• The Dirty Reiver 200k

    “There’s something very wrong with that lad” I think to myself, as a bead of sweat detaches itself from the rim of my cap and drips, irritatingly, onto the lens of my dust-coated glasses. The drip rolls slowly across my field of view, smearing a path across the dirt as my tyres scuffle and scrabble at the dust beneath them, tracing a similar looking line behind me.

    We’re 90-something miles into this year’s Dirty Reiver and Phil’s just professed his undying love for the climb that’s recently come into view. I’m lost as to what could have caused this outburst, as far as I can tell it has no redeeming qualities at all. It’s the wrong sort of steepness, it’s too long, the surface is too loose to stand up on without wheelspinning, the embedded stones are slightly too large for my tyres to roll over smoothly, so I’m having to move around a lot to keep traction, the dust holding them in place is too dusty and is coating everything – not that the previous 90 miles haven’t been exactly the same, but this hill seems like a more concentrated version of al the irritating bits so far.

    It’s not even got a big-country view at the top, it just goes into some more woods that smell too much like fresh pine for my liking. Stupid bloody climb.

    I slowly start to realise that there’s nothing wrong with the hill and I’m just being a grumpy sod.

    As we crest the summit and find ourselves hurtling down another fast, loose, swoopy, fireroad descent I sit up to soak in as much of the breeze as I can. We’re at the pointy end of a 21 degree temperature swing – the start line hovering at around the freezing point and the top of this climb (hereafer known as Grumpy Hill) bathed in 21 degree bright sunshine. I’ve gone from achingly cold fingers and toes while trying to warm up, with arm and knee warmers, base layers and gilets, caps and double gloves doing little to fend off the chill to staring longingly at lonely patches of snow on the hilltops, wishing I could roll around on them, turning them instantly to steam.
    The gilet is now stuffed (badly) in my little camelbak, which is protesting how overpacked it is by repeatedly smacking me in the back of the head over every bump (of which there are a lot in a 120 mile gravel race). The arm warmers are rolled and bunched around my wrists, creating the worlds worst tan lines ever. There was a point, about 10 miles in to the event, where I was perfectly dressed for the temperature. Before and after that it’s been all wrong, but we’ve not had time for me to sort out my wardrobe mid ride, we’ve been flying round the route. Flying. Over an hour up on last year’s (already fast…) time and showing no signs of slowing down, even if one of us is in love with the hill we’ve just smashed it up.

    Photo taken just before I started to wilt in the heat!

    The event has been brilliant up to this point. It always is, but this year it’s been brilliant and fast all at the same time. We arrived at the first checkpoint, 30 odd miles in, in a group of about 15 people, with an average speed of nearly 18mph. The halfway point came and went with little drop in speed. By the 130km/200km course split the group had broken up with myself and Phil a couple of minutes back on 2 other riders, but we’ve still left the final checkpoint with an average speed of 17mph. The miles have flown by under bright blue skies and utterly perfect conditions for Big Rides. Winter’s been awful, but rides like this make all the rainy, cold, dark training worthwhile. Maybe Phil had a point about that last hill, it was lovely, in it’s own way.

    As the 100 mile mark ticks over, we’re joined by another rider who’s worked his way back up to us – strong stuff. The three of us fly round the trail around Kielder Water. It’s like the icing on the cake as it swoops and curves with the shoreline on a smooth, grippy track. As we cross the dam wall and race back towards Kielder Castle I can’t help but grin as I stare across the water, it’s beautiful. Every hill in the background has been ridden over, there’s nothing else to do now but cross the finish line and drink beer.

    Which we do.

    7 hours and 15 minutes it takes us to get round the 200km. Well over 3100 metres of climbing dispatched in super fast time. Nothing beats big bike rides in the sun when it’s over terrain like that. 🙂


    12:07 pm on April 24, 2018 | 1 Comment | # |