ESCA 24-Hour Time Trial National Championships

For the last 8 months I’ve been thinking about and training for the East Sussex Cycling Association’s 24-hour time trial. Never before had I invested so much time or money into a single event. Never before had I contemplated entering an event so long and with requirements for training, fuelling, equipment and support that far out-strip any of the shorter races and rides I’ve done in the past. This was a whole new ball game for me.

Almost as soon as the plan was hatched to enter the race, Scherrit from The Bike Whisperer was on board as my coach, bike fitter and volunteer to provide race-day support. Without his help I’m certain I’d not have ridden as far as I did and I’m not even sure I would’ve entered the event.

Malwina is always providing support, be it cooking my post-ride meals, massaging my tired legs, calming me down when I’d get stressed, standing out in the pouring rain under an umbrella to provide food, drink and warm clothes on a training ride or just letting me bounce ideas about the race off her. She was always available to help and did so with Scherrit during the race itself.

The Race:

Mal had bought lots of food and packed it into labelled boxes along with the existing race fuel, medical supplies and other kit the night before and Scherrit arrived with the car and bike rack. We were taking two bikes – my heavily ‘tweaked for distance’ Planet-X TT bike and my S-Works road bike with spare race wheels fitted. Scherrit had also brought along mechanical supplies, eskie, bedding and seating. Mal, importantly, had a clipboard – nothing could go wrong. It all went into the car and we left for Sussex around 9am.

With a slight detour into Berwick we eventually found the HQ around 11am, signed on, collected numbers and I waited in the car while Scherrit spoke to some riders he knew and Mal prepped my cycling kit. I was starting at 12:47 so delayed getting changed as long as possible. Once changed and it was time to go we drove towards the start at Michelham Priory a few miles down the road. Thinking about it now, riding to the start as Scherrit suggested, would’ve have been a better idea. At Michelham Priory Scherrit added some air to the tyres, Mal helped me into TT helmet, gloves and overshoes and I rolled towards the line.


“What the hell?!” Something was rubbing. The whole bike was vibrating. Scherrit had a look, pulled the wheel back a bit and we tried again. Nope, still rubbing. “Arrgh! Could the wheel have moved whilst on the car rack?” Backing the rear brake right off seemed to help. It was almost my start time so I rolled towards the line while Mal and Scherrit walked up. Something was still rubbing though so I was off the bike and examining anything for signs of contact – the fat 25mm Michelin Pro Optimum tyres left little room for error in the chainstays.

Someone at the start line held my bike up (thanks, whoever you were!) while I adjusted the wheel fore/aft and left/right, checked brake pads, etc. It was time to start, so giving up, the rear brake callipers were backed right off and with 30 seconds to go I was with the holder, Mike Anton (who went on to take loads of great photos of the event).

5..4..3..2..1.. Go! There was some clapping and cheering but I didn’t really notice much while trying to keep my wattage at Scherrit’s super-conservative “first 20 minutes warm up” 200W.

Half a kilometre down the road, at the end of Arlington Road West, I stopped and readjusted the rear wheel as the rider behind me went passed. For a change I had no concern about people passing me. This was about the “long game” as Scherrit called it. I knew the pacing strategy we’d decided upon was good so I just had to apply it. Of course, it would help if the wheels on my bike would turn properly! Thinking about it, while bouncing down the A22, my conclusion was when the tyres were properly inflated, the rear rubbed on the chainstay and when it was moved back to stop this, one of the the brake blocks was then slightly out and rubbed on the tyre instead.

“Focus!”, reducing pressure on the pedals to bring my overexcited power down a little. My biggest concern about the 24, believe it or not, was not my legs or my feeding, it was simply getting lost. The course notes were very complex with no chance I could remember the turns and I was worried about how many marshalls they’d have and how good the signage would be. After the first couple of turns those fears started to disappear – there were LOADS of marshalls at each turn and huge signs made it a breeze knowing where to go. The organisers really excelled here!

