RIDE24 Race Report
It's 01:00. Or 05:00. Or in fact anytime between 22.00 and 08.00, on the evening of the 23rd and morning of the 24th June. Despite only a couple of days past Midsummer, the rain is torrential. I'm thinking about (a) being somewhere warm, (b) how many more laps do I have to go before my next handover (c) what my last mile split time was and finally (d), what am I going to eat when I dismount. All this can only mean one thing; I'm in the middle of AMR's RIDE24. But first, the beginning.
Having competed in the same race last year, we put our experience to good use. For starters we'd discussed our strategy beforehand and agreed a 5 lap burst at the beginning and end of the 24 hour session. This meant everyone would be involved from the off. No tents. Well, not for me, Lukey and Wozza anyway. A general dissatisfaction with the whole camping process meant bikebritain had hired a team van, complete with mattress. This afforded substantial protection from the elements and with it, a better chance of getting some sleep. It was also easier moving the bikes from 'A' to 'B'. We had some technical advantages up our sleeves too; Malc and I decided to swap the Zipps round to make the most of the aerodynamic benefit offered. I also brought as much gear as I could muster, working on the proviso that it might be helpful to have on hand. Finally, we believed we were employing the most effective transition technique in the pit lane, a comment I am not able to substantiate in anyway other than I think it was (see our video for evidence).
So here we were, myself, Lukey, Wozza and Malc, ready to race for 24 hours in aid of charity. We must be nuts.
In terms of the the cycling experience, the adventure began with me taking Brendan round the circuit in the AT2 Trailer. Having asked Alice, one of the AMR organisers quite nicely whether I could take the boy for a spin, we requested Goodwood's blessing. Fortunately, they gave it. With Brendan strapped in we rolled down the pit lane , greeted by smiles from everyone else. We were joined by Lukey as out cycle our-rider and went for our leisurely spin round the motor circuit. With the wind in his hair, Brendan enjoyed every yard of the 2.4 mile course. Our journey was punctuated by lots of 'Ohhh Daddy" and pointing at aeroplanes as they took off. RIDE24 had certainly got his seal of approval........
If you are avid follower, or indeed a follower of any type, you may recall one of the key moments from last years race was my ability to randomly draw pole position on the grid for the team. This was a feat I was unable to repeat this year. Instead, I self managed to earn us 52nd place. This did a couple of things. It meant I was just one of many cyclists lined up ready for the 'off', meaning no real 'starting' pressure. It also meant there were lots of people for me to chase down - just the way I like it. These factors, combined with our team '2012bikebritain' supporters screaming from the viewing gantry, made for a very exciting start. The gun went off and I 'sprinted' across the track to Lukey who was holding my bike, clipped in, demonstrating reasonable competency and made my way through the pack. If you can picture 'Wacky Races', you'd be in the right sphere. I charged through everyone, almost catching the leading pack as they made their way through the first corner. This (somewhat precocious and frankly optimistic) start precipitated in the fastest lap of the race for the team, clocking a brisk 5.53. I was, nevertheless, pleased with that.
Our race strategy was built around a 5-8-5 lap plan. By some estimation, this meant I should have completed my first 5 laps in about 30 minutes. They actually took 31. With a placing of 11th in category and 15th overall, I could not have given the team any better start. In fact, I wondered, just how much energy that gallant start had cost me. I'd find out later I mused.
I handed over to Wozza, who sped down the pit lane and embarked on his first RIDE24 foray. Spirits were high, there was no sign of rain and we had not even started on the free food. All was good with the world. Wozza completed his 5 laps and handed over to Malc. I'd already forgotten to switch my wheels over, but according to Malc that was fine because it wouldn't make that much difference over 5 laps......'The Metronome' (as we shall now call him), raced round the course, looking comfortable, accomplished and in control; all attributes I should probably learn more about. Malc handed over to Lukey who was ready to 'murder it'. He did and attacked each lap with gusto and a 'chew your tongue off' vigor that would frighten at least some sections of the general public. However, the only down side to having Luke on the track was that it signalled my go next. 8 laps beckoned this time.
Sure enough, Luke finished his laps, rolled into the pit lane and shouted "Left leg" saving me the effort to work out where the tag was. Unzipped and zipped I grabbed my bike and rode down the pit lane; I was off once again. I took it steady and quickly found my rhythm, beating out 7 minute or so laps. What pricked my interest more were the grey clouds amassing overhead. This could be the rain that was being talked about. On my final lap, it started spitting. I took one last glance at the sky and gladly handed over to Wozza. It was time to eat.
More accurately, it was now time to start rain. And rain it did. Given that this was Wozza's first foray into this type of event, the weather was pretty cruel. It absolutely lashed it down. Worst thing was, it just went on and on and on. For 10 hours. Accompanied by a very stiff wind. All of us now took two 8 lap stints in the pouring rain. I initially felt ok after I climbed off the bike at 01:00 on Sunday morning. Cold but ok. However, it took nearly 2 hours to warm up. When it came round to my turn again an hour on from then, I was not a happy bunny. It's hard to describe this period in the race. I was standing around, waiting for Luke to finish, shouting out words of encouragement as he went past. He was waiting to finish, I was waiting to start. We were both getting wet. It rained harder and harder.
We handed over and I was off once more, an exceptionally watery dawn eventually breaking over Goodwood. Getting progressively wetter, this, for me, was my lowest point.
