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Dusk ’til Dawn 12 Hour: A race report

My first 12hour of the season was six months ago: Exposure 12. Six months later and I’m lining up at the start for my fourth. Dusk ’til Dawn is the biggest night time 12hour in the country and starts at 8pm. It was my second attempt; I’d tried it in 2010 but biblical rain and a lack of experience saw me drop out after six hours.

Although there had been heavy rain over the 24hours previously, the course was fairly dry, running fast and was much flatter than I’d raced before. This meant lots of pedalling and very few proper hills, which are usually my strong point. Luckily I had chosen to use gears again, which meant I had more speed on the flat, and because I was borrowing a pair of Strada Carbon 29er wheels, which were super light and stiff, the difference in lateral stiffness compared to my normal aluminium wheels was huge! they allowed for more controlled cornering and quicker acceleration due to the reduced rotational mass. My bike was almost normal compared to how I normal have it set up!

I had a mellow start, but made good progress through the masses on the start loop. I was conscious that I needed to clear the traffic before the singletrack started, but was also remembering just how long a 12hour race is! I quickly got into a good rhythm, spinning a low gear on the gradual slopes and over taking riders in easy places.

For the first few hours I was keeping an eye out for other solo riders’ glow sticks, giving away their positions, and noting how hard they were trying!  I’d overtake a few before the singletrack, then they’d power past me on the flats; I figured they wouldn’t keep that pace for long and let them pass.

As time wore on my ability to keep warm in 5 degree average temperatures was difficult. I don’t like to over heat but I was struggling to feel my feet. Nevertheless I was in third and feeling good, enjoying the course without feeling tired, and having quit caffeine two weeks prior to the race, the caffeine gels were giving me a nice lift every few hours.

Everything was going to plan, I felt comfortable and knew the darkness would only last so long… After nine hours my main light ran out of power, quicker than I’d expected due to the cold, but luckily I had a spare and only had half a lap with just a head torch.

Soon enough it was getting light. With over 100 miles in my legs they were still turning and I was in second place!! On my next pit stop Dad told me I was only 10minutes down on first. Loading up on gels I set off to do my final two laps. The penultimate lap went well, but halfway through my last lap I could feel a big bonk brewing! I checked the time, it was a fast lap and I could get back before 8am and do another lap if I held it together. (Un)luckily I rolled in at 8:01am, missing the extra lap, but it didn’t matter. I hadn’t caught first, but I’d secured second and my best overall result to-date!

Big thanks to my Dad, it was such a cold night but he never once complained. Thanks again to Strada for the loaned wheels and TF TunedMulebarRob Lee and The Bicycle Academy for all their support this year! Now, time for a week or so off riding, a stag do and then to decide what I’m doing next year.

Male Podium

 

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Newport Velodrome: A ride report

I’ve been meaning to try a velodrome track session since I missed my clubs taster session almost a year ago. Luckily a riding friend of  mine booked a session and made me commit to attending.

Despite the crazily early start I was feeling excited, if slightly daunted by my first track session. We quickly got changed and grabbed a bike, the group was of very mixed ability but we quickly got on the track, learning to ride within each section of the track, whilst overtaking the slower riders in a safe manner.

The first hour flew by, but luckily we had booked a 2hour session, whilst the second group were getting acquainted we had the track to the four of us! We had great fun trying our own team pursuits, the speed you can build up to with just one gear was incredible, and despite a few risky changeovers I was having a great time! I never realised from watching track racing on the TV quite how steep the corners are and how strange it feels to overtake people by going over the top of them!

By the end of session I was hooked! We discussed with the trainer about booking the next session, but unfortunately racing is still a long way off!

Anyhoo… Saturday is Dusk Til’ Dawn at Thetford in Suffolk, I have attempted this race once before back in 2010, I remember the race starting, the rain starting 30 seconds later and my bike, body and mind falling apart 6 hours later.

I’m hoping for a better race this time!

 

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The South Downs Way: A ride report

With my last race of the season just three weeks away, and having had a few days off the bike whilst at a festival I felt I needed to do a big ride. I have been meaning to ride the South Downs Way since way marking parts of the route for a off-road triathlon back in july, the SDW is fabled among cyclists, running from Winchester to Eastbourne it is just under 100miles with nearly 3000metres of climbing, some people like to do it over two days, some people like to ride there and back non-stop, I thought doing it in a day was good for me.

