Kielder holds a certain curse over me race wise. I took a wrong turn there at the Border Raid last year, and at the start of this year I got 5,000 punctures in as many metres (ok it was 3. Punctures). And had to pull out.
But beyond this, I wasn’t sure of the logic in doing the Border Raid this year, the next weekend on from the UK24; my legs still felt shot (my UK24 race report is on the M Steels blog here:) http://blog.msteelcycles.co.uk/2011/05/10/exposure-uk-24-hour-solo-championships/
Anyways, I had the toss up between the Border Raid and the next round of the Nutcracker. I enjoyed the last Nutcracker but decided I didn’t want to drive to Yorkshire for one and half hours of racing. Besides, I like the Border Raid; a big loop taking in Bloody Bush Road, bits of Newcastleton, and back over to Kielder. Besides some protracted fire road sections on this version, it’s generally one of my favourite training rides.
So off we set; sharp starter in some rooty singletrack. Popped out with Ian Palmer from Wheelbase on my wheel. Climb. Descend. Climb. T-junction. No sign…. (well, I was later assured that there was but I didn’t see it). Tossed a mental coin and chose right. Next junction. No sign (well, there wouldn’t be!). Went left to take a route to the border crossing… After a while it became apparent I was wildly off track… I’d taken Ian and one or two others with me. Sorry guys! Back to the original junction and left this time. OK; saw a Marshal! Back on track!
Despite feeling hollowed out from last week, I get an adrenalin rush from being at the back of the pack… and I buried myself well and truly (sank a caffeine gel half an hour into a race!). It took a long time to even reach the backmarkers… Up and over Bloody Bush Road and down to Newcastleton. Ray Honour got on my wheel for a mile or so and I was impressed with his tenacity. We hit the Newcastleton singletrack… Nobody was going to get time on me here! I could (and quite literally did last week) ride it with my eyes closed! I pulled away but Ray later said he crashed. Next I caught up with Dominic and Dieter Booth from Breeze Bikes in Amble. I was really straining by now as it had been a continual hard effort to get back on the pace. They kindly offered to work together and we took turns for a couple of miles through some draggy fireroad. I pulled away again after being told there was one rider left about two minutes up. Hard effort required again…. I caught him only to be told that ‘the leader is up the track’. Balls! I was running out of track. One more dig….
Made it! And then I promptly flew off a fireroad corner into a ditch. Doh! Back on and sprinting after him. Fortunately there was one susbstantial hill left and I passed the, (confused by my presence) lead rider.
I crossed the line a minute or so up to take the win. Thank goodness! I beat the curse! (Sort of). If I hadn’t got lost I would have posted a pretty good time. As it was, I really enjoyed the adrenalin of a chase from the back of the pack. Sort of fuels the inner hunter I suppose.
My form was quite encouraging; I felt floored from last weekend before the start of the Border Raid but could dig deep with a bit of nervous energy. Lost and found you could say.