Report by Ben Causon
After a successful 2010 Kielder 100 ride, Andy Powell and Dave Elliot inspired 3 more Yogi’s (Gary Bees, Andy Pearse & Ben Causon) plus soon to be Yogi Nigel Hook to join them in 2011.
After months of training, following separate training plans, Team Yogi were in good shape for the event, including Andy Powell who had struggled since a bad fall in June in the French Alps.
We arrived at the camp-site mid afternoon on Friday and promptly set about making camp in the only area of field not already occupied. After much deliberation we pitched on a slight slope, next to the hedge and away from our cars (which were not allowed off the tarmac) – all important points come Saturday evening.
The camp looked good, Dave’s gazebo was up (a minor miracle given the complexity of the structure and a lack of instructions) and nerves were kept under control by some obligatory but totally unnecessary tinkering. Before you can compete you must do three things, 1) Pass scrutineering 2) Register 3) Attend a rider briefing of which we did 1 & 2 before dinner. Andy Powell cooked a fantastic Spaghetti Bolognaise for everyone with the exception of Ben who opted for an alternative home made concoction – devouring his own body weight in pasta.
After dinner everything started to intensify – the banter (main focus being Gary’s bright white Flip Flops that were better suited to the beaches of Marbella), the nerves and of course the midges. We made our way to the rider briefing where we were told the standard stuff along with two key facts – 1 – 66% failed last year and 2- help a fellow rider out if in trouble…..with that it started to rain but little did we realise the significance of the briefing
Knowing that the weather can play a big part in the enjoyment level of MTBing a few of the team had tracked the weather forecast over the past 10 days. Things were looking promising – warm and dry. However, unbeknown to us, the tail end of Hurricane Irene was heading over the Atlantic towards Northern England and was forecast to hit Sat evening – no problem as we’d all be home…right? Unfortunately an update Friday from the Met Office showed that it was due to arrive 12 hrs early – 4am….and they were right! Only Gary and Nigel managed to get some quality sleep in, the rest of us lay awake and can confirm the Met Office were spot on….it started raining….hard!
Come 5.30 we were all finalising preparations – Gary had a nervy 5 minutes when he lost the nut for his skewer – he found it, put the wheel on and we made our way to the start. We were dry, optimistic and in good spirits. At 6.30 we made our way off behind the lead out quad which was not a great experience…with more than 600 riders in the peloton the pace was erratic causing a lot of sharp acceleration and breaking. After the experience of the race last year Dave tried to get as close as possible to the lead riders in preparation for the climbs. He took a chance and used the loose gravel at the side of the road to pass riders in the first 2 miles. It paid off and he was well placed for the first climb.
After 3 miles the lead out finished and things calmed down as we hit the first hill. At this point I should point out that Team Yogi occupied various positions on the road, we mainly rode on our own and our experiences varied. On the first hill Ben started experiencing chain suck which got progressively worst until, without reason, his chain snapped. It took a 10 minutes to repair by which point he was last by about 5 mins. He set about making up lost ground and probably enjoyed the early single track more than anyone else due to a lack of traffic. After a short time he made it back up to the last riders overtaking where he could – time was of the essence due to the cut offs later in the day. His chain still wasn’t right but he pushed on regardless. After 15 miles he caught Gary and they rode together for a while – traffic was still bad on the single track and mud was becoming a problem – 1200 tyres all churning the mud! A short time later they caught Andy Pearse who was looking strong and without problem. At this point Dave Elliot and Andy Powell were further up the road pushing on – Dave in particular was chasing a time better than last year and couldn’t sit back. The first food station couldn’t come soon enough for Ben – his chain was bad and kept jamming – he was facing the fact he’d be retiring after a 20 miles….something that didn’t rest well with him given his nature and the fact he was riding for charity. Along with a food station there was also a tech deck providing workshop tools – after removing more links, the crank and cassette he rebuilt the drive chain and things started to look up – it was all smooth and good. Ben, Nigel and Gary all set off for the next feed station at 50 miles – it was still raining and they were all covered from head to toe in mud. The next section was pretty tough with long climbs and particularly muddy single track. At 30 miles Dave was forced to stop and replace the pads – he had heard them wearing out going up hill. At the same point he discovered the tri bag on his top tube had been touching the inside of his right leg forcing him, without realising, to change the position of his leg causing lots of pain.
Ben, Gary and Nigel spread out along the trail and at the 55 mile point Nigel was forced to retire because he was the wrong side of the cut off. At the 55 mile cut off Dave was ready to give up. He was tempted by the “road of shame” but refused to quit – he wanted to hear the bagpipes at the border. However, he was starting to get real bad chain suck, his inner ring had worn very quickly causing teeth to hook. Stopping every few miles to lube the chain seemed to work for a bit. Needless to say he ran out of lube very quickly. Having stopped so many times he was expecting Ben to come riding past knowing from the banter that he wanted beat me but as time went on he started to realise that he was probably having problems like everyone else.
Ben, Andy and Andy all arrived within a few minutes and Gary was not far behind – 5 Yogis all made it to 50.
