1. hippy, 493 miles, 20.7mph
2. Meurig James, 484 miles, 20.3mph
3. Chris Hopkinson, 439 miles, 18.5mph
4. David Haase, 439 miles, 18.4mph
5. Barry Dickson, 439 miles, 18.4mph
It’s almost a month after winning the World 24hr TT Championships and I think I’ve forgotten most of the bad things that happened – most of my body parts are back to ‘normal’ although I did manage to get DVT on the flight home – make sure you move around on long flights kids!!!
Malwina and I flew into L.A. and drove straight to Borrego Springs a couple of days before the race to try and acclimate and adjust to the timezone change. It didn’t work – we were up at 5:30 on race morning! Doh! The weather though was lovely! We did some taste testing of American food (*cough* and beer *cough*) and some previewing of the course as well as meeting some of the local wildlife.
Registration and bike inspections happened on the afternoon of the race and went without any issue other than a bit of discussion about race number position.
One interesting new fact I discovered was Meurig James was now on the start list. Meurig used to be a member of one of my clubs, the Willesden CC before he moved to the USA. Back in 2009 Meurig set almost all the club’s time trial records and it got me thinking “I’d love to have my name in the history books of British cycling, a club record sounds really cool”. Thing was, Meurig didn’t hold the 24hr club record, it was long-distance cycling guru and author Simon Doughty and it seemed achieveable (it took two years but I got it!). So, I would be racing against a former clubmate and a guy I knew was faster than me over most distances. Beating his club 12hr record earlier this year might’ve helped reduce the shock of seeing his name on the start list but not by much!
The race itself was going to be a bit strange compared to British time trials for a few reasons (other than it being warm and dry! :P). First, it started in the dark at 6pm. Secondly, it started in waves of riders rather than riders being started at 1 minute intervals – I knew everyone would go off fast and I wondered how this would change my race.
Also the pit arrangement, where all rider support was to be given from one place, basically made fast handups impossible. There would be a lot more stoppage time for me compared to the Mersey Roads National 24hr last year.
Riders were also required to slow down when crossing the start/finish line so that the timing system and manual timing people could see/hear your rider number. For almost the whole race I avoided the ‘speed hump’ here only to realise after the event that it was the electronic timing pad! Lucky I was very vocal when calling out my number.
There was one big junction on the course that also required riders to slow down to 10-15mph. This took a couple of goes to get right – it really was a crawl through there!
During the TT I was fine for the first few hours, gradually reeling in the fast starters and taking the lead after five hours. An existing injury (an abrasion from a long training ride in the wet the week before) flared up and at 2am, after eight hours of riding, I had to add a pair of knicks over my skinsuit to reduce the pressure on my raw inner thigh.
Towards the twelve hour point I was struggling to stay awake (I guess that’s actually 24hrs awake at that point). A lot of the other racers are RAAM riders so they’d probably laugh at me admitting this but I was really struggling to concentrate, almost binning it at one point with a wobble into the very soft, sandy verge. That woke me up! :S
After fourteen hours riding I was starting to get weary of the (in any normal situation great tasting) Torq fuel I was using, so Mal did a runner to a nearby cafe to grab me a bacon and egg bagel. This probably didn’t sit well for a lap but after that was a nice change of flavours. At 1pm (19 hours elapsed) I had to stop and have Mal and Hoppo’s partner Jen remove my aero overshoes as they were causing some pretty serious pain to my feet. It was the first time I’d worn them for longer than twelve hours – even now, a month later, the top of my right foot is still sore from the pressure. At the 3/4 mark the race was no longer on for a PB but the thought was that 500+ miles should be doable.
At some point during the Saturday afternoon, the wind picked up, massively. In some sections of the circuit I could barely control my sail, I mean, bike and I’m weighing in around 90kg, so I don’t know how the lighter guys felt about it. It never really felt like you could take advantage of a tailwind either because it was on the straight with the slow-down junction or the there were a bunch of turns to go around but the difference was doing 35mph on one side of the circuit vs. doing 6-8mph on the other side. Barely walking pace!
In those horrid conditions I remember riding so pathetically that I spent most of a lap looking over my shoulder just waiting to be passed by Meurig. It didn’t happen and my team (Mal and Jen knew each other and so had kind of teamed up) said I still had a 30 minute lead. Whether it was a psychological boost from this news or whether it was just a couple of gels kicking in and getting rid of the bonk, I’m not sure, but basically the next lap was back on at my normal pace and I was feeling good about the race again.
The organisers decided to move racers onto the shorter finishing circuit early, due to the strong winds being a bit of a safety concern. Unfortunately they made that call a bit late as I headed out for yet another windy long loop. Around this stage there was some confusion about lap times as Meurig had suddenly jumped in front of me. What had happened was that he was put onto the short laps before me and they’d counted his first finishing circuit lap as a long lap. I tell you what, it caused all my ‘fans’ watching the timing online all manner of stress! 😀 Mal told me as well and so most of the finishing circuit was ridden in anger – “how could a rider be in front of me yet I’d not been passed?” kept repeating in my head. I remember David Haase (RAAM rider) kept telling me to hammer it or something of that nature – it was another quick finish from me!
Crossing the finish line for the last time I’ve done 497 miles but the last lap isn’t counted so officially it’s 493 miles. I’m told I’ve won but I wary because of the aforementioned timing issues so I’m wanting confirmation. I can’t physically get off the bike. Someone congratulates me on the win and a woman tries to interview me but I’d just smashed it trying to get the final lap to count so I mutter something at her not really thinking straight (see below). If you don’t finish the lap before the time is up, the whole lap isn’t counted, something else that differs from the British TTs where a series of timekeepers will work out your average speed and thus your final distance based on that between two points. Eventually I can get off the bike, get my shoes off and sit down to have a chat with Chris ‘Hoppo’ Hopkinson a British rider, also a multiple RAAM competitor and pretty much every other ultra race on the planet this year! There’s some packing up going on and we head to our hotel to clean up and then on to the dinner. I thought there’d be a formal presentation but that wasn’t the case – just a lot of people wondering who the hell I was and was I going to be racing RAAM next year… “no” is the answer to that one!
As it was our first trip to the USA we now had a week or so to relax and do some touristy things like see Las Vegas, visit the Hoover Dam, visit Flagstaff and a bit of Route 66, marvel at the Grand Canyon among other things. I’d like to thank Mal for being awesome, The Bike Whisperer duo for helping me get there, all the guys and girls that were supporting me from back at home(s), the organisers and all the lovely Americans that made our whole trip great fun! I’m totally up for doing some more racing over in the States.
2014 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championships – Episode 01
2014 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championships – Episode 02
2014 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championships – Episode 03
2014 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championships – Episode 04
Cool lap time chart from David Baxter:
“Chart of the top men and women in the 24-hour race, showing progress over the main loops. Hippy Hippy didn’t start out the fastest, but he had the most consistent lap times, with only one lap over 1 hour. Interesting late charge from Valerio Zamboni! (from http://my2.raceresult.com/details/index.php?page=4&eventid=32826&lang=en)”