The Relentless 24 is a 24 hour race, through the world renowned woodland in Leanachan Forest in Scotland. As with all 24 hour events, it sure is a hard an greulling challenge, one not for the faint hearted. Matthew Jones managed to grab himself a 2nd position spot. Here he shares his experience with us…
Words: Matthew Jones
Waking up in the morning with numb fingers was a bit of a shocker, I’ve had aches and pains from racing before but hands feeling like I had been sat on them all night, was a bit of a worry!
Coming in to the race I had done my first 10 months of ‘proper’ training: turbo training, a more structured ride programme, some core stability work and even a last minute dabble with performance enhancing drugs (beetroot).
Just getting myself fitter than ever before brought a new challenge in itself, part of the challenge was how to deploy my hard sweated out fitness built through many a miserable turbo trainer sessions locked away in the garage.
To the race itself… The weather forecast was horrendous, every item of bike clothing I own was therefore packed. It actually turned out to be ok, just the odd down pour now and again in the dark which I didn’t actually mind too much, especially when my pit crew hand pre-warmed shoes and clothing ready to put on, Dave from M Steel Cycles was on hand to clean and re-lube my bike every other lap.
From the off a group went away at the front including Jason Miles, I knew this included teams, pairs etc but also some of the other soloists had gone with them as well. Although I went a bit faster at the start than what I would have liked to of, as I think anyone who has ever done a 24hour race reports afterwards, I got in to a rhythm fairly quickly and started tapping out the laps.
The course was interesting, tough, and technical, it was not a boring grassy field somewhere down south that becomes a bog at the first sign of drizzle. Every No Fuss event I have ever done has had the same for course quality. We started up a long and varied climb on fire roads and singletrack including a very steep lung sapping part of the Witch’s trail route which became a walk for many tired legs later in the race before the reward of fast, jumpy and swoopy trail descent that became very hard on the hands.
Every climb was rewarded by a mix of trail centre descents and naturally cut in sections (which still held up well even in the rain). One descent in particular had many tight linked turns meaning you had to hold on hard. As part of a rough figure of 8 you eventually returned to the event centre before doing a 15minute loop up the fire road and then down a fast and flowy descent ending up on the end of the Downhill course. The course really suited me as I seemed to make up loads of time on riders around me on the downs. I quickly established that it was worth pushing hard on these sections for the time gains which caused a few over the bars in the dark but on balance was the right strategy (not for my hands though). I found out that one of those crashes has cracked my carbon frame after smashing it on one of many rocks featured in the trails.
I felt pretty good throughout, I asked my pit crew not to tell me where I was as I wanted to focus totally on what I was doing and try to stay relaxed. Consistency eventually paid off as I gradually moved up the order. I even found time to have a good few chats with the legend that is Guy Martin who looked like a zombie at the end but was keen to chat about training so I’m sure he’ll be back for more next year.
I asked at daylight where I was, which was the point where if I had any chance of doing something about it I would do. To my surprise I was second only around 35 minutes off Jason (who must not have been flat out or something) and about 40 more in front of third. I knew it was pretty unlikely that I could overhaul Jason given I expected he was easing back after established a fairly big lead early on. It was only the last couple of laps that I really began to suffer but maybe that was more the fact that I saw the end in sight. If I really put the hammer down I could have squeezed out another lap but with Jason heading out for lap 23 as a buffer rolling in after pretty much bang on 24hours of riding I was spent and happy that I hadn’t had to do anything epic to consolidate second overall and 1st in open male. The dynamic duo of Rich Rothwell and Craig Bowles smashed the pairs whilst Guy Martin made it on the podium, not bad for someone more used to have petrol not energy gels as fuel.
Really pleased and surprised with the result given that I’ve only been giving ‘proper’ training a go since the start of the year. Looking forward to what I can do next year now and eventually at the world 24 champs which is the ultimate goal.
Massive thanks to M Steel Cycles for supporting me and my other half Sarah for putting up with being shouted at for 24hours. Also shout out to Exposure lights/USE who came to the rescue when my lights went haywire and also my bottle cage decided to capitulate.
The World Championship 24 comes to Fort William next year and with No Fuss organising it everyone should get involved to make sure there’s a Brit on the podium.
Note to self: must not buy cheap Chinese bottle cages again
Here’s my lap times:
1 – 00:50:56 – 00:50:56
2 – 00:54:24 – 01:45:20
3 – 00:55:44 – 02:41:04
4 – 00:56:25 – 03:37:29
5 – 00:58:57 – 04:36:26
6 – 01:01:58 – 05:38:24
7 – 01:02:02 – 06:40:26
8 – 01:01:58 – 07:42:24
9 – 01:03:37 – 08:46:01
10 – 01:02:19 – 09:48:20
11 – 01:09:11 – 10:57:31
12 – 01:08:09 – 12:05:40
13 – 01:10:29 – 13:16:09
14 – 01:11:53 – 14:28:02
15 – 01:11:25 – 15:39:27
16 – 01:12:12 – 16:51:39
17 – 01:11:18 – 18:02:57
18 – 01:14:18 – 19:17:15
19 – 01:08:03 – 20:25:18
20 – 01:11:55 – 21:38:17
21 – 01:07:28 – 22:45:45
22 – 01:07:58 – 23:53:43
1st – Jason Miles
2nd – Matthew Jones
3rd – Jason Hynd
Full results here.