24 Hour races have never been my thing. Not because I don’t like them, but for two consecutive years that I have entered one, I have broken my collarbone right before the race.
Luckily the first time I broke my collarbone I still had my drinking arm, however I was pretty peeved when the second occasion prevented me from heading to rotorua in New Zealand, only the source of some of the greatest trails in the world.
So this time round, with an ample amount of training, minimal drinking and both my clavicles in good health I headed down to the Scott 24 hour with a bunch of newcastlodians for what turned out to be one of the toughest yet rewarding bike races I have ever been to. The Scott was also being held in conjunction with the Solo 24 Hour World Championships which sadly missed the presence of worlds contender Craig Gordon, who had an unfortunate crash after a press release regarding his switch to Giant. Apparently the bike had nothing to do with it but that as we here at drift feel, is questionable...
The other major contender for the Solo’s was Jason English, a master of many many endurance races and also the defending world Champion. But despite Gordon’s bad luck there were still more people, according to English entered in the elite solo event than there were at the last solo worlds all together, so the sport of 24 hour endurance racing is growing rapidly. How anyone wants to sit on a bike for 24 hours I will never know although fellow drifters Ross Cairns (6th
in 30-34 solo) and Dan Felton (46th
in 35-39 Solo) may be able to shed some light on the reasoning, but to me, it seems crazy.
Arriving before the 2pm cut off for vehicles on the Friday, Josh and I got organised along with our respective teams, being Fist it Hard and Fast, made up of myself, Graham Stanyer, Stu Adams and Craig Coates and Drift Bikes which included Josh, Jim Hull, Wayne and Jackie Bower, Andrew Crew and Ben Morrison. Sadly Paulie McLean was unable to make it as his dog passed away. Sorry dude.
Fist It Hard and Fast had scored a VIP Tent thanks to Coatsy’s Financial Planning Firm IPS Wealth Management so we were happy as can be located only metres from the transition area with Gas heaters galore. Josh being the adventuring type was also content with his choice of tent for the weekend being that of a swag. Friday night came and went and we woke to overcast conditions on the Saturday morning. Despite wanting a sleep in, my nerves had set in so I was wide awake from about 7:30 and the waiting game for the start began. I went to a stretching class which was pretty basic but it got me loosened up a little and before long we were watching the Solo Men take their running start to 24 hours of insanity.
Stu Adams was picked as our runner for the start given his back ground in triathlon and distance running, and the fact that coatsey has one leg longer than the other, I run like an elephant and graham I am guessing doesn’t run from anything. Josh I believe had Crewy running as he is about as trim taught and terrific as a tony fergusson shake and is paramedically trained to deal with large crowds.
We were stoked to hear that Stu got away about 30th
overall and by the end of our first lap we were second in our category. I was next on the track and despite being the beginning of the day the traffic seemed far better than the day before practice lap. By the time I got back from my first lap we had gone into the lead but it was very early days. Funnily enough we were tussling with another team from Newcastle, the Newie Cogheads before having a two lap stand off against a team called 3fidi1 before we finally took control of the lead and began settling into our rhythm as a team and gradually extending our lead with each rotation.
The best news in my day was that jay and adam @ Specialized had given me the S Works Epic 29’er to use for my night laps. This bike is an endurance race dream. The bigger wheels just roll thru sections that the 26 has to navigate and on the fireroads the way the bike carried speed and pedalled thanks to the brain technology on the rear swingarm was nothing short of revolutionary. Specialized have gone all out with this bike and designed it from the ground up to be within 8mm of the wheel base of their Epic 26’er. Sadly the wind was stolen from my sails when I pinch flatted halfway around my second night lap. I thought it might be a slow leak so I slammed a full co2 cannister into it but it was flat by the time I finished the next section. I rode a full climb with the flat before stopping at the top of a fireroad with some space to fix it. Luckily I was carrying a spare 29 and after borrowing a CO2 cannister from a dude I was on my way. We were pretty lucky in general having only one flat for the whole race, however we did have a few other moments including a number of crashes as well as one of coatseys lights failing forcing him to get around with half of his normal arsenal and Graham banged out a few spokes in his rear wheel but we got those fixed up with time to spare before his next lap.
The big mistake I made was not eating before my early morning lap. I totally bonked as I hit the first hill. I ate everything I had on me and finished my water hoping this would restore me but I was well and truly busted arse. I pretty much gave the sob story of my life to a girl who had done as many laps as me and she took pity on me and gave me some of her juice (from her water bottle) this pepped me up for the final 5km of the 18k circuit and I was back and in my swag resting up in no time.
By the time my final lap came around I was a broken man. I can remember just rocking back and forth on my chair like a mad person. It was then that I decided to eat a vegiemite sandwich, a banana and down two red bulls in the space of 20 minutes. This turned me into a wild animal and I smashed out one of my best laps for the weekend, going under the hour with a 59min. Graham took over from me and made it back in time for Stu to go out before the elapsed time cut off, making out team the only one in our category to complete 24 laps in total.
The event was extremely well run and the only criticism I have of the whole weekend was why not have more toilets!!! There were 2500 people there for crying out loud!
The track was a true representation of what mountain biking should be with a great mix of fire road, singletrack, rolling berms and jumps and of course, rocks! So many people were complaining about not being able to go fast thru the rocks or that it made the trail too bumpy, but really, this is why we ride, to get better at negotiating the trail and learning to manipulate our bike thru the worst of it and come out the other side with satisfaction of cleaning the section. After all, if it gets too smooth, we will all be racing cyclocross bikes, which specialized do make btw!
I would definitely rate 24 hour racing as something everyone should try and I am really thankful to Josh for giving me as much of an understanding about how I was going to feel before I actually felt it with regard to the love hate relationship you have for racing your mountain bike in the middle of the night with little to no sleep. A big thanks also goes to everyone from the DRIFT bikes and Contour teams and Nathan Brown one of our most loyal customers who was trackside most laps to keep up the moral. Bring on next year, and right now I’m going to go and sleep for a week.