For me, competing in a 24hr solo race is a learning process. I've done four now and believe I have the technical side down pat - food, bike prep, support crew organisation etc. And the mental side of things is always a mystery until you're on the bike and at least a third of the way through the race. The major thing I learned this time around is that I need to work on a serious training regime. This year I did no serious training, just rode my bike a bit more than usual in the weeks prior to the race. My lack of form was evident about four hours in when I felt like I had just finished a 24hr race.
Considering this lack of form, the race went really well. There isn’t much exciting to write about when your life for twenty four hours consists of pedal, brake, turn, eat, pedal, eat, pedal, brake, turn, pedal……….so here’s some random observations:
- I found the course to be okay for Singlespeeding. The major issues came in the rock gardens. I needed to hit them with a bit of momentum, so when most geared folk drop a few gears a pootle up, I get stuck behind them and literally hit a brick wall of Fatigue Inducing Torque Requirement (FITR).
- I found that I overtook the majority of riders on the up and down hill sections. The downhill on the red lap was great, as it was last year, but the highlight was the section of doubles on the blue track, so much air-time fun! I found the undulating single track on the flatlands was a great opportunity to rest.
- If you have any doubt about the virtues of 29ers, jump on one and sit behind someone riding a 26er on the flowing singletrack, then watch how much more often they brake, skid and pedal. Hours of entertainment. I believe a 29er is an ideal enduro platform.
- The most annoying comment award goes to: “Do you wish you had gears now.” Said it as if I had no choice but to ride a Singlespeed, maybe he thought I couldn’t afford gears? And in case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t want gears at any time during the race, no matter how shite I was feeling. I love my bike the way it is.
- Most repetitive comment: “You’re hardcore/a hardman/insane/psycho.” I have no idea what a suitable reply to this comment was supposed to be, so I usually just replied with a question about their own race in order to change the subject.
- One good decision I made before the race was to brief Langers (my support crew) not to listen to anything I said during the race; including ‘I need sleep’, ‘just five minutes of sleep’, ‘just a quick rest’, ‘I can’t ride any longer’, ‘get f#cked’ and ‘you’re sacked’. He held up his end of the deal and treated me like an animal; fed, prodded and taunted me during my transitions in order to keep me moving.
- Conversation is the key to survival for me. I revelled in the conversations I had with everybody during the race, it took my mind of the pedalling and was genuinely interesting. Cyclists are the best people.
- Some crashes are just damn funny. The one that topped the cake for me occurred on a very dusty and windy section of downhill switchbacks. Four of us were banked up behind an older gentleman when he literally flew off a perfectly straight section of trail and into the trees for no apparent reason. By the time I reached him he was bleeding from many wounds and was in what looked to be quite a lot of pain. In his best high pitched voice he told us all to leave him alone and keep riding as it was only a cramp. He lay there precariously wedged between branches and rocks, with his bike a few metres further on. A very helpful Defence rider stopped to look after him and the rest of us went on our way. Only in the sport of 24hr mountain bike racing.
- Don’t eat a bucket of chips in transition expecting it to fuel you for a lap instead of coagulating in your blood stream.
- I once again found it amazing that the human mind can warp the truth enough to make you believe a 24hr race isn’t that long. My brain devised a technique whereby it divided the 24hrs into four six-hour sections; somehow providing me with the motivation to just keep riding till I finished that session, and the next one……
- Another of the mind’s wonderful feats of deception is the way it makes you forget how you repeatedly swore you would never do a 24hr race again. For some bizarre reason I already can’t wait to sign up for next year.
I was really happy with my results. I did 20 laps but finished relatively fresh and know that I could have done 22 without too much more effort; I think 24 would have been achievable but significantly more painful. A 20 lap finishing tally put me in 5th place in the Solo SS category and somewhere between 12th and 17th in the Solo geared category.
So what will I change for next year? Well firstly I can’t wait to be living in the same town as the race. I’m sick of spending the entire day before the race on a plane, carrying the bare minimum of essentials, scrounging for food at the supermarket the night before and sleeping in an unfamiliar bed prior to spending 24hrs on a bike.
I’ll definitely train properly. This year’s singlespeed competition was the best ever and really blew me out of the water. I’ve always believed that there shouldn’t be a SS category, as a lack of gears doesn’t necessarily slow you down that much; this year’s results proved that without a doubt.
Thanks goes to Langers for supporting me like a champion for the second time, it really is a team effort, and to all the riders that take the time to chat to soloists.
......and of course Sportograf for the rad photos once again.