Apparently the timing folk hadn't turned up on time and so sign on wasn't going to happen until the afternoon before the seeding run. The course was ready for practice though so we checked out the map to see what we recognised from our previous trips to Kielder? Stages 3,4 & 5 were similar to the Avalanche Enduro stages we did a couple of years ago but stages 1 and 2 were new. We set off to check them out.

To get to stage 1 we had to use what was usually a footpath. It was steep, soft and damp and so basically a push! Stage 1 was "natural" i.e. a new line marked through the forest just for the event. It was rooty and grassy but all ok. Plenty of rain and riders would probably make it a lot harder though? The climb to stage 2 was steady fire road but as we climbed it began raining. The stage itself was brand new singletrack. It was dead smooth and tempted speed out of you all the time before throwing in corners that would be nasty if you didn't scrub off that speed. It was long too: around the seven minute mark and would reward the fittest riders (not me then!).

The rain was starting to come down harder at the bottom of stage 2 which finished back near the village so we adjourned to the cafe for a brew. When the rain eased a bit we headed back out again and rode stage 5 which was also the seeding run. It was pretty much the same as had been used in the Avalanche events we had done; very pedally with a custom route through the trees at the bottom and into the finish arena. With the weather still not good we decided to not bother practicing the other 2 stages and got very traditional British by having a BBQ in the rain!

After carbo loading on burgers, giving the bikes a wash and changing into dry clothes it was time for seeding. We pedalled up the fire road to await our runs. As usual the atmosphere at the top was fun with plenty of banter and friendly chat. It wasn't much of a wait before Stu and then Shakey were away and then me. The countdown finished and I dropped in; over the first little rock and immediately I over braked for the first corner. I stomped on the pedals, upped my seatpost a bit and then as usual my complete inability to race kicked in and I cruised down at a steady pace. I really need to get my head round this racing malarky. I'm crap at it!

In the finish arena we awaited Phil. When he came in he had a big rip in his shorts exposing his arse which had a tyre mark and graze across it. Obviously his seeding run had not gone smoothly! The commentator spotted it and soon everyone knew via the PA! Phil had clipped a gatepost with his bars entering the last section and got his shorts wrapped around his saddle in the resulting crash. Despite this his time was still pretty good.

After another bike wash with the mobile washers we headed down to the local pub for a meal and a couple of pints before heading back to the digs. Saturday night was another quiet one. The Committee would not approve of the lack of drinking and in particular Stu's early night! It's almost as if people were taking this racing thing seriously?

The weather forecast showed heavy rain moving up from the south for race day. The question was: would it arrive before we finished?

The view from the back

Actually that should probably be "the view from the front"? The way the race runs work is that the riders are set off in their category groups slowest rider first. So as I am both slow and in the vets category I was one of the first riders away. There were only one youth, a few ladies and three or so vets in front of me. The rider that had seeded slightly slower than me didn't turn up for the race so I had a 40 second gap to the rider in front instead of 20. I shouldn't have the problem of catching and trying to overtake the rider in front like I had at Ae?

Having had nothing but a push up a hill to warm up everyone started stage 1 somewhat "cold" bike handling wise but warm temperature wise as the weather was spot on. I sprinted down the fire road start, over braked for the switchback into the trail and then maintained my poor riding for the duration! I stayed on and cleaned the stage but I was well slow. At the bottom the riders around me began telling tales of their runs and the good atmosphere started up. I pedalled with another rider up the steady climb to stage 2 chatting as we went.

We had a bit of a wait at the top part of which I spent helping one of the ladies with some gear adjustments after she had slightly bent her mech hanger. Shakey and Stu were there to give me some verbal as I set off on stage 2. I rode this fairly smoothly but definitely not as fast as I could. More practice would have been handy as I failed to remember where the dodgy corners and slight climbs were on several occasions. The length of the stage had everyone, myself included arriving at the bottom puffing and panting.

The climb to stage 3 was steady fire road with a little bit of singletrack (which several of those around me missed out). Having not practiced this stage I was relying on my memory of two years ago. The trail was pretty much as I remembered it but I did almost come to a stand still on one section I had forgotten. Near the bottom I heard Neil from the Rave Racing boys shouting out encouragement to me.

The link to stage 4 was pretty much a push all the way as there was no point knackering ourselves out on the tough black graded climb. At the start riders were discussing shortcuts on the stage. Bugger! We hadn't practiced it so I would just have to hope I spotted them? This stage is the black descent on the Deadwater Trail. It was definitely the most fun stage with lots of little jumps and drops. I missed all but about one of the shortcuts but enjoyed the flow and the jumps and drops. The stage seemed shorter than I remembered it from two years ago. At the bottom everyone was buzzing and wishing all the stages were like that.

One more fairly short climb took us to the last stage. I rode this far better than in my seeding run but still too far in my comfort zone. After finishing I got the camera out to get some of the other guys coming over the line.

Once the four of us had all finished we changed and went to the cafe for some food before checking out the results and then heading home. The rain had held off until the drive home (which was horrible due to the rain and spray).

Phil managed to make the singletrack video here

The gallery of photos I took is here

The full race results are here

Our results were as follows:

Cat Position Overall Bib Competitor Category Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4 Stage 5 Finish
10 65 751 Paul Shakespeare Vet 02:12 05:58 02:10 02:39 04:18 17:15
38 73 652 Philip Davis Master 02:12 06:03 02:10 02:32 04:30 17:24
21 98 776 Stuart Nesham Vet 02:19 06:20 02:17 02:40 04:24 17:58
33 149 730 Pete Halls Vet 02:38 06:39 02:25 02:58 04:51 19:29

I must admit I was a bit dissapointed with my result but that was all down to me. I need to learn how to race! I did however really enjoy the event which is the most important thing.