I can’t say it was the best of preparations for the race.
Three weeks before, I set off on a two-week trip to China. Despite trying to go to the hotel gyms as much as possible (gyms are boring so the sessions were short), it didn’t help with the amount of extra alcohol and food we consumed over the trip.
When arriving back to the UK, my new frame and fork were waiting to be built. After no sleep for 40hours – that was first priority. Build the bike.
It took no time really. I ended up packing it in the van and driving over to the north east for a party. The next day I managed to fit in a ride at Chopwell woods to test it out. It felt good.
Back to the lakes and a busy week at work looking after a US retailer and all the board meetings going on.
Only managed two more short rides. Fitness didn’t seem bad – but with two weeks of no riding I didn’t feel confident going into riding 100miles. Let alone singlespeed and rigid!
I managed to get the afternoon off on the Friday to pack the van and drive over to Kielder (2hrs from Kendal).
Leaving at 16:30 and got there in good-ish time. Camping was already pretty jammed and as the ground was so wet, I just decided to sleep in the van.
After asking someone what time the race started, I set my alarm and tried to get some sleep.
With the start at 6:30 and lining up at 6:00 – I thought getting up at 5:30 would have left me loads of time.
I got a bit lazy and got up at 5:50. Got ready pretty slowly and then got to the start line at 6:20 – only to find everyone already queued up. Starting at the back never gives you much chance really. Looking around there seemed to be some other fast guys that had had a lie in and looked just as worried as me to the bad start position.
“I should have got up at 5:30”
The race started promptly as always at 6:30 and after what seemed to be a good few minutes after the leaders had gone, the back end of the field managed to creep out of the starting blocks.
Luckily there was a climb where it all spread out on the first section which was at a controlled speed. This allowed the faster guys to get up closer to the front.
I was happy with my position as the race properly started and could see a few more singlespeeders surrounding me. As tempting as it was, I resisted kicking dirt up in their face as I speed off into the distance “remember, you’re riding for another 9+ hours – it is not a 1.5hr XC race”
Feeling good, I kept up with another singlespeeder who seemed to be going pretty quick. He was on a cube 29er with front suspension. I already had a disadvantage running rigid. I stayed behind him for a while not trying to push too hard to keep up. There were times where he’d be a long way in front (he seemed to spin a lot before going downhill to get a lot of momentum up – I couldn’t be bothered putting the effort in).
After about 15miles or so there was a long-ish steep-ish climb where I caught up to him. We both looked at each other.
I passed him and kept on the wheel of a giant bikes rider. At the top we started to descend down a not so steep fire road on open land with a good headwind. I expected the other singlespeeder to catch me but he stayed at few hundred metres behind. This went on for a while. He was gradually catching on me.
There was a technical section that came up and he wasn’t far behind.
Riding alone the singletrack I kept thinking I could hear him behind me. It turned out to be all in my head as I didn’t see him again. Not sure what happened to him and where he finished, but it was always in the back of my head along the remaining 80miles that he was only a few hundred metres behind. It was torture.
50miles came around pretty quick and by that point I was hurting.
The fir trees on the side of the tracks had cut into my arms and legs. That was stinging. The fact of not riding for more than 30miles this year was taking it’s toll. My back and arms felt bruised from the constant bumps.
I made a joke (with a hint of seriousness) to the marshal at the point of where the 50miles race turned back down to the finish area.
“Can I just do the 50 instead of the 100?”
He replied with “haha you’re doing well… keep going.”
I grunted and walked up the steep switchbacks leading to the board walk sections that leads you to Newcastleton.
Going over the tops was probably the worst part. Everything hurt, there was a ridiculous headwind and the ground so bumpy I was finding it hard to hold onto the bike. Once into the trees it got better and I enjoyed the singletrack at Newcastleton – a good uplift!
At 63miles I got some more lube on my chain and kept going. I ever really stopped for long at feed station. I try and carry food with me and only fill up bottles when I need to. Saves a lot of time and doesn’t let the legs go heavy!
I was looking forward to the next feed zone. Two years ago when I did the event last, there was soup and sandwiches. I’m not too good with lots of suger and cake sort of food so this would have settled my stomach. I was thinking of the hot soup the whole way along the horrible fire road back towards Kielder.
Imagine was horror when I arrived at the last feed station (mile 78) with only sweeps and cakes for food.
I still ate what I could and took some nice biscuits along with me.
I had a guy over take me up the next climb (I’d not seen another rider for 15miles) – He asked me why I was walking.
Would you be riding a 32:18 29er up a ridiculously steep fire road after 80miles??
The last 20miles weren’t too bad. I had perked up and although my legs were tired, I didn’t feel too bad. Defiantly not as bad as two years ago!
The 90mile sign passed and I started to push a little harder. I knew the route back now and just wanted to get it over with.
95miles passed and after that it starts to go up for 4miles, before the final descent.
I kept looking behind, hoping there wouldn’t be anyone catching me – let alone a singlespeeder! At this point I knew I was first singlespeeder. The marshals all around the course kept telling me “first singlespeeder” and I didn’t want to let it go in the last 5miles!
The last checkpoint came around.
I was pretty happy.
I quite enjoy the descent back down to the finish and wanted to try and get one of the fastest last split times. I wasn’t far off the eventual overall winners last split (over a minute faster than 2nd place!).
I got to the finish and couldn’t believe I’d finished first singlespeeder.
I rode to the castle and got my finish place and time
25th overall – 09:17:59
This was my second attempt at the 100. First time was in 2010 with gears and full sus. I shaved over 30mins off my time riding rigid and singlespeed. I must be getting fitter?
What I’d do next time?
32:19 gearing. Suspension. More sandwiches.
Then I can maybe aim for the 8hrs 51min time by Dan Treby.
We’ll see… Maybe something for my late 20’s …
I’ve now got a cold (probably due to racing at Kielder) and had to miss Tour De Ben Nevis.
Next race is 3 peaks cyclocross only a week away… See what the weather does this year!