Osprey 12 Recap
Well that was an adventure! On a blustery autumnal day in mid September a gaggle of hardy riders came together to have a crack at the Osprey 12 mtb race. An event that had never been done before in a location that had never been used for an event before. It was interesting, emotional and highly enjoyable. Firstly, let’s wind it back a bit to where it all started.
In early 2017 the Forestry Commission had landed the start location for the Tour of Britain and subsequently wanted a mtb event to go along with all the other festivities. The Deadwater Dirty Dozen was manufactured and a small number of lunatics turned up to bang round the Chiller course for half a day. From that spawned the idea of utilising the other, lesser known trails in the area. One of the favourites is the Osprey blue route. It’s fast, flowing and suitable for all types of riders.
Decision made on location. Now all that had to happen was design a route that skirted away from the Gowanburn residence (nearby farm/house), connected about 7 miles of riding, didn’t cross any roads or paths and had to accommodate parking on the course. All of those could be solved except the latter and eventually it was very much a compromise to make things happen. A great trail adapted to make an event a reality.
Every event is filled with stresses and last second alterations. This time it came from left field as the two toilets I had booked were cancelled at 6 days notice. Aaarrgghhh! Something called the Great North Run hoovered up all the thunder-traps for miles around. Frantically ringing round brought no joy until Alex MacLennan pointed me in the right direction and I got hold of the seemingly the last toilet available anywhere. You don’t know how close the event was to being moved to the Deadwater trail had no toilets been available.
The preceding week had been spent gathering kit, preparing timing and double checking all the plans. Somehow at the end of all this I still managed to be late and arrived in Kielder 4am Friday morning. Why so late? I needed to hook up with the toilet delivery people and guide them in to place as they said they were coming at 9am. 9am comes around, nothing. 10am, 11am, midday the same. Jennifer at the castle had me weeding for a royal visit all morning – press ganged! When I rang the toilet people they said they were coming at 3pm. Well at least they turned up and super friendly they were too.
A few drinks in the Anglers Arms was perfect prep for the next day of course marking and preparing the track. Fellow marshals who are also known as Dad and Uncle George were out to help and after a spot of cycling and pruning some trees it was time to head back to tea. Following this I went out with my brother to show him his marshal spot and do the final bit of signage when Dad’s car decided now would be a good time for the clutch to stop working. A long run back to the campsite and Dad was suitably overjoyed to hear the news. There was no choice but to jump in the motorhome and do the final signs in that. Needless to say it’s not really a forest vehicle!
Riders had already started arriving. Some had came on Friday and I chatted to the lady who was next to me on the campsite. It was her first time doing a race like this and she was very nervous. “I’ll only do about 2 laps I think”. She ended up doing 6 as she plugged her way round the testing course. Covered in copious amounts of mud she had a beaming smile shining through. She also had a lovely dog that sat in the van patiently waiting for its master every lap.
Late in the night on Saturday it was time to hit the bed. The usual pre event stress and nerves were in full flow and I patiently watched the hours tick away like a crazed insomniac. 4am: boom, time to get up. Now for the moment of truth, would the parking solution actually work? Jim Imber and I had made multiple recce trips to plan out which cars go where and how to get them in. In practice the reality of parking people in the dark made things a little more difficult. Those people on the track that climbed up the hill had only a small gap for bikes to get past. It took a bit longer than planned so the race got delayed 30 minutes to allow people time to get sorted.
The marshals headed off into place and the medics turned up to get a quick briefing and sort comms. Yvonne, Eileen and Andrea staffed the transition area. They would jointly work the timing app as well as doing a manual backup in case the timing app didn’t work. It’s fair to say they put in an excellent stint given all the inclement weather. Andrew Clark and Paul Kemp were on marshal points out in the middle of the track.
7:15am and the riders had accumulated for the safety briefing and then the off. The brief was short and sweet and then we all moved down the track to get a bit of a run at the first pinch point. 7:30pm and the focus now turns to the main event. Bikes have been prepped, legs trained for pain and minds focused on doing as many laps as possible. It was nice to see so many familiar faces in the gathering: Martin Graham, Robbie Ballantyne, Rich Wilson, Lisa Scott, Tom Hodgkinson, David Gobby, etc etc. The mighty JMC were again very well represented.
