I had a pretty special team mate, Myriam Saugy (BMC/Texner), who came over from Switzerland to have a taste of the single track at Newnham Park. We picked Myriam up from the airport on Friday evening and, guided by our trusty satellite navigation system, we got utterly lost before arriving at our bed and breakfast. The proprietor was pretty annoyed by our late arrival and whisked Myriam to her room before we had chance to say goodnight!
We discussed race tactics over breakfast the next day. Our plan simply comprised of us each riding double laps because this would give us enough time to refuel and rest between handovers. Oddly I wasn't nervous at all and I wolfed down breakfast. We then dashed off to set up base before getting in a test lap.
Base for the next 12 hours
The laps were approx 14km but they comprised of a fair amount of twisty rooty single track, a river crossing, and a couple of nice climbs (though ideally I would have preferred more climbing). Although it was dry and the sun was shining, the week leading up to the race had been pretty wet so some parts of the course were relatively slick and there were some slippery roots that were waiting to dismount unsuspecting riders. Unlike some other 24 hour events this one started with a mass riding start rather than a Le Mans style run to the bikes. We decided that Myriam should do the first lap because she, unlike me, loves mass starts. I have never seen the start of a huge enduro event from the sidelines, normally I am at the front pedaling as fast as possible to get away from the carnage and not daring to look back! I have to say it was pretty spectacular to see hordes of riders pouring round the start/finish straight. I did feel a little odd not to be part of it.
Myriam had a great start and she was soon back from the start loop with some of the fast guys. I had time to scoff a jacket potato, faff for a while, hand Myriam a bottle after her fist lap, and warm up before it was time to grab the baton and dash off on my first laps.
My turn at last!
It was a relief to finally be on the bike. I have to say I am not exactly a fan of wet roots, so my aim was to use the time during the race to gradually perfect my root riding skills and ride as smoothly as possible. I was barely warmed up before it was time to hand back over to Myriam - 1hour23 is the shortest time I have ever raced for! I reluctantly relinquished the baton and went off to put on some clean race kit and scoff more food: energy bars and bananas.
Sun and single track :0)
This has to be the most relaxed race I have ever done. Even Dave was chilled out, so much so that he delegated his bike cleaning duties to James Towlson before grabbing his bike and heading off for a lap on his newly assigned team, Zero Stamina.
Dave took care to warm up properly before his lap ;0)
It was a really great experience to be part of a team; instead of having my head down pedaling the whole time I was able to enjoy the brilliant atmosphere in the start/finish area and chat to people who I wouldn't normally see. It was cool! Time literally flew by and the race was going perfectly. We soon built up a comfortable lead over the second and third placed female pairs, which meant that the pressure was off and we could cruise round and have some fun. I did however fail in my mission to ride the roots smoothly when I took a bad line which gave me the chance to inspect them close up!
After my sixth lap Myriam decided to do a single lap which meant that I had approx 45 minutes before my final two laps. Dave quickly put the lights on my bike before I was out again. I haven't ridden at night for ages and I had forgotten how much fun it is, especially in the woods.
I handed over to Myriam for her last lap. When she finished we still had just under 10 minutes to start one more lap, but we decided that it made much more sense to pack up and relax :0) We therefore finished after having completed 8 laps each.
Results: Female Pairs
1st Topeak-Ergon/BMC Texner 16 laps in 11:51:09
2nd AKO Ducati 15 laps in 12:12:28
3rd Activ Lush 'n' Deb 14 laps in 12:14:28