The Bontrager Twentyfour12 was a brand-new event on the calendar. Uniquely, it mixed 24 hour and 12 hour races on the same course, starting at the same time – the 12 hour racers finished at midnight, the 24s pushed on through the early hours until midday on Sunday.
Lodgewood Park provided the venue, with a suspiciously flat arena and camping field concealing a host of ups and downs, mostly of the steep and twisty persuasion – if you’ve ever thought that 24 hour race courses are a bit straightforward, this is the one for you. Adding to the fun, it was hot and dusty for the first few hours. And then there was a torrential downpour and all hell broke loose.
There were two Bikemagic-affiliated teams racing. Editor Mike and his brother Alan were in the 12 hour pairs category, which meant that Sunday morning saw them having a lie in followed by bacon butties and big mugs of tea rather than taking advantage of the ever-faster course.
The proper BM team, though, was of course the forum-organised Team Bikemagic 24hr Slackers, running a six-rider team in the “Just For Fun” category and raising money for MTB charity fundraising effort the RUSS Appeal. The team was Alan (aka FLaP), Mike, Paul J, Paul S, Sinead and Tim. A visual representation of their race looks a little like this:
Team BM 24hr Slackers/RUSS Appeal: Official Race Telemetry
Get it on tape
Mind that tree!
Those Slackers in full: From left – Paul and Sinead, and another Paul, Alan, Tim and Mike
And the BM 12 hour pair: Another Alan…
…and another Mike
First kid awake at 5.30am. LW gets up and lets me sleep in until 8am.
The heat beating down on the tent woke me early Saturday morning. I was not at all impressed, but hey, 7:30am was a lie in really! After getting showered and eating loads I started to wonder what I’d let myself in for – all these fit, young individuals wearing Lycra, and there’s me, scoffing burgers and random energy food!
9.00am: Breakfast eaten, I start to panic, run around the house throwing all available bike gear into my bag and loading my bike. It was in the shop having the gears sorted until yesterday lunch so it won’t get a proper test till my first lap… Leave house. A stop at Sainsburys sees me buy lots of rather random food including pork pies, a pot noodle, camembert, French bread, rice pudding, beans with sausages, plenty of fruit juice and a dodgy bottle of red wine.
10.45: Arrive at Lodgewood, the only contact I have for my team is Alan’s mobile and it appears to be switched off. After a couple of laps of the site a lad on a Rockhopper cycles up to me and says “Tim?” Ah – its Mike! I follow him back to the camp and meet the rest of the crew – Sinead is easy to identify, being the only girl, and calling people Paul seems to work as we have two of them. No time for chit chat, though – I ditch my gear and go register as it’s now 11am and the race starts in an hour.
None of the team has pre-ridden the course. This makes me think I’ve joined exactly the right team, with a sensible Corinthian spirit of British amateurism. Paul J is already tucking into a huge stash of Torq bars and there is some mocking of my mostly savoury collection of eatables.
12.00: We’re off! We all cheer Alan off onto the first lap, he’s on his single speed and really keen. After he’s our of sight we head back to camp and wait round the radio for a progress update
The next few hours seemed to go by in a haze and before I knew it Tim had arrived, we’d been to our briefing and we were all cheering on Alan for the opening lap! Alan set a very good lap time to begin the day, and the big beaming smile on his face as he entered base camp said it all – today was going to be a day to remember!
After not too long the radio crackles into life and Alan’s coming into the finish. Mike heads out and I sit back looking at my watch and wondering how to spend the next four hours. Alan pedals back into camp with a big grin – gears or not, he’s put in a good lap and kept us on our nominal target of sub-one hour for the day laps. During the afternoon the consensus is that the course is quite technical, very dusty and one hell of a lot of fun.
Having missed the rider briefing, I didn’t have a clue where the transition was or how it worked. But after much annoying people, I made my way to the transition, chatted with a few guys there, all in it to win. When Alan came rolling in, all I heard was him panting something about dusty – he passed me the baton and away I went. I loved every second of it. The course was fast, I had plenty of grip from my semi-slick dirt jump tyre and I got round in an entirely reasonable 48 minutes.
I headed back to camp, got a drink, had a bit of food and went to explore the camp. Everyone I spoke to was more than happy. I got in the “cool tub” and watched a few riders go past – does it get any better than that?
Mike had already entered a little argument with Paul Jordan
as to who was going to be the fastest. He set a very reasonable time and Paul followed it with another quick one – smiles all around!
Next was Paul “Monkey” Sheard who sprinted around the track whilst I tried to find something for myself to do while nervously waiting for my turn! After quizzing all the team about how the trail was I eagerly awaited in transition. For quite a while – I was 25mins early. I took
the ribbon from Paul, a quick kiss and I was off!
We wave Sinead off to transition, its her first ride since breaking her collar bone in February. I can see that Paul might be quietly concerned but is doing well not to let it show.
