Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Fully Loaded

With the snow levels falling i took maybe my last chance to get out in snow so loaded up the bike and took off for a few or more hours..

Joined by Dave(Ramsay) we headed out past the quayside in Newcastle and picked up the C2C route out onto the Derwent Vallet trail...

The bike is really good... comfortable to ride and even loaded it was still fun. Alpkit kindly sent me some new Airlock Xtra dry bags to play with and they strap easily to the racks and look the part in orange.

We deviated from the Derwent Valley Walk and took a nice descent before starting the long push and ride to the top of Chopwell Woods.

After a bit of playing we spun home...

Really pleased with everything so far and next addition will be some handmade handlebar pogies from Dogwood Designs in Alaska.. custom brown to match bike:)

Sunday, 20 December 2009


The unexpected has happened... we have snow!!

When i was younger snow was a given.. there are countless images of me at christmas as a child in some 'all in one' winter suit.. but as i have gotten older snow at this time of year has become less likely so any opportunity to make the most of it has to be taken.. especially when in 6 weeks i'll be lining up for the Arrowhead 135.

Today was a good chance just to play with my gear.. with only a light hour left to do for in this weeks training plan i took the opportunity to get some of my Arrowhead gear out and go for a spin.

Since Montane ( on board i've had a big box of clothing sitting waiting to be played with... admittedly i have been wearing the Flux down and Extreme jackets alot but the Terra salopettes were yet to be tried and tested...

Today i got to try them out... it wasn't quite cold enough to warrant either of the Montane jackets so i went with the Madison soft shell over a Montane polartec fleece.. the mitts are some old Extemeties i had from snow boarding... On my feet i had Alpkit socks underneath Smartwool hiking socks and the New Shimano MT91 Boots.. after a minutes pedalling i was toasty warm.

Lastest addition to my snow bike is the front rack... after much head scratching Martin ( also the man behind all my current wheelbuilds:)) and Murphy at Ride Cycles managed to get a standard Blackburn front rack to fit with some 'manipulation' ... works great and will hold a few light bags and keep my sleeping bag roll clear of my front tyre.

Still alot of testing to do... i have some interesting stuff lined up with Leeds Met University courtesy of Alpkit then of course the Alpkit trip to France in January.

Sure all of this prep will go someway to helping me but in no way totally prepare me for what lies ahead... time to man up i think.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

84km Bivvi Challenge

When winter approaches events become few and far between... as a sponsored rider exposure for the companies that give you love should never be restricted to just the racing season so you are always on the lookout for a challenge or ride a little bit out of the ordinary to tackle.

The 84km Bivvi Challenge was something i found on the net and was instantly attracted to it.. Dan its creator was inspired by a bivvi event he had done so created the site and threw down the challenge.. it can be tackled on foot or bike and has a normal distance and an Ultra distance... the Ultra bike distance being 260miles ( somewhat more than the 84km the name of the site suggests) and stipulates a minimum or 48 hours spent out and about...

Unfortunately when faced with choices you always gotta tick the biggest/furthest/highest/hardest/stupidest option available to you otherwise you are just cheating yourself so we opted for the Ultra bike distance and to do it in exactly 48 hours.

We being myself and fellow Genesis Bikes rider James Leavsley... we banded around a few route suggestions and settled on riding 2 popular national cycleways.. the Reivers route out to Cockermouth then pick up the C2C route for the return leg home.

With bikes packed and weather looking almost okay we set off at 9.45 on sunday morning.... i opted for my Genesis Vapour with traditional rack and panniers whilst James went with his Genesis Altitude with fancy rackless luggage..

The ride started pretty easily.. close to the coast and heading inland the going was pretty much standard cycleway fair.. flat and good cycleways... good chance to get used to lugging the weight of panniers before the real stuff started.

Weather was pretty changeable... shower.. sun.. shower.. sun... temperatures weren't the lows we were expecting...

At about mile 40 i noticed i had a slow puncture... with rain beating down i was keen not to stop so i pumped it up and kept on... i was already suffering pangs of hunger and at every stop for a gate would eat more of Grace's lovely banana and fruit cake.. with Bellingham approaching a Cafe stop was in order. I used to ride to Bellingham all the time on local road clubs runs but it has been a good 15 years since i was there last and the cafe was now a chinese takeaway but luckily a new one had opened.