Leaving Winchester at 8:30am the first few miles come easily, one minor nav error near a disputed part of the route and a minor puncture for my riding buddy we made good time to Queen Elizabeth country park, then Next to Cocking for the first tap, 35miles, topped up and feeling good we carried on, during the next section my hydration pack bladder started leaking, less than ideal! I made sure I topped up at every tap, this delayed our progress but needed to be safe!

From Amberly onwards the gradient starts to get tougher, riding my beloved single speed I cope well with hills, a few had me walking but felt it was better to preserve my legs. From Ditchling Beacon onwards we had broken the back of the ride, although I knew the worst hills were still to come! We pasted a few other riders, one had set of at 5:45am and looked to be suffering, we gave him some encouragement and left him on the next hill.

With energy rapidly running out we hit Alfriston and the last big climb of the day, it was great, chalky climb with brilliant views and a gradual gradient, after this it was a quick blast along the top near Beachy Head and down in Eastbourne.

It was a really great day and a classic ride, total ride time of 10hrs, total moving time of 8:45hrs, I’ll be back next year now I know the route more organised and more prepared and set a better time, and nobody mention doing the DOUBLE!

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Brighton Big Dog, An encouraging race report.

I had booked my solo entry for Brighton Big Dog 6 hour months ago because i’d had such a good race last year, achieving a surprise 5th place on rigid singlespeed! Recently I had been feeling some doubt on how well I could do after a poor performance at Bontrager 24:12 and I had been struggling with motivation to train properly.
I arrived in Brighton friday afternoon, and rode a practice lap with my good friend Ronnie, from the Brighton Mountain Bike Club, he has always supported my racing and encouraged me to set my sights higher than I imagined I could. The practice lap was slippery and slow going, so my nerves were on edge and I was dreading another potentially boggy race! I’d chosen to race geared for the first time in years due to the lack of single speed class, I must say a big thanks to Scott Swalling for lending me the geared wheel, I would have struggled on the wet root sections if i’d ridden single speed.
Saturday morning arrived and I was feeling calm and more relaxed after the bad weather I had expected had not arrived. Lining up for the start I spotted the usual fast faces I have come to recognise, therefore starting the race I decided a top 10 finish was the race aim.
After an unusual  short two lap warm-up, the race started. I felt ok off the start, remembering to keep my head and not take any silly risks and as the first lap progressed I was out on my own, behind the lead group, but in-front of the main race group, I was happy with my position as the course still felt slippery, and a few uphill sections remained difficult to clear without stalling.
The second lap felt much better, the course was clear of riders and the slippy patches had started drying and sections I had ran the lap before where now ridable and the singletrack was fast and flowing. The third and forth laps were within +/- 1minute of each other, and I was feeling good, clearing the technical climbs and enjoying the course.
Come the seventh and my last lap I still felt good and had an out-side chance of catching 5th place, I attacked every climbing trying to make up 4minutes. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, I finished 6th overall, with the fast guys still in front, despite this I feel it was one of my best races despite the lack of podium, trying to compete against semi-pros on my 25pound, steel framed bike with nine gears is always going to be a compromise on a fast course, hilly course, but it’s given me the encouragement I need to make steps next year to progress into being one of the fast guys.
I always enjoy going back to Brighton and I it was an opportunity to meet new face in the bike scene, including Sarah from Halo Headband, thanks for the sponsorship and the shouts of encouragement from the Brighton Mountain Bike Crew.
Photos to follow
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Bontrager 24:12 – A race report

I had been looking forward to Bontrager 24:12, I wasn’t as fit as I had been but I was hoping my early season form would help me through.

We arrived friday afternoon, we quickly set up camp and I headed out for a practice lap, I enjoyed the course and felt it complimented my climbing strengths. Friday night came and so did the rain, boy did it rain! I woke up saturday morning to a very boggy campsite, undeterred I got ready.

