Earlier this year Phil and Dave took on the inaugural Dirty Reiver 200 gravel race. Here’s how they got on:

The daft plan hatched mid winter. An epic new event, the Dirty Reiver 200, the new long distance gravel race in Kielder was happening in April. It clashed with Jase and Guy’s ‘Ride for Michael’ coast 2 coast 2 coast 2 coast, which we wanted to support. So why not do both? Drive up to the borders early Friday morning, bump into the lads, ride with them for as much of the day as we could, drive to Kielder, kip and ride the Dirty Reiver the next day. Sorted!

Dave Powell and I loaded the campervan at stupid o’clock on Friday morning and headed to Ae forest. Jase, Guy and Sam were doing well on their big ride but were falling behind schedule. So we rode round Ae, drank some coffee and chatted with Michael, who had arrived to cheer the lads on. They arrived pretty late in the day, in good spirits but in danger of missing the ferry to Ireland. So after some tea, we headed off on the planned route, but along the A75 (don’t do this at home kids!) being super domestiques. We rode through the rain pacing the lads until we were shivering, then said our goodbyes and rode back into a fierce head wind to warm up. I think I regained the feeling in my feet about four hours later!

We headed to Kielder and made it in time before sign-on closed, met some familiar faces and got some kip. Race day started with snow and deep frost – oh what to wear. There were lots of familiar faces on the start line, so it was going to be an interesting day. The first wave set off, we dibbed and then the ‘not a race’ started very much like a race. Fast pace, high heart rates and burning legs. The sky cleared and the views became apparent on top of the first hill and I happily realised that this was going to be a great big day out in the hills. I looked over at Dave and he also had a big grin ear to ear!

philPic by Sport Sunday

The route was perfect for cross bikes. Miles of long smooth fire roads, great climbs and fast descents. There were some rocky and rough connecting sections but overall the route favoured cross/gravel bikes, although I regretted using 33mm tyres by the end of the day.

The event was perfectly organised. Route markings were present and perfect. The marshals were great, feed stops were very well stocked and the whole organisation was professional. Well done Paul and all your helpers.

Having not completed many long rides this year, I started to suffer towards the end but this didn’t dampen the enjoyment. Not even the freak snowstorm was going to spoil this day. Me and Dave stuck together and arrived home after 9 hours and 4 minutes in 14th and 15th place and then proceeded to devour all the food in the cafe.

A great couple of days riding bikes with mates!