After consuming some hot food and drink i had to change the innertube and by the time i had done that i was very cold and it felt as though the temperature had dropped ten degrees as we set off again.

It wasn't long till we had to use lights... Light and Motion Stellas all round... at this point we were up near Kielder water and i had already noticed that i wasn't able to stay with James on any of the climbs and he would gradually pull away from me with no response from myself... i wasn't having fun and was feeling hungry again... Kielder water and the Scottish borders can be pretty bleak, especially at night in winter when its raining and into a headwind... i was already planning an early escape at Carlisle back via the train convinced i couldn't make the distance.

We soldiered on through the night... i remember getting to Newcastleton with the hope that they may have a Spa shop or petrol station i could refuel in only to be bitterly dissapointed... as we hit 97 miles ridden we reached Longtown near Carlisle and just as i had told James i would happily swap my reproductive organs for a shop we rounded a corner to see a beautiful Spa shop.. the salvation of every distance cyclist... £20 spent i was already feeling good... James had spotted a picnic area sign.. good as anywhere for a urban ish bivvi.

As we got to the picnic spot it was actually an adventure playground... even better... we rigged the Alpkit tarp up over a walkway and climbed in underneath..

In our Alpkit Bivvi bags and Sleeping bags seperated from the ground by Alpkit Wee Airics we were super comfy and warm, congratulating ourselves on both the shop find and the bivvi spot... the local policeman was somewhat more confused by the whole thing.. "you are planning on sleeping here all night?" ... luckily he had no problem with our kind of idiocy and just left us with a warning to be wary of local kids and our gear.

We woke in the morning to the sound of water on tarp... as we lay there it wasn't subsiding so James made a move to scare the locals in the nearby public toilet leaving me to get ready in our under walkway home.. both ready we went to move the tarp to discover a massive pond of water had gathered in in directly above us.. if that had let go onto us it would have been a very rude awakening.

The ride towards Carlisle was pretty easy going.. nice and flat.. Carlisle during rush hour was interesting squeezing between cars and negotiating wet roundabouts on heavily laden bikes.. beyond Carlisle the headwind continued to batter us.. the rain was unrelenting and the hills started to come as we got closer and closer to the Lake District.

Descending a country lane i rounded a corner to find an elderly citizen driving towards me and as she seemed to be taking some kind of racing line that placed her onto my side of the road i had to ride straight into a pothole to avoid her... as i cursed her i also noticed i was a pannier bag lighter and turned to see it following me down the hill... the mounting bracket still attached to my rack ripped clean off the back of the pannier. We were left with bungee and cable tie'ing it to the rack but it wasn't the most secure of items.

As we approached Cockermouth the scenes of devastation from the recent flooding were all around us and we had to 'freestyle' it over a bridge that had been closed due to structural concerns... as we got to the A66 Cockermouth was right and Keswick our next destination was left.. we decided rather than ride to Cockermouth a few miles down road then have to ride back to Keswick we would instead ride quarter of a mile straight ahead to the Pheasant Inn and have some food.

After eating and James stripping off to dry all his wet goods on a decrepid heater we made for the C2C route via the A66.. not a pleasant experience getting buzzed by big lorries every few minutes until we could turn off onto the official route... i had it in my head that Penrith was alot closer than it was but then as with all signed cycleways they are never the most direct route but the quietest so we wound our way round country roads as it got dark again.. i was flailing eventhough i now had a tailwind... James wanted to see another 50 miles past Penrith and i knew the climbs of Hartside, Garrigill, Nenthead and Allenheads would have to be ridden that day on top of the 8 hours we had already done.

The climbs got harder for me.. James was still dissappearing up the road.. no fault of his own i just felt slow and bad... felt like i had been chasing him for the entire trip... those that meet him may be fooled by his mild mannered polite nature.. don't be fooled.. he can ride the legs of all comers.

As the rain started heavier again we reached Penrith and i was done... knowing what lay ahead i knew i couldn't do it in the timescale we had set and as fate would have it we entered Penrith right next to the train station... 171 miles done.

Game over for me.. we exchanged some goods to make the rest of his trip easier then he was gone, i will always have the utmost respect for this guys attitude to being on the bike.. unstoppable and loving every minute one of the most mentally strong people i have ever met.

