With our original race plans made impossible by travel restrictions in late summer, a serious case of FOMO crept over both me and Philippa. As soon as we saw that a couple of places were remaining on Great British Escapades we got our names down.

The race follows a route that draws together my 'home' from various parts of my life. It starts in Canterbury and heads West roughly following the North Downs Way as far as Farnham. The first 17 years of my life were on Boxhill with the North Downs Way literally going past my house; most of my time outside of school was spent in the woods on this trail and I didn't spend much time with friends until I was old enough to make my own way to a bigger town nearby. The race CP is at 162km at Boxhill & Westhumble station.

From Farnham we head South taking singletrack and bridleways over the Hog's Back and through Hindhead eventually reachiing Graffham, here we start ascending again towards the South Downs Way.

We then proceed East and back on now familiar 'home' land. I've been living in the South Downs area since joining Mason nearly 5 years ago. I anticipate this is going to feel like a home stretch. Really it's about halfway.

I know the trail well and I know the Bokeh is fast here too. Light and nimble uphill, fast and controlled on the wide open, loose, chalky downhills.

All going well we'll be at the end of the SDW section by sundown.

The last section of the Race takes us back to Canterbury from Jevington. We've not ridden in the far reaches of East Sussex very much but know it can be brutal. Short and hard climbs - lots of them. The relatively few fields are perhaps a result of this topography and so it is more densely forested than the West and rest of Sussex. It feels like proper ol' Wealden. The Real Wealden.

477km, around 8000m climbing. Here are our beloved Bokehs that we'll be racing it on.

Cal's Bokeh

52cm ElementGrey Bokeh frameset.

XTDi2 / Ultegra Di2 / Force groupset.

Wolftooth 38T Chainring. Shimano 11-42 cassette.

HUNT 650B Carbon Dynamo wheelset.

Rene Herse Juniper Ridge 650b X 47mm tyres.

Ritchey VentureMax WCS Carbon 40cm 'bars.

Ritchey WCS C220 100mm stem.

Ergon SR Pro Small saddle.

Sinewave Cycles Beacon front light.

Exposure RedEye rear light.

Apidura bags. Expedition saddle pack (small one), backcountry frame pack, feed pouches, racing top tube pack.

The Bokeh is pretty much set-up as I always have it. Whether that's on road, off-road, touring etc I'll usually just swap the wheelset. However for this race I've switched my previous Ritchey Butano for the carbon VentureMax model. Have been researching the long term impact of bike riding on the wrist joint and the facts are scary! So far the extra compliance of the carbon bar has already gone a long way to reducing wrist pain on long off-road days.



Philippa's Bokeh

54cm FlareOrange Bokeh frameset. - P has raced on her Bokeh for 7+ Ultra races on & off road, multiple tours and day to day riding over the last 3 years!!

Rival groupset.

Force 38T Chainring. Rival 10-42 cassette.

MasonXHUNT 650B  wheelset.

WTB Sendero 650b X 47mm tyres.

Ritchey VentureMax WCS Carbon 44cm 'bars.

Ritchey WCS C220 100mm stem.

Selle Italia Superflow saddle.

Exposure Toro front light.

Exposure rear light.

Apidura bags. Expedition saddle pack (large one), racing frame pack, feed pouches, racing top tube pack.

My bokeh is pretty similar to how I've had it for the past few races - a fresh pair of senderos which have become tried and tested old favourites and usual pack setup. Matt (Mason Head of Technical and Master Bicycle Builder) fitted me some fancy new carbon bars which I've been told will be like riding with my hands on marshmallows, so that's exciting. The weather is looking as near as perfect as you could hope for September, so now just debating as to whether I make the foolhardy decision of leaving the waterproof at home??