Cursing as I went, I wondered why I was putting my body through this again after my injury! I started slowly, nervously radioing back to camp to the team to tell them how far I’d got and wussing out on
two of the descents on the first way round! I was told that first 3km was the hardest, and yes it was, I couldn’t wait to see the 6km sign! And then the next 30mins flew by and before I knew it I was once again radioing in to the team to tell them to do me a hot chocolate because I was on my way! I got replies from what appeared to be four other teams but not my own, so there were probably four happy young ladies out there with unexpected hot chocolates waiting for them! On the way back through the last section it started to drizzle, then it was back to transition, to hand the ribbon/baton to Tim.
The clouds had been gathering for about an hour when we got the call on the radio that Sinead is on her way in. No need for concern, this girl is nails! She came flying into transition in a little over an hour – “It’s starting to drizzle in the woods,” is all I hear before grabbing the baton and hammering out to start my first lap. The first 3km are by consensus the most technical on the course, so when I’m able to ride most of it with a couple of quick pushes up the steeper hills I’m starting to have fun. And then the clouds open and the rain comes down with a vengeance. Within minutes there are pools of standing water up to a foot deep and the sandy soil is turning to thick grippy paste.
If you were to ask me what riding I like best I’d say open hillsides with big climbs and bigger descents. And least? Thickly wooded singletrack with lots of wet roots ready to have you off at the slightest opportunity. Oh dear. After ten minutes of rain I’m off the bike as much as riding and not having a great time. A comment from earlier in the day – “The worst thing is the dust in your eyes” – keeps popping into my head as I fail to clip in and smash my shin on a pedal for the millionth time. But my competitive instinct digs in and with my energy levels still high I run the bike as much as possible. Rounding the turn into the finish I’ve clocked 55 minutes, the baton is passed back to Alan and it’s back to camp for a bit of a whinge.
To be honest I was feeling more than a little hard done by, having watched my five team-mates get round in the dry with dirty great grins on their faces. But it’s a race and you just have to get on with dealing with what is put in front of you. A small glass of wine and some hot food help to get my head back into positive mode.
Around 6.30pm Alan rolls back into camp. I’m secretly glad that he’s also showing signs of bike-related Tourette’s, not liking the course now and seems to have walked at least as much as me. Maybe I’m not a total jessie after all?
When I received the baton to start my lap, I mounted my bike cautiously. I still had the DMR Moto tyre on the back, so grip wasn’t my strength for this lap, I had so little I washed out on the first corner! After an hour and a half of walking the bike around, the front wheel clogging, me stopping and freeing it then repeating the lovely process, I eventually made it back to the transition where I gave Paul the baton, laughing evilly.
I got back to our camp and just fell over. I probably would’ve stayed there for a while if it weren’t for the bugs. I’d had more fun on a bike, but to be fair, I’ve also had much worse.
After Mike and Paul J, Paul Sheard got half of the lap in daylight and the rest in darkness. He set another good time but had a huge stack. He radioed in to tell me he’d crashed, so I began pacing before various calls back on the radio asking “monkey pants” if he was OK. Had I known that he was riding alongside someone at the time I may not have called him that – oops!
As the laps rolled on into the evening, times were slow and everyone was struggling a bit with the mud and slippy roots. But one thing that remained undiminished was the camaraderie in the camp. Considering that we’re a group of virtual strangers thrown together for the race, the level of mutual support and encouragement was fantastic. Concern was growing over Paul Jordan, who appeared to have consumed most of the Torq stand in either liquid or bar form and kept talking about this donkey that may or may not be a dragon…
Bike washed and lights fitted, I went for a kip around 11pm not a sleep, just a lie down and doze in the tent. I got up in time to see Sinead off for her lap. Paul predicted a 1h30 night lap for Sinners, but the donkey-eating dragon set off in hot pursuit and chased her round to 1h29 – the crackle came over the radio and I just made transition in time to set off on my lap from hell.
I hate riding in the dark and went out there miserable and swearing profusely under my breath. But I refused to let someone else do my lap, stubborn as I am! I started off slowly but keeping within my target for 1h30, until I got a muffled call on the radio which sounded like I’d been out 1hr20mins already! Crikey, I’d only just got to the 9km sign! So I started hammering down the trail, wussing out on the descents as I went, until one caught up with me too quickly and I had no choice but to ride it! Wow, I loved every minute of it. Radioed in for my hot chocolate and before I knew it I was home in 1h29! Result! The radio call was to tell me that my lap was expected to be 1hr 20, not that I’d been 1hr 20mins – oh well, it made me go faster, so not to worry!
Dark, muddy and full of slippy roots – did I mentions I’ve never ridden in the dark before, let alone off road? Quite frankly this was my idea of hell on earth. I pushed most the way round – every time I tried to ride I either fell off or couldn’t get clipped in. The saving grace was that I had had several hours to prepare for the ordeal and was not expecting to ride much. Having done the Rhayader Merida back in June I’d had plenty of practice pushing a muddy bike. The sting in the tail came when my Cateyes ran out of charge after 50 minutes, leaving me with just Paul’s head torch to navigate the final 3km. 1h10 and I was back in camp, sending Alan off for his third lap. Quite knackered, I force down some food and hit the sack knowing my next lap is not due until around 8am.