I lined up at the start, we had been told during briefing that a few sections had been removed and we were lucky the race was still on due to the river level almost flooding the campsite! I got off to a relatively good start and completed the opening loop, during the first lap it started to rain again, but it was warm so i didn’t mind. During the second, third and forth lap the course was getting more and more trashed and i was struggling to get through the deep mud with my single speed gear, and I had to walk more and more each lap!

I swapped onto my spare bike with a lower gear, and headed back out, I struggle round again as sections of course were removed due to them being unrideable, I changed the gear to the lowest I could, I wasn’t particularly enjoying myself but I was in 6th so had to continue. I was struggling, i’m really not built for pushing bikes through deep mud and was losing interest. I made it back to the pits and decided I’d had enough, I was going to kill myself for a top 10 finish, poor attitude perhaps but I didn’t have anything to prove, I completed my last lap, got washed and helped out my racing buddy Scott Swalling who was racing the 24hr, I didn’t feel too disheartened and knew I had saved myself from two weeks of recovery.

Thanks again to Dad, stirling pit work as ever, and thanks Andrew for the use of the Mobi Washer it helped a huge amount!

Next race is Brighton Big Dog, then I have a break until Dusk til’ Dawn where I need to get I thin and fast again!

 

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Bontrager 24:12 preparation with help from a few sponsors

With a less than a week till Bontrager 24:12 in Plymouth, where I will be racing 12hours solo I took friday off work and visited a few of my sponsors.

First up I visited TF Tuned in Westbury, having only recently gone back to riding with suspension forks I’d been advised that weren’t working as well as they could. Ian from TF Tuned had organised a one-to-one tuning session with Oscar, he quickly stripped the fork  apart, explaining what each part did and how forks new from the factory are never as good as they can be! Changing a few internal parts and resizing the bushes to make  travel buttery smooth, everything was greased and the reassembled. I can vouch for them working so much better than they did when they were brand new, so thanks very much TF Tuned.

Second up I drove over to see Jimmy at Mulebar, one of the most important I’ve learned through the races that I have done is how important proper fuelling is during and after the race. So you can imagine how happy I was when Jimmy agreed to help me out for this season. I picked up a few boxes of Mulebars and Megabites, I find that one of either (depending on lap length) + an energy gel per lap is a good amount for me during long races, but it is not always as simple as that! Jimmy has some great racing and traveling stories and it reminds me there is more to cycling than just racing!

 

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A return to form: Erlestoke Twelve

The week leading up to any race I do a weather watch, usually to check for rain incase in I need spare mud wheels, For Erlestoke 12 however I was checking for how hot and windy it might be! Saturday arrived and Dad and I packed the car and headed to the race.

Come 12 o’clock I queued up at the start line, with fellow racer Szabi Bandli, we chatted over previous races but more importantly I kept a cool head. I got off to a reasonable start, careful not to go into the red, holding back on climbs, whilst keeping an eye on my single speed competitor. The course was great, a few parts were riding slow but I knew they’d get quicker, first lap complete, quicker than I thought, bottle swapped with out stopping. I kept like this up for 4 or 5 laps, dad told me I had a 15minute lead, this was good news, I slowed a little, only 4hrs in and a long way to go.

6pm came and the temperature began to cool, I was feeling strong and loving the course, it had emptied out which made it easier to maintain a steady pace, Andrew & Maria and my Mum & sister had come to spectate which was nice and my local club members who had finished racing were also offering encouragement.

Around 10pm we checked the split back to the closest rider and I was well up, I swapped onto my rigid bike for one more lap, I still feel I had more in my legs, apart my knee which had begun troubling me. Rolling in at 10.30pm we checked my time, I had won the single speed title and as I wasn’t counted in the open I called it a day, 15 laps in 10hours 30minutes, 1st single speed, unofficially 5th overall.

Big thanks to The Bicycle Academy for their continuing support, Mulebar for keeping me fuelled, Morvelo for their comfy kit, my Dad for being a pro pit man and everyone for there cheers.  Yet another great event from SPAM biking and I loved the Charge Cooker 29er frame,  Surface Jacket  and Giro prizes!

Next race for me is Bontrager 24:12, 12 hour solo, its not for a few weeks so I have a chance to rest and rebuild.

Big thanks to Duncan from MBK Photos for the photo of me riding in the sun.
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