The dust – or rather the cloying, sludgy gloop that collected around bike and body parts – has now settled, I’ve had a jolly nice sleep (or two), a great big mug of tea and some sterling ploughmans sandwiches, leaving me refreshed, refueled and ready to engage in some cathartic reflection. So after due consideration I can honestly say, that it was…..in fact……no question…..proper misery on two wheels.
I’ve clocked up some silly things in my time, several of them with Julian (3 Peaks, enduros, Rat race LAMM, KIMM – now OMM), most of them oddly rewarding and some similarly miserable, but the conditions at the Brontrager 24twelve took the biscuit. Relentless rain, rising rivers and a mini tornado (I kid you not) left the course in a pretty shocking condition for last weekend’s event. We arrived at Plymouth on Saturday morning after a crack of dawn start, hoping for a break in the moisture. It came, but around 7 hours after the event started and long after the damage was done. Finding a decent area of the campsite, team Odoni-Cyclestuff set up its gazebo and invited good pals ‘Might Contain Nuts’ (Matt and Martin) to share the space. It proved an excellent position, out of flood risk, but close enough to the action to shout encouragement and abuse*.
The course itself was – I have no doubt at all – absolutely excellent before the monsoon got at it. Short sharp climbs, sweeping single track, technical woodland – it was perfect stuff for a 24 hour race. What a pity then, that riders were reduced to pushing or shouldering their bikes through the woodland sections as even the best mud tyres struggled with the conditions. At one point I described it as an exercise in futility. At another, I swore like a grizzled sailor on long overdue shore leave. It claimed my seatpost (see image), Jules’ wheel/drive chain and made me carry or push Matt’s chip shop single speed for 90% of the lap that I used it as a replacement for mine. It is fair to say that the mechanical gods were not smiling upon us, saving some of that cosmic GT85 for more worthy recipients. We pretty much retired from the event at around 6am on Saturday morning.
Despite the shocking conditions, ruined bikes and general misery, Jules and I placed 4th in the pairs, whilst Matt and Martin won it. With sleep deprivation and big bike bills ahead, I couldn’t have cared less about the result on Saturday (other than being super pleased for Matt and Martin), but now that I’ve had a kip, I know (KNOW) that we could have finished 2nd. Matt and Martin rode superbly, plugging steadily and strongly throughout. We wouldn’t have beaten them, but there was plenty of time to do at least another 6 laps when we retired and 5 would have been enough.
I’ll save you the ignominy of a painful blow by blow account and instead, give you my list of highlights and lowlights, pluses and minuses.
So what was good about the Brontrager 24twelve?
- Great course (under normal conditions).
- Excellent race organisation and management
- Superb event village with 24 hour support, showers and catering.
- On the whole, great camaraderie with fellow riders (though well rested team riders take note: If you’re only riding for 4 hours in total with big breaks in between and still insist on barking ‘rider coming through!’ at me, expect short shrift)
- The entry fee was definitely worth it.
So what was bad about the Brontrager 24twelve?
- Lots of broken bits.
- In terms of the organisational element, nothing.
- In terms of the weather, everything, but nowt you can do about that.
- Lots of broken bits (I really want to list it twice).
What would you do differently?
- err….prepare. We were a little bit manyana and it showed.
- Bring some support with you. Sue – Matt’s partner – after spotting that we were sktechy-fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants-types, very kindly looked after both teams and she should be canonised. Twice. ‘Saint Sue’ would be entirely appropriate and wholly deserved (thank you Sue).
- Eat properly. Finger food, bananas and gels don’t cut the mustard. Pasta, rice and pittas do.
- Check your bikes properly before the off. Weaknesses will be found out (the freewheel on my single speed back up broke just prior to the start).
- In terms of race strategy, our 2 hours on/2 hours off worked well for us. This is one thing I wouldn’t change. As for kipping in between stints?…..maybe not.
Finally, would you do it again?
- Amazingly, yes. Despite the conditions I enjoyed being surrounded by good friends and hard riding. Next year……
*But mainly abuse.
The Brontrager 24Twelve was brilliantly organised and enjoyable to enter. It’s a shame the weather couldn’t match the quality of the event. Roll on a drier July 2013. Thanks to Jules’ for the pictures and the company. You will note the piccies are a bit dark. THAT WOULD BE THE RAIN. Thanks to Craig Standage for the loan of some excellent Lupine lights.