That just left me with a dejected train ride home...

All i know is i met James this morning and we finished his ride together... exactly 48 hours out and about and covered 264ish miles... i will leave him to add his thoughts on the Genesis Bikes Blog (

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Sandman Bikes

No i've not defected from the House of Genesis to another brand but i am gonna have to give some love to Conrad at Sandman Bikes in Belgium.

One of my favourite things in live is the internet... no not the vast XXX rated content.. the ability to track down the weird and wonderful parts you need to finish the build that you have put together in your head.. you know exactly how you want it to go together and how it will work but alot of the time there are no mainstream sources for the little or big parts you need.

Madison for 99% of the time can supply me with everything my little heart desires but when building a special variety of bike you got to look to all corners of the bike speaking world to get the bits you need.

After looking at Surly's Pugsley i was convinced i needed to be able to swap my front and rear wheel... both for quick ratio changes but also in the event of a freewheel failure i would have another.... Pug forks however are offset to no use on a normal frame... some forum searching took to me to Italy and a company called Sandman bikes.. the webpage held little info but promised alot with pics of a full fat bike... i emailed.... within a day an email came back.. forks were sitting waiting... they were a mere 80 euros a pair and within a week or so i had 2 pairs in my hand... problem solved.

Big thanks Conrad but what am i gonna do now with my spare time with no forks to find :)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The 2010 Fleet

Its taken a few weeks but finally the 2 bikes i will be racing and riding in 2010 are coming together.

First is my much awaited Titanium singlespeed... to date there is only 2 of these frames in existence but with alot if interest they may see production.. build kit see's all PRO Components top end carbon toys.. the new forks are all carbon and weighing in at a svelte 600g!!!

This will be my main race bike.. it'll see alot of marathons and 12's .. hopefully the odd stage race too:)

Next bike is a bit more specialist... born out of a standard IO 2010 frame this is my 'Half Fat' bike built primarily for Arrowhead 135 in February and will then be my epic multi day bike..

On borrowed Snow cat rims.. thanks Shaggy... the bike runs matching wheels spaced at 135mm front and back, this is only made possible by the forks. Sandman in Italy supplied the fat forks which not only allow my 135mm spaced front wheel but also give near infinite clearance. Just in case anybody wondered the front and rear wheels are identical so they can be swapped in the case of a mechanical but also allow different size cogs to be used on the 2 wheels... quick release with chain tensioners allows a quicker change.

Big Thanks to Conti for their biggest tyre the Diesel 2.5

The bike is set up for comfort.. Jones bars giving alot of hand positions... or alot of different places to hold my bike while i'm pushing it through snow!

Mechanical disc brakes for the low temperatures.

Chainring made by Dan of Homebrewcomponents in America... Dan is also supplying the chainrings and cogs for all my bikes and will get some good images in a seperate blog when they arrive.

Last of all is a handmade product created in the Alpkit Factory by chief seamstress Nick... thanks Nick.. made from recycled Alpkit Gourdons it completes the bike.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Time Off

Things have been quiet on the blog front.. partly as things have been quiet on the biking front.

Think i have had a tough year.... all the races and rides i did were sizeable and all seemed to be in the worst possible conditions so when it gets to this time of year and the racing dies off its a good chance to have some down time.

This isn't to say i have been vegetating for the past month or so.. the exact opposite... i'm now working 3 days a week at Ride Cycles on Scotswood road in Newcastle ( come and say hello if you are passing)... i've now got a new clothing sponsor for next years madness who i will post in more detail about in the next week or so.. and there are a few new bikes on the horizon for next years campaigns... I've been riding alot of fun stuff too.. new Gisburn trails are great even in the pouring rain..

I'm very excited about my new 2010 builds and although they aren't finished a few sneaky highlights are below...

Time to start training for real is coming up quickly and i can't wait.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Transprovence 2009

I'm fresh back from the first edition of the Transprovence race...

What a week... the race travels from Gap to Monaco over 7 days and each day there are a number of timed special downhill stages (with some uptulating bits too:))with liason stages like a car rally inbetween.

The organisation was fantastic... thank you Ash and Melissa for this great race.

The trails were fantastic... the downhills on the whole beyone my comfort zone and i was pushed every single day... i have come back itching to try and sort a new bike to handle these kind of races.

