Posted by matt July 2nd, 2007
It’s been a couple of days since the season’s first 24 hour race ended, we’ve almost finished cleaning the mud off ourselves, checked our bikes for damage and just about regained full use of our bodies.
It was almost predictable what the weather would hold in store for this event, weeks of hot dry weather were bound to stop at sometime, so it was no shock to see a forecast of rain for the entire weekend. And rain it did. Leaving the North on a hot sunny Friday both Dave and myself were optimistic, but this was soon washed away somewhere near Junction 25 of the M6 as the rain got steadily worse and worse the further South we got. Without words we knew that the other was hoping that we’d emerge from the other side of the “HOLY COW! I CAN’T SEE ANYTHING” rain storm to hot hot sun. Eventually we did drive back into blue skys as we got close to Bristol Docks… it had only rained for the previous 170 miles.
We were hopeful again.
Four and a half hours after setting off and with aching bums we arrived at the race site, wheel span though the mud onto the camping field, located Mike and set up our home for the next 48 hours.
Guy arrived a little later on, food was eaten, chat was chatted, took it easy, it started to rain… we all went to bed.
After getting all the faffing done it was 11:55am and time to race, it was dry, a bit windy, but sunny and actually quite warm, however literally 10 seconds before 12 the skies unzipped and hope of a fast dry race were drowned.
We were off! Dave and Guy were located somewhere in the middle of the 200 starters, I, as tradition dictates, started almost last.
The course started with a couple of climbs which immediately spread the field out, the riders then shot down a sandyish bridleway, though a gate and right to the first section of twisty trail. being the first lap this was taken quite slow as people got used to the conditions shuffled for position and settled in. Next was a sprint across a field of bluebells and to the woods and down to the first of two stream crossings after negotiating a nice fast soily descent.
From the first lap the section from the first crossing was already hard to get though, maybe not on a geared machine, but that’s not what I’d brought. There’s a choice of 2 lines, straight ahead, and up to the left, both had issues to overcome, forward required praying for grip on some treeroutes, which proved impossible for me, left required a little bit of aggression to shoot up and around the area with the slippy roots. The next section was one of the areas that suffered later on as the rains fell once again.
Once out of the gloop you’re treated to a fast double track to a sharp left hander and into the bottom of the woods and onto the best part of the course the fast rocky bridleway and the enormous climb out of the lowest part of the course to the highest. The climb is almost all fireroad, but with an evil kick right at the end which required full power to clear, this was followed by the worst part of the course, boggy and moorsy it really didn’t like the rain and as the race progressed rideable lines dissappeared and it required a fair amount of power, skill, luck and concentration to get across without dabbing.
The reward for getting though that section was a great descent to the road, initially a path with large loose stones, very similar to some of the areas around Rivington, but this soon changed as rider’s tyres transferred their collected mud and kicked stones aside to leave a very fast line… after this it was a case of head down and spin back to the event arena and the end of the lap.
My best lap was the second of the race, which was just before the rain started to fall on the parts of the course that later became sticky, my strategy was really to hold my position on the downs, and blast people away on any climbs, and this worked a treat as lap after lap I managed to catch and overtake handfuls of riders on the big fireroad climb, only occassionally seeing them blast past me on the following road section. However in the middle of lap two it was obvious my back wasn’t happy and I had to stop towards the end of the climb to release the build-up of pain so I can continue the ride, which usually meant I was fine until the start of the next lap’s first big climb, however this lead me to have no control of the bike though the singletrack as I couldn’t use my hips to steer.
After lap 4 my right knee’d also started to hurt, so after 3:23 I stopped, deciding to rest until the next day.
As the event wasn’t actually a race, but a challenge (for legal reasons) there was no timing, so it was hard to know what lap times were and who was leading the event. Guy stopped around the same time as I did, but started off again sometime around 5pm, getting in 3 more laps before, he too, broke and decided to stop after his 6th lap.
A little before 8pm Dave had to take a long break to sort lamps, swap brake pads, change clothing, and apply makeup, by this time the course was getting pretty wet, but the rain had stopped and the sky was pretty clear of clouds it was still a bit windy and cool. Dave set off again, after fuelling up on cream cake and PSP22 to battle the shadow monsters, however an error somewhere meant Dave’s lights weren’t actually charged, so a couple of laps later he was back on the campsite scrabbling around for more lighting. Thankfully Guy’d decided against nightriding and Dave set off again under the power of a USE Exposure lamp with ‘probably 6 hours of power’.
There was actually only 5 hours of power in the battery, so somewhere aroun 4.30 am Dave had to stop, and wait for the sun to ride, I, was asleep, dreaming of not riding a bike around a muddy loop in Somerset.
Waking at 7:00 I knew I had to ride again, so I gave myself 30mins to come to terms with having to leave the comfort of my warm tent, at about 7:10 I heard the patter of raindrops… Welcome to Sunday.
I was on the bike and on the course at 7:46am, with the aim of doing 3 or 4 laps, my back was feeling a hell of a lot better than the previous day (helped by ibuprofen), I was surprised how good the course was riding, it had been dry almost all of the night, and most of the sections, whilst still moist, had held up well to the rain from the saturday, however this was all to change on my second lap. By the time I headed out on my 6th lap the rain was starting to fall, lightly at first then very heavily, and it didn’t relent for the rest of the event. The difference of the course between the two laps was astonishing, it became a lot more slick and a lot more work, thankfully all the climbs and decents were still grippy so time was only lost on the three waterlogged flat sections, which I decided to run though as it proved to be a couple of miles per hour faster – until you ran into a knee deep puddle.
After lap 6 (57mins) I decided to stop, my right knee was suffering again.
Dave was motoring on, though, lap 17 by 9:30am, neck and neck with a couple of other riders, with Guy handing out food, bottles and a coat, there was no reason to stop now.
The rules of the event state that only laps finished BEFORE 12pm count, so it takes a bit of lap timing to figure if you can get another lap in, which we didn’t think Dave needed to do, at 10:30 he was being recorded as 18 laps, with the next rider on 17laps, but this was a gamble, as there was no timing data there was no way to work out if the rider 1 lap behind Dave was really 1 lap behind or on the same lap, but maybe 30mins behind, which meant that if Dave stopped too early he could loose the lead if the other rider came though and managed to squeeze in just before the cut-off time.
Dave was lapping around the 1 hour mark, so anything after 11:01 and it wasn’t worth him going out again, so when he came though at 11:11 Guy told him there was no need to carry on, and he was correct, there was no chance of anyone behind him being able to put another lap in, Dave had won.
The final results have Dave on 19 laps with second place on 17, however Dave thinks he did 20 laps, and it was easy for a lap to be miscounted as it relied on riders calling out their number as they passed the line on each lap.
Despite the conditions the race was fantastic, so relaxed it felt like a normal Sunday ride, with no arrogant shop-teams trying to barge their way past people. If the weather had been better it would have been a bonus with lap times into the 30′s for some of the faster riders, but it wasn’t.
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