2013 Mersey Roads 24hr TT – 24 Hour National Championship

518.37 miles

I’m writing this a week after the event. The first layer of skin has been shed from my backside but I’ve been back on the bike and most aches, save for the dodgy hip, have subsided.

The Mersey Roads 24hr has been going since 1937 – the 2013 running would be the 70th edition of the race. It would be my third attempt at the ‘twice around the clock’ event. The 24hr caper would have been all over in 2012, having gained the Willesden CC club record I was chasing but a 2nd place to Ultan Coyle basically prompted me into having another crack to see 1) if I could win the event and 2) if I could break the 500 mile mark. I figured it would be rude not to try – glutton for punishment and all that.

Team FastHippy assembled at Higher Farm B&B on Friday after a hot drive up from London. I went straight out on the Shiv in CS Grupetto kit for a lap of the Finishing circuit to loosen the legs after the drive. I almost remembered the course which was a nice surprise!

We met Rob Newton and walked over to the Cock o’ Barton pub for dinner. Rob’s a keen cyclist, a fitting client of Scherrit’s and previous Mersey Roads marshall who was really keen to get involved and help out and I wasn’t going to argue with that! I think I had steak and chips – not the most carbo-loading friendly meal but I reckoned I’d be getting quite enough carbs in the next couple of days so sod it!

The next day we tucked into fried breakfasts which I justified with the fact my start time was 2:25 in the afternoon so it should be well and truly digested by then. While Mal and Scherrit went shopping for supplies (lots of water!) I sat around watching Mega Truckers (yeeehaw!). The start was only a mile or so down the road and when we arrived it was straight in to try and squeeze into my excessively chamois-creamed skinsuit. *sings There’s a Fraction Too Much Friction yeah*

Some team ‘before’ photos, stress, number pinning, stress, loading pockets with food, stress and rolled over to the start line with about 5 minutes in hand. Brief chat with Ishmael and some other guys at the line.

Rolled slowly from the start at 2:25. It just got real. Focused riding, balancing power output with nerves and hills. Now I basically have no idea what happened. I think I had Scherrit’s words on repeat in my head “you can ride the whole event at this power” along with thinking about food and balancing drinking with food intake and worrying about needing to pee versus dehydration – tackling the big issues! I was also enjoying mentally revisiting the course from last year, trying to remember bits and pieces, work out where turns were coming and such. The two Prees laps passed without incident.

David Goodfellow photos

Now on the Quina Brook loops I used some wet wipes to clear my visor of sweat as it was messing with my depth perception. I think rider #92 went by like he was riding a 100 so I’d mention him to the team as a rider to keep an eye on. Opted not to get the lights on the move, instead had a leak, had some Pepsi and a brief chat. I’d stop again in three laps time to remove the visor totally as it was tinted and messing with my night vision. After around 8 hours we moved back to the Prees dog-leg out-and-back for night laps. After 10 hours it was coffee time and the always entertaining task of reapplying chamois cream – in that order – unless you take cream with your coffee. 😉

David Goodfellow photos

264 miles completed at 12 hour mark.

David Goodfellow photos

The next stop was around 6am in order to remove my lights. Unlike last year, I was in an extremely good mood at this time. Grabbed a swig of a disgusting energy drink – not the V that I’d requested – you just can’t get good restaurant service around here at 6 in the morning! Setting off again, we’d forgotten to actually remove the bloody lights! Doh! So after another lap we tried again to get rid of the lights. The quick release was jammed so Scherrit poked around for an allen key and removed the whole lot. Sorted. The other riders were now doing half laps, only Ultan, Alex Kirk from Dulwich Paragon and myself were on the long loops. The three of us, all London-based riders, were separated by mere minutes at this stage – Alex handing the lead to me at some point during the early hours and Ultan only 2 minutes behind.

“Organised Chaos”, Malcia Photography

Back onto the Quina Brook circuit this is where the fit hit the shan. The early hours when the sun is up tend to hurt the most – your body thinks it should be going to bed but your brain knows there’s still a good 8 hours of racing remaining. And just so there’s no doubt, I do mean racing – Ultan and I were getting split times and were constantly within 1-2 minutes of each other, even though we couldn’t see each other. It was a pursuit race on an outdoor velodrome 12 miles long!