I didn't take many pics so am waiting to steal some good shots from fellow competitors before i try and compose a more detailed report or i may just let the pictures do the talking as i will struggle to describe how staggeringly beautiful this part of the world is... every climb was rewarded with epic panoramic views to ease the lactic in the legs before pointing downhill and hanging on through technical singletrack descents of upto 14km!!!!

This race is a winner in my eyes... it has appeal across the board and future editions i have no doubt will sell out very quickly.

This is the site to watch..

Hugest thanks to Ash and Melissa and to all the voluneers for putting on this fantastic event...

Thank you to Col at Alpkit for putting me onto this event and sorting it out for me..

...Finally thanks to all my Fellow TP competitors.. you were a pleasure to ride with and look forward to future get togethers.

( oh and thank you Paul West for getting up ridiculously early to take me to the airport and come get me too..)


A few months ago Trev pointed me in the direction of an online mag called XXC .. put together by Jason Mahokey the mag focuses on the endurance side of racing and features a ton of reports from mainly stateside mountain bike events.

I approached Jason as i wanted to get involved as i enjoyed the mag... he read the blog... liked Salzkammergut report... its now in the latest issue.

Check it out here and be inspired..

Great write up from Joolze and a good 3 Peaks CX race report too... Colorado Trail looks very interesting.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

A few days at the coast - Knoydart Penninsula

Since being made redundant i have mostly just mooched about... looking for jobs.. discovering how little there is out there and contemplating how again i have managed to land myself in this position of uncertainty.

Riding has taken a back seat... primarily due to the disorganisation in my life.. living with Grace's parents.. trying to move to Newcastle.. trying to find a job and also as Kielder seemed to take a higher toll than i thought leaving me with a sore knee to rest up.

This lack of riding wasn't really an issue as anyone that finds themselves with spare time on their hands due to unemployment quickly realises when you wanna go do some riding all your riding friends are at work:(

So came about this trip.. after contacting the usual suspects looking for an out for a few days just to think about something fresh other than life Micheal (Rose) came good with a long weekend idea to a place in Scotland he had wanted to go to for a long time.. the Knoydart Penninsula.. one if not the remotest place in the UK... the destination town we were gonna be visiting, Inverie, is totally cut off from the main road network.. only accessible by walking/riding in or by ferry.

The trip idea was pretty straight forward... Friday night we would drive to Glenfinnin where we would dump the car and from that point carry everything we needed.. a short ride up the valley would see our first nights accommodation.. the Corry hully bothy.. the Saturday would be a ride to Inverie.. Sunday a walk up a mountain and Monday a short ride to catch the ferry.

Friday everything was loaded into a 55 litre borrowed rucksack from Micheal... tent strapped one side and sleeping mat the other.. this thing weighed at least 15kg.. riding was gonna be interesting. I drove to pick Micheal up and the third member of the group.. Ellie.. his whippet.. with no dog sitter available we were taking the dog, distances looked manageable and we knew the going was gonna be very much 'hike a bike' with maybe more hike than bike so she would easily be able to manage it.

The driving was shared and after consuming a large amount of wine gums and midget gems we arrived at Glenfinnin at midnight.. we quickly unloaded the car and dumped it at the train station hoping it would be safe there for 3 days..

After a short ride and trying to get used to riding with so much load on our backs we reached the bothy and Micheal took a look in to find one inhabitant, an American lady who didn't mind the rude awakening at what must of been 1am... we quietly got bags out and got onto the wooden bench to get some sleep.

The next morning we woke to clear skies and a promising day.. the scenery was fantastic...

After a coffee we got underway up the valley.. the days riding was basically set to be 3 passes.. the first starting straight off the bat and we were subjected to a good slog up the valley although the rough double track we were on allowed us to ride all but the steepest sections.. well Micheal used the granny ring and got up most. The top section was mostly pushing.

the ground as we go to the top of the first section was very boggy and although allowed some riding also allowed some comical falls.. when you have so much weight on your back its really difficult to get back up from a fall or drag yourself out of a deep section of bog... riding was very comical even if weather had started to turn to crap and we were getting wet.