The course headed along a turn-around road so you could nod/wave/sneer at the other competitors coming back along it. There were already spectators and support crews out on the road cheering everyone on. Being able to see other riders and other crews helped calm my nerves too.

Up to the Little Horsted circuit (a sign for the village made this fact obvious) where I’d do 3 laps. The terrain was quite rolling – made obvious by the fact I was flying down the hills only to almost stop when going up them – in order to keep my power output steady. There’d be no attacking hills this early in the game! There was good tree cover a lot of the time or perhaps the wind died down so I ended up sticking with the Zipp 404 front wheel choice rather than the shallower option.

Spotting my crew for the first time, after Newick on the top part of the course, Mal handed me a bottle on the move with food attached but I stopped further up the hill anyway. While I ‘shed some water weight’ Scherrit had a look at the bike, sorting it all out so nothing was touching the back wheel. It was better after that but still rubbed throughout the event when I was out of the saddle after a corner or on a hill. I think it was just a case of very close tolerance with the fat tyre choice and the Zipp 808 flexing slightly with my bulk above it. Riding out of the saddle isn’t so efficient so this wasn’t too much of a concern. Rolling again there were some long drags, fast downhills and after the sharp turn an appropriately named Deadmantree Hill – short, steep annoying climbs that meant even in the lowest gear, power was above target wattage. Through a slightly technical section with some rougher roads and blind corners and then back onto the A26 to the A22 where the riders had started the course.

Using a Speedfil hydration system (Corinne’s suggestion – a tank on the bike with a tube up through the aerobars to drink from) meant the empty ‘normal’ bottles being handed up would have to remain in a saddle-mounted cage after the Speedfil’s tank had been refilled. The first bottle wouldn’t stay open so it was a struggle to empty its contents into the Speedfil. Whilst thinking about how to tell Mal not to use this bottle again the problem resolved itself when the bottle bounced out and onto the road on the very rough A22. Another empty bottle (London to Canterbury TdF sportive one *sob*) bounced out a few hundred metres after I’d ridden past my crew at a roundabout on the transition to the Pevensey circuit. Grrr.. no more 800ml bottles in the Profile cages!

The Pevensey circuit was probably the worst of the three. There was a lot of very rough dual carriage way followed by long, exposed and therefore windy B-roads. Then some steep hills (again with poor surfaces though at least you’re not doing 50kph+ on them) and some towns with the usual problem of lights, pedestrian crossings, parked cars, etc, etc. Two laps of this were required before the ~70k transition to the Henfield night circuit and familiar territory (I’d done a 12 hour training ride on the night circuit in the pouring rain the week before). On the last Pevensey circuit I stopped, sat down and ate one of Mal’s chicken sandwiches and drank a Pepsi while Scherrit fitted my lights (thanks James, Wayne, Tom and Laura for the lights!) – it was 7:26pm and it would be getting dark at some stage of the transition.

Mal and Scherrit seemed to me to keep appearing but I didn’t really know what they were doing. Turns out they were just cheering but I didn’t know this at the time – I was wondering if I should be stopping to pick stuff up. At some stage I yelled “I’m a third of the way through!” and I think they were yelling the same thing but 40kph Doppler means “Hashhshfeueueffeaaaa!!” is what people actually hear. Mal’s got some great notes of all the transition times and what I was taking up and so I’m finding out now they were struggling to catch me during this transition leg. At some time between 8.40 and 10pm the lights were turned on and a fishing lure glowstick (Starlite) was crushed to activate and jammed into the blutack (high tech!) already on the Powertap so I could continue to monitor output through the night. Great in theory…

