Chiller 2020 Preview
It’s only a matter of days before hardy riders get stuck in to the suffer fest that is the Kielder Chiller 24. Affectionately known as just The Chiller it has become a rite of passage for any hardcore endurance mountain biker. Set 200 metres above sea level in the remote Northumbrian borderlands the only guarantee is that spirit and limbs will be tested to the limit. This 6.7 mile circuit is purpose built to sustain itself in bad weather so riders are in for a treat when things get tasty.
Those riders out there who did the 2019 edition will be familiar with the vast majority of the route. It’s a mix of red graded trails with a rough black descent thrown in for good measure. There are plenty of connecting forest tracks to allow for safe passing. Expect uphill rock gardens to really get the heart going and test those technical climbing skills. There’s always someone who takes a tumble into the undergrowth, but who will it be this year?
The real alteration is the event being hosted in the campsite. Riders now have access to some excellent facilities which will make a great difference to the experience. The route changes every so slightly with the skills loop now removed and it cuts across the head of the car park, behind the bike shop and down a walkers track to the campsite. It then tracks all the way along the campsite and round the entrance area so that it passes the front door of each and every pit area.
To exit the campsite people will traverse a grassy section and then hit a dog walk before hitting a short forest track and getting on the reversed walking trail. This track is called Dukes Trail and about 50 metres in you have to do some cyclocross style running to get up some steps before cracking on. The bikes will eventually be spat out on to the start of Ravens Hill single track.
Movers and Shakers
It’s always hard to pick out potential podium riders as there are always so many new faces who are unknown quantities. So I’ll pick out some of the people I think have a good chance.
Women’s solos. Although I can see Cathy Atkinson is a triathlete the stand out name for me is Amy Hickman. She was part of last year’s winning mixed pairs team and has won a lot of shorter races. How will she fare in her first 24? Andrea Pogson is always a solid performer and can last the distance.
Men’s solos. Last year’s winner Nigel Smith has got to be a strong contender and the man to beat. He’s unlikely to have it his own way with Matt Jones gunning for the top. The highly impressive David Gobby is a dark horse but will he have enough in the tank after his impressive performance at the puffer? Chris Rudd is recovering from injury but can push himself hard. There are two road time trial specialists tipped to do well but they are to remain anonymous for now. In single speed Stephen Baird and Richie Scott look good with Crispin Hoult standing a good chance to take the fat bike title again.
Male pairs. The Rich Rothwell/Martin Graham combo have got to be the stand out male pairs team and put more than enough pressure on themselves to push on through. Word has it that Jock Armstrong and David Houston might be up for a challenge. Colin Ritchie is one rapid rider with a string on top 5 efforts in solo 24 hour races but I know little about his partner Hugh Dennis.
Male quads. If no-one has a mechanical and everyone stays upright then this will be a hum dinger between defending champions Fishface Cycles and two time winner i-cycles. The latter came with a full team after the efforts with just 3 riders last year. Fishface however have Phil Glaze who is phenomenally quick and Rich Tarling who is oh so close behind. There may well be other teams in the mix but these two have history.
Mixed quads. Fishface again look like the team to beat with Ben Soanes among the riders. Shibden are always strong and then Cold Brew Racing are a dark horse with24 hour Brit Champ Naomi Freireich leading the charge. I don’t know much about the others so I expect this category to be fairly open.
Mud, Sweat and Tears
All that needs to happen now is to get on with it. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the sharp end or racing against yourself, just enjoy it and get stuck in. If you’re resilient enough to keep riding no matter what the weather or how your mind and body is feeling then you’ll be fine.
It’s going to be a belter!