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Everyone probably thought that Dave and me weren’t really trying, or even that we couldn’t be bothered. Admittedly, two 24 hour soloists spending the entire race riding around the course, side by side, sometimes chatting, sometimes not, while extending their lead over the rest of the chasing pack was a bit unusual but we were getting away with it mainly because we weren’t actually going slowly at all, despite our outwardly relaxed appearance.
The mental struggles one goes through in a 24 hour solo didn’t really have chance to materialise and take hold for any length of time either. No downward spiral of despair, no dark and dismal moods at 3am, no overpowering thoughts of metaphorical mountains to climb.
Just two mates out for a (very) long bike ride. A very long, fast, bike ride. At times, we indulged in a fair amount of ‘Gentlemen’s Racing’….
“No, after you.”.
“My dear boy, I must insist. After YOU”.
We had a few cups of tea and ‘proper’ warm food in between some of our 25 laps, lovingly prepared by Debbie and Angela who themselves were spending an uncomfortable 24 hours in a freezing cold pit gazebo.
While tapping out laps, we nattered about plans for crazily-long rides we’ll be doing in the near future. We moaned about our combined collection of snotty noses and 3 Peaks Cyclocross-induced bumps, scrapes, sore knees and general fatigue. We rode some bits fast, we rode some bits not so fast.
We enjoyed the tricky sections of the course and (eventually) hated the near-vertical climb with the cobbledy bit at the bottom.
All the time there was the unanswered question about what we’d do at the end. We were both racing in different age categories but there was still the all-important overall win that needed to be taken by someone.
To be quite honest, me and Dave weren’t really that bothered – the category system would mean we’d be on two separate podiums anyway but the race organisers, our friends and partners and probably a large portion of everyone else there were asking, “what’s going to happen to decide the overall win?”. Would there be a mad sprint in the last 100 metres? Would there be a mechanical or a puncture that would decide it? Would one of them attack the other on the last climb?
All of those things would have been fun, but the outcome was much less exciting. With only two hours of the race to go, we both had a five lap lead over our nearest challengers. We called it a day right there and then, recorded exactly the same time (and therefore were equal first place overall) and each claimed the top prize of entries to the World 24 Hour Solo Championships in Canberra next year.
We’ll probably never race “in formation” ever again and I fully expect friendly hostilities to be resumed at the start of the next race we’re both involved in but as a one-off it was good fun and hopefully others will consider it a cool story.
Meanwhile, Team JMC team mates Andy and Budge had been battling away in a proper close race in the pairs and eventually won the vets pairs category. In other words, every category a Team JMC rider entered, they won.
As for the World’s in Australia – it’s a long, long way away from Manchester. Will either of us actually be able to go? Who knows. It would be nice but there’s much to weigh up.
Whatever happens, Relentless 24 was once again a brilliant event in a spectacular setting. The course was superb, the organisation was as slick as ever and the prizes were once again very generous ;-)
If you only do one 24 hour race a year, you really should give this one a go.