Go! As soon as the event starts the first people fly off up the hill and smash out the first lap. The good thing about these events is that the racers have something to go for but so do the none-racers who are competing against themselves. The course in particular has something for everyone. Go fast and push the boundaries or soak in the flowing sections through the trees. At the end of lap one the first two riders were literally shoulder to shoulder and battled to get back first. These were both pairs and continued this close battle for the rest of the race.
As the riders came through it was clear that the weather was going to play a big part. The rain had been falling consistently all morning, alternating between drizzle and heavy rain with the odd portion of warm sunshine thrown in for good measure. The forecast to “clear up later in the day” gave me hope that the moisture might abate. As it was the final 400 metres became a bog fest of think mud and the road surface which is clearly the same stuff they use in grinding pastes. A few laps in and all bikes would sound like they were covered in sand paper.
Donna Waring and Cat Hirst battled hard for the solo female lead by tapping out regular laps. How Donna does it on single speed I have no idea and she eventually took top spot by 5 minutes. Nigel Smith was chased all day by Neil Scott but showed his class by raising the tempo at just the right time. For the majority it was about the journey, the atmosphere and the experience. The great thing about these short lapped races is that everyone helps and encourages each other. People might be battling hard out on the track but in the pits its all one happy family.
I felt a bit sorry for David Gobby who got stronger and stronger as the day went on. He finished 2 laps down in 4th place but had 2 abandoned laps due to mechanicals half way and having to walk back via shortcuts so the laps didn’t count. There’s always a next time. Nic Gilbert was as cheery as ever and kept popping back to his Transit, resupplying and then heading out for another lap.
As the hours went past the rain didn’t stop. The winds picked up and on the back straight and higher areas it was positively blowing through. Creaking trees gave an indication that things had changed. It was around 3pm when the Forestry Commission came in with a weather forecast showing that winds would pick up even more at around 6 to 7pm. With a heavy heart it was safety first as the tracks lined with cars were also lined with trees exposed to the wind. A tree falling on someone’s prized T5 might just ruin their day. The event was shortened to a 5:30 finish and ten hours.
At around 4pm the rain got heavy and the sheer amount of mud all around made it very hard to tell who people were. It was hilarious to see people come through transition covered head to toe in thick mud but have two bright white eyes peering out. The final people came in before the timing closed. Robbie Ballantyne made it back with 5 seconds to spare, much to his delight.
With the timing closed attention quickly turned to getting people off the course and away. The earlier finish turned out to be a blessing in disguise and the reversing antics were under way with some light still left in the sky. The process of getting people out would have been far harder in the dark. Everyone collected their mugs on the way out and managed to complete the short journey back to Kielder villages and out of the moist fingers of the forest.
Once all the cars had gone it was time to quickly look at the timing app and figure out who had won what before setting off to Kielder castle and doing the presentation. Prizes were dished out and people helped themselves to the stuff generously donated by Team Cycles and Mountain Fuel. A big shout to Team Cycles who have tirelessly supported all our cycling events. Results can be found here:
After 3 beers and a deep sleep I woke up to see that my bike had been beaten up by the forest. A blast with a pressure washer couldn’t quite shift all the gritty grime and it’s highly probable that a lot of bikes were looking the same way. The day was spent collecting signs and hooking up the trailer. Dad’s car got collected and taken by the AA and everyyone headed home after another good weekend away. These events are as much a social gathering as they are about the sport.
The feedback I’ve had since the event has been excellent. San Kail put it best when he pointed out that it was a bunch of people really enjoying themselves on their bikes. Whether it was for a trophy or for self satisfaction the underlying thrill of riding a bike came bubbling to the surface. At the end of the day that’s what it is all about, having fun.
The future clearly has the Kielder Chiller 24 written large on the horizon. In addition to this there are plans afoot to have a few race type events next year and possibly string them into a series. More info to follow shortly.
Finally, I’d like to thank anyone who was involved with the event. Riders, forestry commission, friends, family, partner companies, campsite, toilet hire people and many more. They all came together to put on something special. Although the event was a one-off you just never know, it might come back one day in the future.
I look forward to seeing you all again soon.