We made it to the bottom of the pass and into a section of forest which luckily after a very short push opened into a lovely hard surface to ride.. the weather was getting worse so we decided to stop at the next bothy for some food and to dry the dog.. the bothy was nice and bike and allowed us to get bike in and all our gear out to try and dry it once we had got a fire going..

It was definitely a 'room with a view' looking out onto the hillside and valleys and we took the time to cook up some hot food.. at this point we had decided that to make it to Inverie today would be too much.. the going was very soft and slow so our aim became the Soulies bothy on the other side of the second pass located on a beach it looked to be a great spot to spend the night... happy we had time on our side we set to some noodles.. also time to ponder the switch on the wall labelled 'immersion heater - please turn off before leaving' for a few seconds we looked about for sign of hot water before realising how ridiculous we were being.

After lunch we stepped outside to a much better day the sun had come out and there was rainbow seemingly outside the door..

We set back off able to ride the double track till it eventually ran out and turned to singletrack... from here on we pushed and rode a little and picked our way up the pass.. although the path was not ride able in places the going was still good..

As we made our way the weather tested us with bouts of sunshine followed by battering squall's of rain... we finally reached the end of the pass and with only the descent ot go we were treated to some fantastic technical singletrack... unfortunately not as much was ride able as liked due to the hindering rucksack that every time you slid your weight back it would push you in the head and slide your helmet forward but all the same this was a hidden gem of a descent which i imagine as seen not many tyres in its time..

Getting to the bothy we weren't the first to arrive with a couple of walkers already in there.. luckily on seeing another approaching group of 4 they decided they would vacate and camp up the trail away only for the group of 4 to arrive and they were camping too so we got lucky with the whole bothy to ourselves. as the sun set the views along the loch and the shoreline were stunning... a couple kayaked in just as the sun was setting and it really appealed.. sea kayaking will get tried in the not too distant future.

That night we drunk little bottle of red wine while Micheal tried everyway under the sun to light some very 'green' wood... finally succeeding just as we had decided to go to sleep... i went to sleep on a double thick bed of my mat plus some foam i had found in the bothy intoxicated by plumes of wood smoke whilst Ellie had decided it was my turn to have her sleep at the bottom of my sleeping bag.. i have no idea how she can breath in there!

On the Sunday the day started on a very civilised note with pain au chocolat and coffee for breakfast followed by what could be viewed as a bad decision but now its all over i see it as laying down one of the hardest challenges of my life and opeing up some future trip possibilities.

Instead of simply going up and over the third pass to Inverie we decided to 'ride' the coastline... hug the coast.. ride the beaches we could find and hopefully get to see some wildlife hiding off the beaten track.. we set off on a rideable beach.. the day looked promising..

After a short while we were faced with a straight up a grassy rocky bank.. this should have signalled what was to come but optimistic we pressed on... then a shallow ish river crossing..

Once we had crossed the river another push up a grassy bank gave us some doubletrack to ride... this ran out at a jetty about 1.5km down the valley.. from this point we could only go straight up the steep valley till we could traverse across again.. prefered mode of travel was bikes on top of rucksacks..

From here on the going was the toughest ground i have ever tried to cross... we had calculated that we would have 3km of this hard going before it flattened... not only were we having to go up and down the valley sides but also inland to varying degrees as the outcrops of rock forced us inland.. the lovely ride able beaches we were hoping for just didn't materialise.

We did however get some wildlife.. firstly in the form of a group of basking seals on a rocky outcrop just of the shore... a few of which came close and popped up out the water as we went past on the beach to take a look at us.. then a Deer darted out of the bracken a few feet away.

The going continued to be hard.. if it wasn't 4ft high bracken clinging to your cranks and bars it was tussocks of grass making your bike 'endo' as you tried to push it meaning you were having to lift it over stuff.. eventually after a number of hours we got to a large flat area... a very large boggy flat area!

Micheal had opted to strip wheels off his bike and carry it on his rucksack... i was still wheeling mine.. crossing this bog was like a mine field.. on at least one occasion each we had to be helped out of a particularly deep section.

The reward for crossing this horrible place was a large ish stretch of rideable beach.. the gem we had been searching for.. if only it was all like this!!

