All photos courtesy of Rob Crayton.
The plan was to get back the Nick Wallis trophy for the 4th year for lead solo singlespeed and aim to be on the podium in the solo category overall as part of my build up towards the WEMBO Solo 24-hour World Championships later this year. It wasn’t all plain sailing though!
With a relatively easy week of training/tapering ahead of the event, the last thing I needed was a big crash on local trails on Wednesday morning leaving me feeling a little sore scraped. My new frame hadn’t turned up either, so some last minute swapping of parts on Thursday afternoon so my Swift had all my new Hope kit on it for the race had already put me a little on edge. However, the forecast wasn’t looking too bad and I felt ready to race. Friday came and so did the sun, arriving early at Gatcombe to blag my track-side spot and get the caravan/awning/pit set up, before a spin around the course with my brother (a 24hr mtb virgin!) and then a few beers with some friendly faces from previous races, the Godiva Trailriders and other singlespeeders – the GT boys had even brought 3 barrels of beer from Church End brewery! I left them to it quite early when the rest of the pit crew turned up and the talk turned to the worsening weather forecast for Saturday.
I can definitely say I have never been so nervous ahead of the start of a race. Anyone I saw asked if I was going to win – no pressure then! I tried to block it out and get my head in a good place for the start of the race. The last 2 minutes of the countdown certainly felt like closer to 10 – previously they have zipped by. Being on the front line at the start certainly made the run easier and I headed back in to the arena in the first few dozen and headed out on a clear lap with no hold-ups and a 2 minute gap on the next soloist and settled in to a nice rhythm. The suggested heavy/stormy showers never showed other than a light mist at the start and a light shower at some point on Saturday evening. The course flowed really well and wasn’t too dusty and for the first 8 laps I rode all the climbs, only then deciding to start walking the top of the steeper ones to stretch the legs and keep any cramp at bay. Likewise the temperature was ideal – with a lot of sunny spells thrown in. My revised nutrition plan seemed to be working well too – more MuleBars, less carb drink! The new Eastern Express bars and Salted Caramel gels are so good for this – a welcome balance to sweet drink mixes.
All was well until lap 13 – just as well I was a lap up on 2nd! 2 crashes in 2 weeks, but this one was completely unexpected. Just as I hit the brakes on one of the fast descents, the left fork leg decided to snap into two, catapulting me over the bars, leaving me wondering what had just happened. I could not believe what had happened – at least it was the other side of my body this time! However, a loan of a bike from a fellow singlespeeder saw me up and running without losing too much time and some wonderful help from a number of friends saw my bike get put back together with some borrowed forks within a few laps. I think I will be buying these guys a few beers for these guys at SSUK this year as a way of saying thanks – I was completely take aback by what they did to help me out.
Back on my own bike and lights came on. As per last year, the night seemed to fly by, probably due to the dry and therefore high number of people still out on track. The Exposure 6-pack proved to be faultless yet again and saw me all the way through to morning. A fresh change of kit at 2am helped keep any chills off, and the lack of early morning dampness kept things fast and flowing out on course.
A big thanks to Ingrid & Bev who managed to stay awake most of the night and in to the early hours to make sure I was OK (not too sure the dog was pleased about being disturbed every 40-ish minutes). Compared to the early part of the race, the last third was easy going, with some pretty consistent mid-40’s lap times.
I finally crossed the line after 24hours and 7minutes having completed 32 laps, 220-ish miles and 8800metres of climbs. I was also 2 laps up on 2nd position Gareth Hughes (Malvern Cycle Sport). I also reclaimed the Nick Wallis trophy and finished 3rd singlespeed behind 2 teams of 4 and a lap up on my clubs (Godiva Trailriders) singlespeed team. None of this would have been possible without the support of Ingrid & Erik, good friend & pit crew Bev, Jimmy & Matt at MuleBar, Jon Fearne at Extreme Element Endurance Coaching, Singular, Fibrax, EDS Bikes, Hope & Goldtec. Also the bunch of fellow GT’ers, Wild Boars and singlespeeders that helped me through the tough times during the race and encouraged me to really go for it this year. Next stop California…1