished with the top set from the front did the whole 100 and are not that bad, just glazed to a polished finish, you can see the centre band.
The bottom rear pads are the sintered replacements, again not worn but still didnt really work well after 40 miles, that sandstone fine dust around Kielder is crazy stuff.