Riding in the dark but not yet on the night circuit caused me to check my speed a bit since it was unfamiliar roads and I had no idea about potholes and the like. Traffic through Cowfold was also a pain totally stopping progress a few times (at least on a 24hr you don’t go mental knowing your race is ruined like during a 25mi!). Somewhere around here there was a high-speed bottle grab (Mal still has both her arms – you can relax) and when the team drove past I confirmed I could (just) see the Powertap with my single glowstick and we’d meet at Ashurt Village Hall. The best laid plans…

Riding through Ashurst there were a huge amount of cars and people but none were recognisable. I was expecting Mal to be covered head to toe in the glowsticks she’d bought but she’d run out of time to prepare. Instead of doing the sensible thing and slowing down to find my team I maintained speed and at the last second saw Mal but stubbornly and stupidly carried on with a “what the hell?” look thinking I’ll get to them next lap. Unfortunately this screwed up their plans to feed me the pasta and left me running out of fluids. I also felt the need to use a toilet but for some reason this feeling disappeared for the rest of the race.

My team being clever cookies moved down the road out of the crowd and made a sign out of glowsticks with my number on it for the next lap. Carrying on a bit miffed about the Ashurst failure I was actually enjoying the night laps. Being familiar with the course meant I could ride the descents pretty fast without too much worry. I could see my power output for the climbs but more light would have been better as it took time for my eyes to adjust to reading the unit.

Spotted my crew easily the next time around (Scherrit had gone up the road to make sure of this). For some reason I still didn’t eat any pasta but instead had a ham sandwich and some Pepsi Max (why Mal bought sugar-free Pepsi I don’t know – actually I do know – it’s because I like it, I just would have bought full strength stuff during a race). The plan was also to change to HIgh5 4:1 during the night from Cytomax and SIS Go. I’d ridden for 12hrs on just 4:1 the week before so thought I’d be fine. This wasn’t the case and I started to feel quite sick after drinking it. I kept drinking it though – it would either settle or come back out. It did neither and thinking about it now, making myself sick and going back to the Go drink or water would’ve been a better idea. Feeling horrible now, my intake of food (gels and bars) dropped drastically – Mal notes at 1:30am that she was actually taking Powerbars off me! After another lap it was decided to get rid of the 4:1 so the crew emptied my Speedfil tank and refilled it with Go.

The mist/fog became thicker and thicker through the night. At some points I’m sure visibility was 30-40m. Everything was wet, with water collecting and dripping off my helmet and as such any attempt to stick my glowsticks to my Powertap failed so I gave up on it and rode by feel. It’s not so difficult but when unwell it’s very easy to ride very slow.

The crew expected me in around an hour for the dawn lap but it didn’t happen as riders were moved off to the transition back to Little Horsted. I was now feeling quite tired and sick and thinking to myself “should I call them, no, don’t stop riding, they’re watching the GPS, they’ll know I’ve left the course”. Unfortunately, the phone signal in this part of the world is pretty bad so they weren’t getting any/many updates. The crew didn’t find out I’d left the night circuit until the last rider car came through, which by this stage meant we were at least an hour apart. They decided rather than drive the course which would be full of cyclists and other support cars it would be quicker to take yesterday’s transition road back to the Little Horsted loop and wait there. Out of fluids again now I called Mal around the Deadmantree Hill but went straight to voicemail so carried on. Calling Scherrit later in the lap and he’d spoken to Twickenham CC to get them to give me some water. I had no idea where they were stationed though and in the end grabbed a water refill from a guy (later found out it was Mad One from TTF) at one of the marked ‘sponge & water’ stops (thanks Mad One!) and carried on until I finally met my team again at the Newick location. I finally grabbed a bowl full of pasta and took a caffeine tablet before heading off for another lap.

Dawn. The worst part of the 24 hours.

The second Little Horsted lap was horrible with me literally nodding off whilst on the bike. The caffeine I’d taken wasn’t helping and eventually I decided that sitting down for a breather was better than crashing. A woman on a trike who looked like she was enjoying herself a lot more than I was wished me a ‘good morning’. Getting back to the team I thought what the hell and took a lot more caffeine and Scherrit switched me onto energy drink from water. He said to take it easy, just try and hold 200W but within 100m I was thinking to myself “nah, I’m feeling good now” and brought the pace back up.

