Monday, August 8, 2011

1 day in hell

Yesterday I did my first ever 24hr road race. We had a team of three and had to ride around a 10km course for 24hrs straight. None of us had ever done one before and we had no idea what to expect. So we set ourselves a massive goal. 

The world record for the course meant that we had to average 42kph for the whole day. Personally, I thought this was insane but apparently it is achievable if other teams are willing to work with you. If you all ride together, it's much easier to maintain the speed. So we went as fast as we could from the start. 

Deon was first out of the gates at 4pm, followed by myself then steven. The plan was to do 4 laps each and by the end of my turn, we were off the front with two other teams and had an average speed over 46kph. 

When steven came out for his laps we found out how they manage to keep their speed so high. After 8 laps, riders are permitted to use time trial bikes and as steven rolled out, so did the tt bikes. Consequently, the speed went up again and steven lost contact with the two leading groups. So we chased. 

Our only chance to stay in front was to chase the leading groups. It was going to use a lot of energy but it was our only option. We all went as hard as we could but after about 90km, the gap was growing. We had lapped the entire field and was stuck by ourselves in the middle of no where. It was not a good place to be. So we sat up and lost a lap. 

The leading teams came around with others that they had picked up and we jumped in with them. We then realized why we were not catching them- they were still going as hard as they could! We sat on the back and did nothing and just hoped for a Steven Bradbury like event. We went through some highs and lows over the next few hours but we were sitting comfortably in 3rd. Then at 1am, it started raining. 

It was cold, wet, dark and we were suffering. We were taking 3 to 4 lap turns so that the others had time to eat and rest between turns. The average was still up near 45kph when the worst possible thing happened. I punctured at the rear of the course and had to nurse my bike back around, dropping off the leading group. So we lost another lap. 

By 6am, we were all tired. I had used almost every piece of clothing I had and was regularly adding to my pile of wet clothes. We had been riding in the dark for 8hrs, following others as they flicked water into our faces from their wheels. We were two laps down and happy to just finish in third. Then I got another puncture. 

This dropped us down another lap and into 7th position. It was bitterly disappointing as the other teams were also beginning to tire and weaken. The only thing left to do was finish. Although that sounds easy enough, it was still 10hrs away.  So we just kept riding. 

We sat in with the lead group but we were 3 laps behind the two leaders. Every now and then, we would try to hurt them by pulling huge turns at the front when we saw them beginning to tire. Then it rained again. 

I was down to my last set of clothes and just wanted to sleep. We kept on and at 3pm I got ready to take my last turn. After 4laps, I had done a total of 350km with an average speed of 40.8kph. The team had done 1010km in total and the winning group did 30km more in the same time, falling just shy of the world record. We were all destroyed and just wanted to rest. So we rode home. 

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