David Goodfellow photos

I was in bits now. On one lap I’d get a split and think “I’m still in with a chance, gotta keep pushing” and then I’d not get a split and my brain would say “hey, you must be losing now, just quit, this hurts too much anyway” or “I wonder if my team will pick me up if I call it quits over here”. It was horrible and I was cursing everything and wondering if I’d ridden too fast too soon, hating the fact the gap was so small so I couldn’t rest, wishing Ultan would just quit. Proper mental battle.

– “Evil Coach”, Malcia Photography

Hooked hard left sign-posted Wem and someone yelled at me so I turned around. The marshalls were directing me elsewhere – I’d missed the turn to transfer to the finishing circuit. Whoops! A quick u-turn and I was heading north on a refreshingly different road. It felt fast. Scherrit would later tell me he was concerned as it looked like something was wrong with my left hip – no, it was actually me irrigating the roadside again. Somewhere on this transfer I dropped the back off my phone, letting the team know I’d been moved, but I wasn’t going to stop for it.

On the finishing circuit it was getting a bit pukey as my stomach was getting tired of all the carbs going in. There was still a way to go and not wanting to run out of gas I yelled “Rennie!” to my team and after a while Scherrit appeared in front of me sprinting along the road to hand me up the packet. Poor guy thought I would slow down for him. Ha!

I remember making another wrong turn here – following last year’s slightly altered route from memory and turned left at the Cock o’ Barton towards our B&B. The marshalls yelled something at me and pointed me the right way. Wrong turns when you have only minutes in hand are not much fun. Hippy Smash!

The various time keeping points would all cheer. The HQ was great as there were loads of people yelling encouragement. I remember spotting Andy Wilkinson and I presume his partner in matching kit at one check point yelling encouragement to me. Pretty cool to have one of the fastest time-triallists ever (I’ve been in awe of his achievements since he rode 541 miles during the ESCA 24hr in 2011) standing on the road side shouting you on. Big thanks to all those cheering! Mal tells me the first three or so laps were done head to head with Ultan, neither one of us making up or losing any time to the other. I knew I’d gone past the 500 mile mark so now it was all about trying to get the win.

The last laps were epic – every part of my body wanting to quit but the thought of a win getting stronger in my mind. Being cheered on all around the course, whilst trying to eek out more and more speed from tired legs. The Garmin died with 45 minutes to go but it didn’t matter as pacing wasn’t a concern any more just big-ringing all the climbs, staying low on the flats and keeping as much speed up as possible through any corners. I was now skipping hand-ups to save weight and digging in for a final push. Mal tells me that I knocked a massive 11 minutes off both of my final full laps and the two support crews acknowledged it was over at this point. I, of course, didn’t know this and just wanted to give everything I could before the end – unlike last year I didn’t want to feel I still had some in the tank.

– “Done”, Malcia Photography

Done. Finished. Game Over. I turned back to the time keepers and my team and they gave me the ‘shut it down’ wave so I slowed and turned around back to them. I couldn’t quite get off the bike so some people helped out and I parked my butt on the grass, took some kit off and caught my breath. I remember talking to John Forbes but I have no idea what about. I also remember speaking (probably utter bollocks) to someone with a video camera (Damon Peacock?). After a while I got back on the bike and slowly followed the team to the HQ a few miles down the course.

Back at the HQ we chatted to the Pinkies (Arabella Maude and Jane Swain), who had set a new National Tandem Trike record of 349.6 miles.

Also chatted to Ishmael who was 3rd last year and improved his distance this year, Quentin, who had taken his club 24hr record and probably a few others thought I was getting a bit vague by now. Ultan and Basia appeared and we shared a bit of banter – they’re both lovely. Finally a result sheet was handed out, confirming my win, with 518 miles over Ultan’s 513mi – both of which were some of fastest 24hrs ridden. I was pretty chuffed and so were the team – it’d been a long old year in training up to this point and a hard-fought battle on the day. Various other awards were given out, Lynne Taylor collecting her 13th win at the distance! The Navy team looking absolutely destroyed as they hobbled up to collect their winners medals. Said a few words, received and returned the medal (they engrave them and give them out again at the Champions Night). It was a nice end to a bloody long race. Back to the B&B, we cleaned ourselves up and headed over to the Cock o’ Barton again for some fizzy and dinner, then an early night before the drive back to London on Monday.

Thanks Team FastHippy!

Mersey Roads 24hr Facebook

RTTC National Championship 24 Hours RESULTS

www.cyclingtimetrials.org.uk – 2013 24 Hr National Championship

cyclingtimetrials.org.uk – results

24hr Gallery

Goodfellow Photo Gallery

www.cyclingtimetrials.org.uk – News

Kimroy Photos