No sooner had we smugly rode this section of beautiful coastline we were back up against it going up and down bracken covered hillsides... at one point we had to go straight up a very steep section.. probably only 20m but i was having to cling onto the grass with one hand and repeatedly throw my bike up the slope with the other.. at this point i thought i was beat... luckily myself and Micheal's high and low points didn't coincide so there was always the other person to give some encouragement... if i was on my own i would have curled up and waited for death to take me!

At this point we realised how totally committed we were to this endeavour... in mountain biking you don't generally get to feel this kind of exposure as you can ride to the nearest point of help in a relatively short space of time... but we weren't able to ride.. we were barely able to push at any great speed.. we weren't on any recognised trail or track so no one used this area.. we simply couldn't sit down and wait for someone to come and help.. totally committed to the route and the only way out of this was under your own steam... a sobering thought.

We pressed on and eventualy could drop to the rocky beachline and although it was not rideable and was uncomfortable to walk on the cobbles it was at least forward progress without constant traversing... we made a few more kilometres before we had to head briefly inland... at this point we could see Inverie on the other side of the bay.. painfully close... i was super thirsty as had lost one of my waterbottle son day one and had only stopped to boil up stream water once that day.

Our final real test came in the form of a 6ft high wire fence with half broken crossing poles... my bike got thrown over in frustration although i took more care passing Ellie to Micheal.. with a final rest to take on some more calories we were left with an easy shoreline push till a trail appeared which we rode complete with axle high salty water puddle till we got to the pub of Inverie.. the remotest in the UK... at the pub we ate well and i sunk 3 pints of cola and a magners.. and still could have drunk more while Ellie took well deserved rest on my Alpkit gilet/Dog bed..

No luxury of a bothy that night so out came the tent... we quickly pitched behind a wall and got in trying to sleep as the wind really had a good go at the tent and put it to the test...

Unluckily in the morning it was raining but with only a short ride to the ferry terminal life wasn't so bad..

I discovered my first and the trips only puncture... gave me something to do while we waited for the ferry.

The ferry crossing was very wet and windy and although indoors was available they operate a no dogs policy so we were literally left out in the cold.. Ellie tucked down inside Micheals jacket.

Arriving in Maillag there was only a train journey seperating us from the car... that train just happened to be a steam train.. a strange end to the Journey..

On reflection i rated this weekend tougher than any race i had ever done.. Micheal rated it tougher than the Matterhorn summit he recently did... so why am i sitting writing this now and i bet Micheal will be sitting reading this figuring out where we can go next and what changes we can make... insane?? certifiable!!!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Kielder 100 - a hard days work.

Everything is bigger and better in America (apparently)... they drive bigger cars.. have bigger houses.. eat bigger burgers and until the people at sip-events got to work they had bigger single lap mountain bike races...

Not anymore... Saturday 5th September 2009 saw a historic moment in UK endurance mountain biking... we got our first taste of a 100 mile single lap race.. long had we read tales of Breckinridge, Leadville, Shenandoah and other such races in the states and wondered about these single lap epics... we had even tried to trick ourselves cleverly using our metric system to give us 100km races but there was no getting away from the itch that needed to be scratched.

Paul and Sara at Sip Events made the bold move and their hat was thrown into the ring when the Kielder 100 was announced.. at first it was a rumour.. then a reality.. shrouded in mystery as forums buzzed with speculation as to what the course would be like, how much climbing would there be...

From day one of hearing about this event it was well and truly marked on the calender... no matter what i was riding or how i was riding i needed to be part of this first.

The race day came round quickly... really quickly and before i knew it me and Grace had packed the car and were heading up the M6 to then dart across to almost the middle of the country and dangerously close to the scottish border. The journey was hampered as usual by our wayward sat nav freestyling yet another destination other than the pre programmed... we arrived at the campsite to find friends, Rich and Shona, already there and pitched. No one knew what to expect so the atmosphere was very light hearted... although Ian Leitch and my epic riding partner Rich Rothwell were present no one knew how this race would pan out... too long for cross country riders but almost too short for the endurance experts.

The singlespeed race looked like it might be tough too with Deano and Phil the Horse from Velo Club Moulin ( i really want a jersey guys:) ) present and although i had been riding with Manchester Trev in the week previous and had felt good riding for a few hours is far removed from riding from what we though was going to be at least 8-9 hours. Oh well it would be hellish good training if nothing else.

With a 6.30am race start an early ish night was the order of the day.