I stayed up waiting for my third lap. At whatever strange time it was, I went to the transition armed with Dylan Turvey, who’d popped over to say Hi. Whilst waiting for Alan to come in, and testing the lights, I met up with a fellow BMer, Chocolate Teapot. It’s always funny meeting people in real life, especially when they introduce themselves with their forum name. Really nice chap, though.
I was feeling fantastic, I promised the team a sub-45 minute lap, so I was going all out… A bit too much I reckon. At a drop off I decided to drop it until the very last minute when I slammed on the anchors, but the lack of grip from a Death Tyre borrowed from Nick Evans meant I kept on going, right over the edge and on to my left wrist.
An hour of cursing and cruising with one arm later, I pulled back into transition. Straight off to the paramedics I went – luckily no broken bones, but It was definitely hurting. Despite the fall, and it being at night, my lap was pretty fast – certainly faster than my mud lap.
I slept for a few hours while the guys carried on from 1am. I
woke about 6am, to find that Alan didn’t want to wake me
and Paul Sheard, so he’d taken Paul’s lap. Mike had injured his wrist and Paul Jordan had done a fast lap because apparently a dragon in the forest was roaring at him.
Then it was my turn again, I was determined to really enjoy this lap and do as much as I could, and I did. I thoroughly enjoyed my last lap, got up the climb I’d been meaning to do all weekend, did the drop off that I’d wussed twice previously (well, rolled it, but hey I still did it!) Then radioed in for my hot chocolate and was greeted by a few of the team cheering me on – the smile on my face was from ear to ear!
8am and I’m off again. The sun is up and the course is drying fast – I only have to walk a couple of the tricky sections in the first 3km after which I’m on a flyer. Fatigue is the enemy now as I know I’m tired. However good nutrition (rice pudding – the food of champions) and caffeine drink kick in and finally I’m racing rather than riding to survive. The last 4km are fantastic as I clean the vast majority of the course with just a couple of dabs. In the last singletrack section I’m reeling people in rather than going backwards. I fire into the finish, mashing hard and feeling like a race god – shame the time is still 55 minutes…
With Mike out and Sinead looking like she’s had enough I agree to a quick recovery while Paul Jordan bangs in a lap. Another 750ml of High Five and a Torq bar and I’m back at the start. Paul steams in looking good and I’m off on the penultimate lap. The course is drying to concrete now. I manage all of the first 3km bar one steep descent and one quick push up the hill. Compared to my first lap I’m now much quicker on the slow bits but much slower on the fast bits thanks to fatigue and a sheer inability to spin the bigger gears. This lap shows up the true potential of the course even for a non-technical rider like myself. I clean most of the climbs, including several that I had had to previously walk, and although a couple of XC chaps flash past (Hi Nick!) I really feel I’m in the race now. The section down to the bridge and home is again my best and this time I pump it for home in the big ring.
Alan sets off on the glory lap and I go back to camp and feel the post-coital glow knowing my race is done – no longer a 24hr virgin. I’ve got round in one piece and the team as a whole has put in a very respectable performance. Sure we’re amateurs compared to some of those out there but no other team (except maybe the naked triathletes) have had a better crack.
Again the next few hours passed in a blur and it finally arrived at 12pm when Alan completed his glory lap to be cheered home by his adoring fans! Superb – what an end to a glorious weekend and our first 24hour race. We finished 7th out of 15 in our category – well done team BM Slackers!
We raced to raise money for the RUSS Appeal. Once all the contributions are in we should have about £1,000.
We had three sets of Cateye lights, none of which quite behaved as we’d have liked. Tim’s borrowed set only managed 50 minutes, Alan’s brand new set failed to take a charge and Mike’s set packed up too. Although he did jetwash his bike with them still attached…
Mike’s reputation as a mechanical disaster area proved to be well founded. Although his own bike survived largely intact (although the rear bearings disintegrated as he rode home), the mere act of sitting on Paul’s and Sinead’s bikes caused gear and fork related maladies respectively. Fortunately he didn’t go too near to BM Editor Mike’s flyweight carbon fibre race bike – anything could have happened…
If you’ve read any forums at all since the race weekend, you’ll have seen mixed reports. For the record, we thought the course was great – there are plenty of 24 hour races with fast, straightforward courses, it’s good to have one with something a bit twiddly. The reported timing woes didn’t affect us (partly because we weren’t racing in the affected categories but mostly because we simply didn’t much care where we finished…) and we didn’t experience undue queueing for water or showers. Inevitably there were a few niggles with this inaugural race, but the organisers are well aware of them and we’re sure everything’ll be spot on for 2007. We’ll see you there…
And if you want to know who won, head over to www.twentyfour12.com, which has full results including lap times for every rider.