Richard “Rich Pips” reports from last weekend’s Montane Kielder 100 Enduro event.
100 mile mountain bike races are nothing new. However until last weekend if you wanted to enter one, you’d have to buy a plane ticket, and head to places such as Leadville, Breckenridge, and Durango. I’m sure someone has had the idea before in the UK, but the reality is that there are very few places were you will find sufficient trails to link together for a 100 miler. Paul and Sara though, found just the place in the UK, Kielder Forest.
In their pitch to the Forestry Commission the organisers said “If it attracts 100 entrants, 25 finish, 5 go to hospital, and one person dies, we’ll consider the event a success.” Well 250 signed up, and as far as I am aware the emergency services were not needed, but race casualties there most certainly were.
It had rained solidly the preceding week, but thankfully on waking at 5:30 it had all but stopped. Just a nice cooling mizzle instead. Just after 6:30 and we were off. Led out up the road at a sedate pace by the race car, it gave time to look at the sun rising over the distant hills, and then after a short distance we turned on to some fire road and the race proper began. I’d thought that the riding would be unexciting, how wrong I was. The route was great, made up of a variety of fire road, double track, singletrack, virgin man made stuff and lots of puddles. In fact all that rain that fell earlier in the week stayed around to make the trail conditions muddy, soft under tyre, or a mix of both.
The first retiree was caused by a mechanical, a free hub failure, the next the guy with the broken saddle rail, but for most of those who didn’t make the checkpoint cut off times, it was the unrelenting nature of the course that was their undoing. The needed eight miles an hour average speed, didn’t seem too much of a challenge at the start, but for me and a large number of others it was a pace we couldn’t make on this 99.99% off road course. One guy who’d given it his all to get to the first cut off said he was close to tears after missing it by only five minutes.
The winner Neal Crampton got round in just short of eight and a half hours. After following the fantastic signposting all the way round the route, he went the wrong way at the very last junction, to approach the finish line from the opposite direction to the one everyone was expecting him to take. The organisers were on the ball though, and five minutes later they were up there remarking the course so that everyone else went the correct way. The last home Mike McTimoney came home in the dark following the sweepers motorbike headlights after being out for an epic 14 hours, though at least he won an exposure light that he can use if he comes back next year.
Consensus in the pub after was that this was a great event, a classic in the making. The organisation was fantastic, and the riding was top notch too. Amy Baron-Hall the ladies singlespeed winners said afterwards “The hardest thing I’ve ever done on a bike but so much fun!”, and that’s from someone who has just completed the TransWales on a singlespeed.
One for the diary next year, though make sure you’ve done plenty of training. The Montane Kielder 100 is quite a toughie.