I felt like i had the longest nights sleep but maybe as i kept waking up every hour and checking time... i always struggle to sleep before a race or epic ride.. i just feel like i wanna get on and get doing it and I'm wasting time lying in bed... as i got out the tent in the morning it was clear and weather looked okay... dressed and bike sorted we headed upto the line.

The race started with a near 3 mile lead out behind a car before we swung onto a gravel climb.... i took my time and gradually made my way up the field... no way was i gonna stay with he geared race leaders so i played the long game and went for a consistent ride from the start.

I managed to catch upto deano first and we exchanged places a few times before he let me go on my own... next i caught Phil on a steady climb and it looked like he was going for a similar approach to myself and just holding a comfortable pace... the course initially was a mix of fireroad and draggy, boggy singletrack... really hard work.

Just after the 33 mile marker on a fairly sedate descent on fireroad i managed to flat... as i was getting eating alive by midges and changing unfortunately the rear tube ( no quick release on the back of my bike) Deano came past with my good friend Matthew Barton towing him along at a good pace... then a few minutes later Phil gunned it past too...balls... as i got back on my bike i could see Phil nearing the top of the hill i was on making it look too easy where i was making hard work of it.

Out on my own then i kept on trucking till about ten miles later i managed to catch back upto Phil as he had stopped to take snack... that made me feel alot better although the thought of how quick deano had gone past me made me believe i would be lucky to catch him and at that point i considered slowing to wait for friends to catch up and riding rather than racing.. before i could make the decision i was caught up by Rob Dean, Morvelo team rider and recent SITS rider.. the guy is huge.. i mean he is massive! Luckily i managed to stay with him and use him as a great windbreak when we got into headwinds.. He also notified me of the infamous puddle after mile 49 by riding into it and nearly losing his bike... he pulled away on some slow draggy singletrack climbing and as i turned off that onto a fireroad i could make out Deano not far ahead.. things looked promising.

After passing Deano i put in a larger effort on the climbs and got a nice gap... i also got back Rob Dean so had my windbreak for the border crossing into Scotland.

At Newcastleton feed station i took a full fat coke, some cake and one of my SIS caffeine gels... after being dragged into an impromtu photoshoot Deano pulled into the feed station too... we exchanged encouragement and as i left Newcastleton all that caffeine and sugar kicked in and i went for it.. Dropping Rob dean and pulling across to another rider that i stuck with through the amazing flowing 7stanes singletrack descending... my bike although fully rigid handles like a dream and i doubt was any slower than most the other full sus bikes out there... after another climb i found i had pulled away from the riders i was with through the descending and at 70ish miles i found myself alone on a slightly uphill section heading along the valley bottom... this seemed to go on for ever... i then glimpsed a rider just ahead and for a moment i though it was Barton.. until i got closer then i realised it was Barton.. excellent.. company and a fast wheel to pull me to the finish.

It was excellent to ride with Matt as to be fair we haven't ridden together for a long time.. Matt has trained so hard and come though to be a force to be reckoned with on any event that involves extended periods of pain and suffering... as we passed the 80 then the 90 mile marker i started to flag a little.. i had decided to use a hydration pack instead of just filling my pockets and with racing being so close i hadn't been stopping much to get gels/bars out the bag... i stopped and sunk another caffeine gel.. that seemed to work... then with 6ish miles to go i was fading and Barton kindly gave me one of his gels so we didn't have to stop pedalling.

The gels really kicked in with 1 mile to go and i caught Barton back up as he had managed to ride a climb i had to push and i passed him on the descent into the finish.. so i took his gel and a position higher on the finish.. sorry Matt.

Grace was waiting at the finish giving an estimated finish time of 10 hours.. somewhat longer than we had anticipated... more importantly though i took the singlespeed win!!!

I have to say it was the hardest race i have done this year.. maybe ever... anyone that got round that course in the allowed time put in an amazing ride.

Big thanks to Sip Events for such an amazing event... 100 mile single lap race.. a UK first...well marshalled, sign posted and generally organised...

Lets see if Lance turns up next year and tries to complete this lap in 6 hours... let it be known that if he does i will eat my bike.. tyres and all.

Will i be back for next years???... I'd be lying to myself if i said i won't.

Massive thanks to Joolze Dymond for the images (