As we made the journey north, nervous excitement brewed. Haphazard preparation, fewer long days in the saddle than we’d have liked, and an unfortunate influenza setback added to the sense of uncertainty. Martin and Jake had redemption on their minds, having fallen short of the full 200km route last year, whilst I lacked this shared motivation; instead, excited by the purity of a challenging day set amongst a beautiful landscape. A herd of Belted Galloways greeted us as we straddled the Scottish border, and we started to spot like-minded travellers headed for Kielder.
The winding road and rolling hills soon gave way to the familiar sight of the castle – the start and end point of the upcoming ride. The buzz of riders setting up camp and discussing setups and strategies filled the crisp evening air. We found our names amongst the hundreds of fellow entrants on the sign-in sheets and explored the race village. Our building nerves were eased by copious carb-loading as we made last-minute adjustments to our equipment.