Always a good race and a likely sun drenched affair, this years event delivered. I split the drive down and got 6 glorious hours of sleep (in a row!) in a travel lodge on the thursday evening, before arriving early at the venue (Ashton Court) on the friday at mid day ish. A quick chat with mel & shaggy and then plenty of time to prep bottles with energy powder and electrolyte and get some cheese and ham rolls made up. Awesome.
A few beers with good friends as the warming sun set over the Bristol skyline and bed before midnight.
The race traditionally starts with a Le Mans style run. With the race open to pairs, fours, solos and lots of different classes getting a good start is pretty critical so as not to lose touch with the front runners. This year it went ok until one of the minibike riders on "team inappropriate bicycle" (who were doing the 12 hour race on, well, inappropriate bicycles for Macmillan Cancer Research and are therefore allowed to do whatever) crashed hard right infront of me bringing the whole shebang to a shuddering halt.
Still, i got past part of the crowd and worked my way around the singletrack. Despite lack of fitness, rest and general race-readiness, my aim for this race was realistically second. With Dan Treby (Singular rider and current singlespeed 24hr solo Euro and National honcho) in the mix, it would have been overly optimistic to be aiming for the top step. However, it is a race, and i was keen to try and keep him in sight through the early stages.
On lap 2, it became clear that the rider in front on the ti 29er hardtail with the alt-bars in the Singular Cycles top wasnt Dan. Hmm! interesting! I decided to put the hammer down and see what the story was. Very shortly after, i passed Dan at his pit fixing something on his bike. I knew that i didnt have the strength or fitness to beat Dan mano-a-mano but even so, sometimes fate throws you a bone, so with the possibility he might have a prolonged mechanical or perhaps some other misfortune i decided to keep tapping laps out at an unsustainable pace for the full 12 hours and see how things went. Lap times around 26 minutes with micro stops for a bottle change and perhaps a mouthful of food ticked the clock by, but not quick enough. Around Lap 4 Dan chatted as he cheerily churned by. Ok then!
Not long after this, my lack of saddle time began to show. The Bristol course is great, but it aint easy. Lots of rough and ready singletrack: roots and rocks with precious little if any recovery time meant on a singlespeed you were more often than not out the saddle and giving it beans just to roll the stutters with minimal deceleration. I always find this hard on the lower back and this day was no different. All too soon, i needed to stop to strecth off and it wasnt even 6 hours in. By this time, the mystery rider in the Singular top had evidently caught up and scooted past as i heard the pop of the joints in my spine settling into a little more relieved position.
It was time to get back on it and give chase.
This pattern pretty much summed up the race until 9 hours in. I dont think i stopped riding for more than a minute at any given time and my hydration schedule was working well. On the other hand, it became extremely clear that i hadnt been taking in enough calories as i hit the wall like a battering ram at hour 9/lap 18. Unfortunately i was half way round the course and a painfully slow combo of riding while seeing double and feeling nauseous with a fair amount of walking was neccessary to get me back to the pit in a sorry state.
I stopped to refuel. Cheese rolls, a large handful of Skittles and lots of water. A mere 20 minutes. Eventually i came round and got back out on the bike. In that time however, not only had the 3rd place singlespeeder gone through so had the fourth, which meant i was now in fourth position. I didnt know it at the time but i was probably over 15 minutes down on 3rd place at that point. I took the first lap back out relatively conservatively to see how the energy levels went: all i could think about was that i didnt want to go home not having given my all. Images of my baby's smiling face in my mind kept me motivated and with a possible 3 laps remaining i accelerated. It is always amazing the strength you carry in your head. There was really no way my body should have been able to respond to the demand i placed on it at that point, but somehow or other it kicked in and i pinned the last 2 laps, taking back third place, but not getting close enough to second place to make a fight of it.
22 laps left me entirely broken and admittedly slightly disappointed with my poor tactics and refuelling but i was proud to put VC Moulin on the podium at this fine event.
Dan Treby took the win in fine style - he is so very strong at the moment, and (as i later found out) Mark Goldie in his first 12 hour race, let alone on a singlespeed took a fine second place. Incidentally, he is readying for a tour divide effort in 2012, in which i wish him all the best.
Many thanks, as ever, to the sponsors, and also team Morvelo and Singular and crews and mel and shaggy who graciously helped kept me out of mischief.
Photos are Graham Haller's and from Photo-it.