Once again, riders were transitioned towards Pevensey loop and my team didn’t find out until the last rider car came through. Somewhere around this time I decided to have a look at the distance completed. After my failure at night/dawn, the club record was out of the question but for some reason I had a look and saw something like 580k and looked at my watch I’ve got roughly 4 hours to ride. “Hmm.. 700k sounds like a good goal, let’s ride!”. I had a mission, felt good, the sun was up and I was now hammering. Okay, “hammering” is relative but after 20 hours riding to average 33kph for the last 4 on the worst of the circuits is pretty cool in my book.

Now all that worried me was bonking. Running out of Go drink again half way around the first Pevensey lap when it’s about 25degC and getting hotter and I’m hauling arse over the hills at 500W+ ignoring my power pacing, trying to claw back every single metre in the final push, is not what I need. When instead of the team car I see a Timing Marshall I’m annoyed but not going to stop until I see my team. Now I’m drinking gels and just hoping I can hold this pace for another 2-3 hours. Scherrit jumps out in the middle of a small town and Mal provides gels and a much needed refill. I’m busting for a leak but this is not the place to do it so I hold on for a while longer until I find a nice wide-open and yet hard to get to part of the A22 to flash my tackle (ok, not quite but you get the idea).

The Pevensey finishing circuit is the only place I don’t get passed by Warnock and Wilco, in fact I’m passing almost everyone else. People at the turns and marshalling points are all cheering – it’s like a sprint finish that goes on for hours! Mal and Scherrit find an uphill to wait for me and hand up bottles and gels. Mal’s brother Mirek has come along to watch but I don’t have time to really acknowledge him (thanks for popping down). My Achilles tendon is agony but I’m going to get 700k if it kills me (well, ok not if it kills me).

I’m not sure how the distance measuring system works – Scherrit had said “just keep riding”. They pass me in the car and later give me “7 minutes to go” sign. Scherrit says later I didn’t acknowledge him but I thought I nodded – if I didn’t it was because I was focused. Scherrit spoke to one of the marshalls and they said you should go to the next timing point AFTER your time is up, so at 12:47 Sunday I’m still riding as hard as I can manage. I can feel myself flagging and I know I’ve done over 700k but I also know this will come down a bit when they do their calculations so I want to be sure.

Lifting the power once more for the final timing point I’m done and roll down the road before heading to the car and sitting down. It’s over. 24-and-a-bit hours, 722k unofficially. – finishing – Mike Haylor and the 2011 Sussex 24 hour – damonpeacock esca 24 – JulianSotonia – Cycling Time Trials National 24 Hr Championships 25/26th June 2011

And… relax..

Massive thanks to the organisers, marshalls, volunteers, supporters and everyone who loaned me stuff or helped me in some way.

Very special thank you to Scherrit and Malwina. You guys were frickin’ awesome! I had such a cool race.


Duration: 22:57:22 (24:07:18)

Work: 16102 kJ

TSS: 1072.5 (intensity factor 0.684)

Norm Power: 212

Distance: 722.914 km

Avg Speed: 30.4kph

Max Speed: 62.9kph

~13L of fluids (water, Go, High5 4:1, Cytomax)

1 Pepsi

1 Pepsi Max

1 V energy drink

2 small instant coffees

26 Powergels

9 Powerbars

1 chicken roll

1 ham roll

1 brioche jam

1 brioche plain

1 bowl pasta

1 Kit Kat

5 Pro Plus tablets


YACF – East Sussex 24 hour 2011

YACF – What Andy Wilkinson can teach us



Provisional Winners

rupertracer photos

mike anton Saturday Afternoon photos

mike anton The Night Shift photos

mike anton Sunday Finish photos

andy sheridan photos

Kimroy Photography