Having returned from France and the Alps on Tuesday evening it suddenly dawned on me that I had a 24hr race this weekend, albeit in a team, but I hadn't prepared anything, my bike still had its race number (and associated dirt) from Mountain Mayhem... Ow I hope it still works actually...
We were a team of 4. Myself, Damien, Jon and Simon, well until Thursday when simon unfortunately came off I a practice ride a bust his shoulder, we were now down to 3 riders, competing with teams of 4 and 5. I had no idea how we'd fair. As with all endurance races the weather plays a huge part in the success or failure of a ride, in this instance the weather was forecast to be mixed, sunshine Saturday, rain Sunday, we'll have to wait and see.
Damien thankfully agreed to drive, and we left London around 8pm Friday, making the 4 hour drive to Newham Park, just outside Plymouth. We arrived just after midnight, found the venue and pitched the tent, we weren't off until 12 the next day so no super early start. We awoke to glorious sunshine, maybe the rain wasn't going to arrive, and after registering, which included a free bottle of Ale, and breakfast we met Jon, our third member and prepped the bikes. My bike was still working thankfully, albeit Dave (if you read this) it does need a service... Some opt for a practice lap, I never bother, my view is you have 24hrs to get to know the course, it will likely change over time due to weather and volume of riders too. That said this course was quite long as 13.8km, hilly (as always) at around 1,000ft per lap, we were promised plenty of singletrack at the rider briefing, and also one section know as a bog, fun.
I suggested I do the first lap, handing over to Damien and then onto Jon before going out again, initially in the day we'd plan to only do 1 lap turns, with a view to double up at night, this has worked well for me in previous events, so should work well here, albeit with a rider down.
12 arrived and it was time, in was on the start line, not a great position, but I knew there was a big climb to start with (cliff climb) where I could make up time. Off we went, pace fairly high, but loads of riders on the course slowed progress a little, we initially wound around the arena, up a small climb before starting the whole lap, in an attempt to drag the field out a little. Seemed to work, and as we hit the first full lap the number of riders in team kits increased, I was apparently in a good position. The first section was a long climb on road for around 500m then gravel farm tacks for another 1k. This was a timed Strava segent, so I put in a fair effort, not sure I'll keep this up for 24hrs though... The woods came as a welcome relief with some singletrack, conditions were best described as "sticky" meaning progress wasn't rapid, plus I'm convinced this was still up hill? We looped around the woods for a couple of K before the descent started, first half was a narrow, but very flowing singletrack section on the edge of a wood, great fun, and with a clear line you could really nail it. I did. This ran into a fire road descent before a small, but sharp climb. The cottage return section was next, a fast and techy downhill. Started off with a few bombholes before opening up into a fast chute. It was narrow, rocky but great fun! Usually 24hr courses are built for endurance, and as a result a little bit boring, but this was actually enjoyable! Conscious not to crash out on the first lap I did take it steady though. Back into the arena briefly, before being taken across a stream and a short sharp climb, then winding through a shooting range before climbing again, over the campsite with a fast grassy descent back into the arena. That was that, first lap into 24 hours and it was done, how many more I wonder? First lap in 42 minutes, not bad I guess given the traffic. I handed over to Damien who set off, we had decided to each do one lap, which would mean depending of lap times (suspect we'd do similar with 5 mins of each other) each rider would have around 1:40 between their laps, enough time for a bit of food and rest, but not too long so you'd get cold and seize up. We'd reassess this in the early hours... The laps ticked by and we were all feeling strong lapping now in around 42, and each of us 2/3 minutes either side of that. The evening and darkness arrived, weather still good, and now around 1am, my turn to go out, I'd had a proper meal (potatoes and tinned curry) and was ready for a double, this would mean I could come I and then in theory get 3 hours sleep! 1st double was fine, 2nd double seemed to take ages, in reality it was only a few minutes slower, but I was pleased to get back to the tent and try and sleep... I say sleep in the loosest sense of the word because I'll full of sugar and adrenaline and can never sleep at these events, sure enough, I lay in my tent, in slightly damp cycling gear completely wired, but also tired. No sleep was had, despite trying, so it was up again at 6am for another double lap stint. We seemed to get the timing abit wrong here, and Damien who was now out, should have been in, essentially he'd done another double, and it was Jon's turn next, so I had another 2 hour wait, at which point the weather gods changed their mind, and decided to start the rain, I've not seen rain like this for a while, everything was wet it was torrential. This was going to be a matter of survival now... I was off onto my second double, at around 8am. To be honest this wasn't fun, it was very grim, everything was wet, but at least the sticky mud had gone away, trails were now rivers, which actually rode quite well... I came in and thankfully was done, Jon was off for his second double. After his 1st of the double he was flying, still 45min laps, it dawned on us we'd get a third lap in! Jon, who seemed up for this was oddly loving this... Another quickish lap and he made it back before 12, so yeah, out again. Finally finished around 12:25, looking quite heroic. We'd finished, the odds stacked against us, 2 riders down and rain, but thanks to great riding and teamwork we finished 11th. Pretty bloody awesome I think.
I'll come back next year, great course and atmosphere, but it it better than mountain mayhem, Naaa that's a classic!