In the middle of all of this are the Solo riders, 40 of which were riding round the track. I'm not sure if these included the Race Across America (RAAM) qualifiers, but these people deserve a specific mention. A couple of weeks earlier Swazy had joked with me as to whether I was tough enough to compete in RIDE24 as a solo rider. Maybe I was? I shared this suggestion with my wife who, despite being supportive of most of my ideas, was strongly against this. Her argument culminated in "You've got a family to think of". I interpreted this, as at best, a 'nuclear strike'. Having since endured the ride this past weekend, I can categorically state I will not be competing as a solo rider. It requires not only titanic endurance but single-minded determination that is hard to comprehend. These cyclists braved arduous weather conditions to rack up their laps. Our van was parked up besides one such person. I was changing out of my sodden gear when he was in for a break. He was talking to his partner and here's how the conversation went:-
"I'm just going to sleep for 40 minutes and then I'll be out again." "Really?" she said. "How about you sleep for an hour but if this rain stops I'll wake for in 40 minutes?" "OK," he replied. The rain continued to hammer down, and needless to say he managed a full 60 minutes rest, but the point is that it's still crazy. Even fishermen would not have wanted to be out in this weather.
The rain did eventually ease off - at about 08.00. Predictably, our spirits were dented but far from broken. There was still a job to do. Like last time, there was some element of confusion over where exactly we were placed in proceedings. Lukey said we were 10th in category and 15th overall. According to the official stats we were 12thn category and 21st overall. However, having now cross checked my mileage on the Garmin with the lap download, it looks like there are some inconsistencies with the data.......
It was almost time for my penultimate session, but this time I decided to switch to the Day One. I wanted to see how it performed on the race track. It was fun and aquited itself well. It also felt good riding in a slightly different position. Judging by the time remaining we would need to adjust our lap quota. I calculated that we should each do 4 laps in this round and we should then be able to fit a further 4 or 5 (laps) in for the final bout. I was right. We accumulated a further 16 laps between us with 2 hours 15 minutes remaining. We had reached the final leg.
I really wanted to end on 5 laps. There was time, but it would be tight for Lukey, riding 4th, at the end.....I managed my 5 laps in final about 37 minutes, not quite the heroic pace of 22 hours earlier. I was pedalling as hard as I could but I could not engage any more power. I was utterly drained. I summoned up one final push along the back straight knowing I would be cheered by my friends, wife (Kayren) and son (Brendan). Just like last year, seeing them on previous laps had given me such a lift. I pictured seeing them at the end. I knew they be going wild and they did not disappoint. I dumped everything I had into the final bend and got out of the saddle and had a final face off with the wind. I zoomed into the pit area and skidded to a halt. Kayren, et al, were cheering. I grabbed Wozza's bike, slapped him on the back and wished him well. With that he was off and I was finished. What a relief.
Both Wozza and Malc turned in commendable final lap performances. They were tired but kept going, accruing their laps as quickly as they could. However, the final piece of this narrative should focus on Lukey. Our metaphorical anchor man, he'd already calculated he was playing the role of either hero or someone who'd have their last lap chalked down as a "Good Effort". There's one thing I will share with you about Luke; he always rises to a challenge. This time was no exception. His penultimate lap, after almost 24 hours of team racing, gave him just 8 minutes to complete his final loop. It would be tight.
The minutes ticked by.
There was some banter and much of clock watching. I was biting my nails as usual.
Our supporters knew the challenge; they were eagerly awaiting the reappearance of the flying fluro-orange jacket. At 23:58.40 he was spotted, diving down the back straight.
Surely this was Lukey?
It was. He couldn't hear, but we were shouting. Shouting really loudly.
He got closer; we shouted louder.
200 meters to go and the clock clicked over to 23:59:00. 1 minute to go. And best of all, we knew he'd make it.
35 seconds later, a punch of his fist and frankly delirium from his team mates and supporters, he crossed the line; hero. Just 25 seconds left, timed to utter perfection. He'd finished and so had team 2012 bikebritain. Storybook stuff. We were done.
In terms of event organisation, I'm a bit more critical this time around. I shared some of my thoughts with Sarah, the race organiser, at the end of the race. Despite the terrific surface, Goodwood is extremely windy, seemingly all the time. Hard work for cyclists riding round the closed circuit. The timing of the event is also debatable. June and midsummer looks like a good bet on paper but 3 out of 4 races have suffered from inclement weather and this year was simply awful. The food and massage were very welcome but a larger area for general shelter, given the weather, would have been helpful. Finally, having portable showers would have been a more-than-welcome addition.
To summarise; most importantly we've raised somewhere close to £1600 at the time of writing - fantastic! On behalf of bikebritain and AMR, thank you again to those people who chose to sponsor us. From a cycling perspective the event was brutal. The ride is hard enough, let alone have the elements blatantly pitted against you. Would we do it again? Maybe, but probably not next year. Would I recommend doing it? Yes, but be prepared for some soul searching in the early hours especially if the weather plays up. Exhaustion to elation, indeed.........
The bikebritain film of the RIDE24 race plus Lukey's version of events will be available shortly.
Special thanks to the people who came and supported us throughout the event:-
Kayren and Brendan,
My Mum and Dad
Wozza's Mum and Dad,
Lesley and Claire,
Frank and Archie,
Mr Barns (who was officially escorted out of the rider enclosure for taking unofficial team photos)
and last but not least, my 2012bikebritain team mates; Lukey, Wozza and Malc. Great effort guys. You know what? All things considered, we did alright.
Words, Thumbnail and Slider Image - bikebritain ltd