It’s safe to say I wasn’t expecting what occurred in the 2012 European and UK 24hr Solo MTB Championships this past weekend.
I’d said since my mechanical episodesat the TwentyFour12 in 2011 that for my next 24 hour race I’d have two bikes set up identically as I didn’t want lack of equipment to hold me back. A mixture of me not being able to make my mind up, how much it was all going to cost and partly for me being too busy with work to even think about it, that didn’t happen. With 4 weeks to go before the 2012 12/24 Hours of Exposure (which doubled as the European and UK Solo MTB Championships) I considered doing it singlespeed. Fewer things to go wrong, won’t have to worry so much about not having a mechanic, it sounds like a plan. All I’d have to do now was actually get some practice riding one!
Well, that was the plan anyway.
To cut a very long story short I didn’t end up getting my new singlespeed 29er fully ready until the morning of the event. So with no previous singlespeed experience and after what I would regard as my worst 24 prep ever, expectations were low.
On to Newcastleton town centre for the sign on, line up and get led out by some rather cool Scotsman playing the bagpipes…and we’re off!
Amongst all the madness I did have an underlying race plan, go as fast as I can for as long as I can and see when I pop.
My first lap I was gunning it. Then after crashing out on my second lap, causing a nice little hole in my elbow and loosing a bar end. I had to remind myself that I’ve got another 22 ½ hours of this so it might be wise to take the descents back a click. I still pushed hard on the climbs and the flats. With 6 hours passed and only seeing two 12 Hour singlespeeders pass by, I had an inkling I was doing ok!
Just after the 12 hour mark I was informed I had a 7 minute lead. It was at that point my family/pit crew must have thought I’d been possessed by something in the woods. After the next lap I bombed through the pits, grabbing a water bottle, barking orders and screaming at my Fiancé (who I should point out has little knowledge of cycling):
“Go and buy a twenty tooth sprocket, I don’t care where from, just find me one!”
Nathalie, bless her, was curiously wondering how they would be selling a twenty inch rocket at the trade stands. I’m sure you can understand the confusion when she tried to purchase one.
At 14 hours I was told I had a 2 hour lead. So I slowed up, now steadily ticking over, I even took the time to stop for a moment on the corner I’d wiped out on and found my bar end. Happy days!
18 hours gone and the lead is now an hour. Then it was game time! I was now angry at myself for slowing up for those few laps through the night. A severe lack of experience being in that position left me calculating all the things that could go wrong. Why didn’t I keep pushing and create an even bigger gap? Knowing all too well what it’s like to have mechanicals mess your race up and even have to run your bike to the pits. I certainly won’t be putting myself within striking distance again.
My last four laps were amongst my quickest and I was ever so slightly happy to roll over the finish line as the 2012 European and UK 24 Hour Halo Singlespeed Champion!
I can’t say I celebrated this occasion the way I wanted to as waiting for the presentation I remember feeling sick, then dizzy and finding myself on my knees with my family trying to force feed me chocolate bars and bottle of pop. Before I knew it I was whisked off and taken care of.
I did make it to the podium for the category presentation but missed the overall one where I would have got to wear my winner’s jersey and spray some champagne. Gutted! From what I can remember it went Floor…Podium…Ambulance.
Not to worry, hopefully next year with some proper training under my belt I may get the opportunity to stand with some numbers under my feet once again.
A massive thank you to my Fiancé Nathalie, my nephew Lloyd , my cousin Gareth and my Mum. You are all amazing people with exceptional patience. Thank you so much!