Kielder 100 Mk4 this time it was different. We had five Plumz riders there and some fast ones at that. The weather was the best yet which meant everyone had brakes for the whole race, but for me I started thinking about finishing rather than just racing. The reason, the Kings and Queens of Kielder.
The goalt of finishing changed my approach to this event, for one I started taking more kit, 2 tubes, and some spares. I went for the Ragley as a long distance reliable tool, still not a ride I like but one I knew could cope with everything thrown at it. An Ebay special set of Fox Forks at 80mm went some way to making the downhills great fun, I’d forgotten just how well damped a good set of Fox forks feel, making every landing a joy, even if the kicked out front did take some wrestling round the tight bits at times.
Being one week later this year it was noticably darker as we rolled out up Forrest Drive behind the start truck, but it was warmish and dry, and all five of us, Rich, BigRing, Pilch and Sean were well placed. Rich was off up the sharp end as the race proper started, I could see Bigring ahead for a while, and could hear Pilch breathing down my next on the first singletrack climb.
I’d gone for a 31 tooth Ring up front and 1×9, a whole brand new drivetrain, yes I was determined to finish incident free. Pilch soon disapeared which suprised me, yes I felt like the effort at the start was maybe a bit to much, but he’s smashed me at the few events weve done this year. Turned out his tired drivetrain had bad jamming up chain suck from early on, and he dropped back.
It was no suprise to feel like I was a lot further down the pack than previous years, despite feeling I was hurting more. A spectator shout of 48th at 40 miles confirmed that. I just haven’t done the race miles this year, the distance is no problem, but those 4000 metres of climbing just need top end lungs. The first few sections of singletrack were a slight shock as I found myself off the edge of the narrow trail as I lost the fight with the “stretched” front end. The Pace would have been fantastic round here but I deemed the extra few pounds would kill me this year with so little training, maybe a challange for next year.
What was a bigger shock was just how poor the Maxxis Ikon’s were. The rear seemed to lock up very easily and despite the good conditions I don’t remember having to ease off as much on muddy climbs to get grip with Aspens on in the slop of last year. The worst bit was they were bloddy scary on the fast gravel corners. No doubt they were quick when I got all aero on some drops, but the lack of larger tread knobs on the outside edges meant they broke away much too easily for my style of riding. Previous years I’d enjoyed carving past cautious riders on the gravel turns even on Apsens, this year I had to ease back. In the end after 100 miles there were no crashes, but more sideways slides on the front, heart in the mouth moments than I can remember on gravel. Back to Aspens for me I think, and they are cheaper.
You’d think at the fourth attempt I’d know my way round here, well that didnt stop me going about a mile up the road the wrong way. Head in back pocket scrabbling for a gel at the wrong time 40 miles in meant I had to repasss quite a few riders I’d slowly ridden away from. One of them Steve Large I had been suprised to drop, and even more so to recatch at the 50 mile food stop. That made me feel better in a low moment just as I switched into full finisher mode, this didnt last long though as we hit the climb upto bloody bush and the exposed boardwalk, The side wind meant you had to ride on one side of the metre wide elevated boards, to stop being dumped off the other side with the gusts.
The route splits just before here, the 50 mile arrow would prove just too tempting to some riders, while it acted as a memory jog that this was the point we were aiming to return too after the next long loop we were embarking on to Newcastleton, Scotland and back. From here I caught and passed Shaun Pallister/Mammoth Lifestyle who had lined up with us at the start, he then repassed as I dithered paying the piper at the border, before I left him on the fun tracks into Newcatleton. We both enjoyed a leisurely stop at Newcastleton, Coffee and real food but welcome relief that only a chain lube required for the fautlessly performing bike. Doing the twisting jumpy trails from here on was fantastic with brakes, but hitting the gravel drag back to England I knew I was in trouble.
The wind was finally some relief behind us, last year I flew down here loving it and passing many riders, suddenly Shaun caught and left me, I had no response and it hurt mentally. The final big foodstop always signals some pain as a rolling section of tough gravel climbs try to break you metally and physically, into a head wind it was a killer. I started to doubt my fitness and ability to push 31-34 from here on, I’d already popped some painkillers to get me through, but as at least 4 more riders passed me in the last 20 miles, I had no fight. I even let a guy through on the last descent, and couldnt be bothered chasing him on that superb dowhill track, thats unheard off.
So 41st home in a time of 9Hr55:35 compared to 21st in 9Hr50:09 last year in those conditions. 2012 was so much faster yet I was 5 minutes slower with less maintenance stops, how much was it the headwind, how much was I missing the Pegasus, going the wrong way caost me 5 minutes at most too. To finish and find that my days targets of BigRing (9:44:45) and Friend Nick Towers 9:44:59) were just ahead of Sean (9:47:07) showed me what might have been if I hadn’t lost it in the mid section. More fast finishers and my own lacking performance put me out of the top 10 vets for the first time, only 12th behind those 4 above. Next year, the hunger is coming back as I write.
Now there are only seven of us left in the 4 out of 4 club, all those attending this year finished comfortably, For those efforts we all recieved a special Kileder 100 China mug and I was lucky enough to get £250 of holiday vouchers thrown in too, yay. Next year we are going for a life sentence it appears FREE ENTRY FOR LIFE.
To compound my slowness both Pro and Vet records were beaten, and Big up to Rich for coming in 8th on his first attempt too, those boys are fast. Pilch suffered more towards the end not having done to many events of this distance, and was just inside the top 100 in over 11 hours.