The next stage (50 – 68 miles) defined each of our fates Dave crossed the border into Scotland past the piper and rode out into the windy wet and misty open moorland to the sound of bagpipes – a great feeling. He was still pushing for 10hrs using the fast downwards fireroad and some great singletrack to pull back time. Ben and Andy Pearse left at the same time and pretty much rode the next section together. After 10 miles they passed over the border into Scotland – which would have been a great moment with the piper greeting us had it not been for the fact it was very misty with hard driving rain in our faces. Having climbed since leaving the checkpoint we were due a downhill and were duly rewarded with a great section of fire trail. However, ¾ way down Ben’s brakes were sounding really bad and after a particularly fast section he pulled over to join 10 fellow cyclists all examining their brakes. Things were bad – the pads had gone front and back and the back piston was separated from the disc by a piece of metal that resembled some tin foil! Andy Pearse pulled over to assist – his brakes were sounding bad and after a quick check he confirmed his back brake pads were knackered. Fortunately Andy was carrying a leatherman which they both used to prise their pads apart. At this point Andy tried to help a fellow rider, who had become a shivering wreck, change his brakes – he had no joy. In the interim Ben checked over Andy’s front brake and told him they were also knackered to which Andy replied…”they can’t be they’re brand new pads”….after 60 miles of riding the pads were wrecked! Andy Powell, enjoying the trail came flying past – no nasty noises from him. Further back up the track Gary too was changing his pads – he was still on schedule to hit CP2 when (with the previous days brief in his mind) he asked a guy if he needed help – to which he got a yes and spent 20 mins fixing his chain. Unfortunately these 20mins cost Gary the chance to finish as he missed the cut off by 10 mins – this was made worst by the fact the guy planned to drop out at Newcastleton!
Dave made it to Newcastleton first and enjoyed some lentil soup, an eggroll and a quick blast with the pressure washer followed by some chainlube from the guys who were working overtime replacing pads. Andy Powell pushed on and made CP2 in good time. He went straight to the service station where a team of mechanics changed his pads and promised to charge him at the finish! Ben and Andy made it in time and took 5 mins out to warm up with some soup and sandwich – for the first time that day food didn’t have a gritty texture! It has to be said that by this point there was wide spread carnage – the rain and mud had taken it’s toll and bikes were being worked on every few hundred metres along the trail – completion became the sole aim.
Dave was still on a mission and was through CP2 in really good time. 10 hours was still on until, within seconds of leaving, Dave blasted down the grassy bmx track and came off landing face first in the grass. Ben was next to leave followed by the two Andy’s. After a 1 mile push up a hill that resembled a slurry pit we were rewarded with some fast, man made really good single track followed by cinder trails. Dave realised 10 hours was out the window and Ben had adopted a strategy of riding in a single gear along with using the sloppy mud on to control his speed on the descents to preserve the brakes. The two Andy’s had got into a rhythm and rode most of the section together. All 4 made it to CP3 with Andy Powell coming in 8 minutes ahead of cut off – great pacing after 80 miles! .
At the 85 mile cut off point Dave was having problems – will or won’t the bike make it – He had bad chain suck despite using the big ring, a slow rear puncture but at 85 miles he knew he had made it…or so he thought! A few miles in both front and rear pads were metal to metal. He was going to try to and make it back without changing the pads but after a couple more descents he decided it was a bad idea. With 8 miles to go he stopped to change the pads – he had spares or so he thought – wrong…..in a rush to change his pads at 30 miles he somehow managed to leave a pair behind. So rear pads only then! For Ben the final section was one of the most enjoyable. The terrain was good and everyone was more relaxed. Ben’s chain snapped for one final time (more snaps in this ride than the previous 5 years) but in good spirits he pushed on in a small group of riders who had resorted to walking up steep hills to preserve the chain and walking down steep hills to preserve the brakes. The two Andy’s weren’t far behind, riding together happy in the knowledge they’d made it and time was no longer an issue.
At 94 miles Dave was nursing the bike home when a small rock shot from under my front tyre straight into my rear mech causing it to jam in the spokes. Luckily he was going slow enough to stop before it snapped off. In Daves words “I was too tired to cry by this point. Somehow I managed to bend it back enough so the gears would sort of work. Onward again into the last bit of singletrack climb. A twinge of cramp and I decided to drop the chain onto the inner ring….chain suck this time and the mech snapped the hanger right off but didn’t take the carbon frame with it” He had a a short walk/limp to the top of the hill where the marshals had a gazebo. He converted the drive chain to a single speed.
After 98 miles we were greeted with one fine treat – a final section of single track downhill at the bend of which we passed over the finish line. Dave was the first back in a time of 11.57 followed by Ben 12.57, Andy Pearse 13.10 and Andy Powell 13.12.
So why was the location of our tents in the field worthy of mention – because nearly everyone else was submerged in an inch of water and ducks were paddling in the ‘pond that engulfed the tents’ (the picture below doesn’t fully justify the situation).
On a fine day this event would be an incredibly rewarding challenge encompassing great views and varied terrain. However, conditions meant the views were non existent and the trails couldn’t be fully appreciated – it also explains the 25% completion rate. The final words from the event organiser:-