This year’s Kielder Chiller was the second running of this winter 24hr race in the shadow of Kielder Castle. As befitting a winter 24hr race the weather last year was appalling, yet it managed to go one better this year and give us every possible variety. Starting with heavy rain, then strong winds, then a blizzard of snow, followed by temperatures down to -5 degrees on the top and icy trails. Difficult riding conditions, especially for the solo boys and girls, but we pretty much all enjoyed the epicness the weather added to what was already a challenging event. The surprising twist was the sun coming out for the end of the race so we could at least pack up in drier conditions.

The lap was a climby route with over 1200ft of climbing on every 7.5 mile lap – not sure there is another event out there with the so much climbing for the distance – made up of a combination of about 50% singletrack and 50% fireroad with some really nice sections that everyone looked forward to. A lap though that wasn’t overly technical and therefore ideal for people with a little less experience and confidence.

Highlights included a new section called the 3 Dogs Climb that took out a boring fireroad climb from the previous year’s event and some great swoopy sections down through the trees including a fantastic high-speed blast to the finish line. The least affection went to a really muddy mile that plastered everyone in brown gritty slop and the (seemingly) never-ending climb just before the final descent.

With so many Team JMCers taking part and a weather forecast that (very accurately) suggested a cold weekend, we invested in some additional heating options to make sure that riders taking a break could warm themselves and dry their clothing. The new propane space heater was a great acquisition. Pumping out 10 kilowatts of heat for 24 hours from one 18kg propane tank. Early in the race the heat was probably a little too much but once the night set in nobody was complaining.

Our basecamp was easily our best setup yet and included three 3m x 3m interconnected gazebos, a big van as a changing room, petrol generator driven lights and jetwasher and plenty of heat options. Really makes a big difference to everyone’s performance if you have a decent basecamp. That said we have comeback with some ideas for further improvements including a modesty screen for our slightly more extrovert racers needing to get changed – he knows who he is!

Our team was made up of a number of quads, pairs and solo riders including a number giving endurance mountain biking a go for the first time. Embracing our motto ‘talent optional, enthusiasm essential’ everyone gave it a real go and delivered impressive performances. The roll of honour was:

• Phil Simcock and Rich Rothwell (Cycling Generation) – 1st place male pairs
• Lisa Scott – 1st place female solo and first singlespeeder (rigid as well!)
• Sally Burgess and Jo Stevens – 2nd place female pairs
• David Gobby, Lee Duplain, Jacqui Simcock and Budge – 2nd place mixed quad
• Jock Watson and mates – 2nd place male quads
• Carl Salisbury, Sean Rock, Darren Hall and Chris Smith (Cookson Cycles) – 5th place male quads
• James ‘Ticker’ Whittaker – 5th place solo
• Neil Inman – 6th place solo
• Richie Scott – Retired hurt after 6 laps and spannered for everyone

Well done to everyone and a huge thanks to Barry Kemp and his team at High Fell Events for putting on such a great event. In particular the marshals for their endless enthusiasm and support despite being battered by the elements for well over 24 hours. And an extra special thank you to those managing the timing system that had to deal with our team members who rode straight through the timing tent without dibbing to claim their lap – they know who they are!

We’re sure Ticker would also like to thank his support crew Simon Smith and Toby Singleton for giving up their weekends to support him. And lastly a huge hug to Cathy Jones for supporting the rest of us. Always charming and cheerful despite the never-ending requests for food and drink.

We love the event and will be back next year for another go.  Fancy doing it with us?  Become a team member!

Give it a go – you’ll love it!