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red bull timelaps
Saturday 4th November 2017
It's now been a week since we took on the Red Bull Timelaps, the first of it's kind in the world, a 25hr race around the idyllic Windsor Great Park. We came a respected 28th out of 134 teams. It turned out to attract some very strong pros from these shores and they were in an elite group of their own. But you can not fault the effort from all the teams that took part, the village really was a community and everyone was very respectful on the circuit. We even had one 'fan' shouting 'notinthepeloton' as he was on our wheel! Now the dust has settled and regular sleep patterns have been restored, we caught up with our team mates to get the lowdown on their thoughts as to how the weekend unfolded, what tweaks were needed and if they've caught the endurance bug?...
First up, how you feeling?
Sam Hodges: I'm feeling good. I rested the legs on Monday but have been back into training again since then. I'm racing tomorrow so the focus has been on that this week.
Chris Detsicas: Rough. Rough is the word. I think the tiredness likely affected my immune system and I picked up a nasty cold after the event straight into a busy week of work. That being said I am enjoying the post-event feeling of accomplishment - looking back through the data, the photographs, ride reports etc.
Ali McQueen: Not shabby. You know when you get in a really hot bath, Drop your balls in (after contemplating them falling off) and then all of a sudden the world flashes before your eyes and you quickly think you could of done so much better, hindsight is a beautiful thing. Spent Monday and Tuesday talking about the event and all of Wednesday trying to straighten out my lower back and glutes, 'this mans tight' is an understatement.
Ben Ryan: Well I couldn't avoid the bike as we use it to commute to work so Monday was a little achy on the legs. We did sleep for 11 hours on the Sunday evening but surprisingly we have recovered well. This was a first for all of us so anticipating how you are going to recover after these type of events was always going to be difficult to judge. One thing we did feel though on the Monday was dehydration, we drunk a lot more fluids than we would normally do and we have had a sweet craving this week!
Was you pleased with your performance or would you tackle the Timelaps differently if you raced it again?
SH: I was really pleased to be able to hang with and work with some of the top guys for parts of the race. Its given me confidence going into the winter crit season that my fitness is pretty good. If I had to change anything for next time I think we should each do longer stints overnight to allow for decent rest in between.
CD: Fairly happy with my performance though always room for improvement. The first session I formed a good group with another rider and racked up a fair few laps for an hour's work. In subsequent laps it was harder to find good groups to work with and I started to notice fatigue setting in during the later sessions. I watched as my max and average heart rate plummeted for the same perceived level of effort. As it was my first road race, I lacked the race know-how often pulling too long of a turn on the front before suggesting someone else have a go. A Clapham Chasers rider even told me after a good 3min+ turn that I need to learn to use my elbow! If I raced the event again I would certainly like to factor in some larger breaks. I am not the best sleeper as it is so short windows for sleep resulted in no sleep which certainly took its toll.
AM: Never knew what to expect, now I have a bench mark, I would do things a little differently. For me I was happy with my mentality, the mental game was strong. I could of cracked a rubix cube with the state of my mind. Although, clearly the legs were on another wave length.
BR: Overall, there was definitely room for improvement. Think it did help in your stints if you found yourself in a group to share the work but most often, we were solely on our own so it was all about pacing. We are always wary of going into the red and we kept this in mind on the climbs of the course. It was frustrating seeing others fly up but we are better on the flats or gradual drags so we aimed to catch them up on these sections. We never really took any risks on the corners unlike other riders who were more fearless than us but that's down to experience I suppose. When we were riding the Nebular, it was in the forefront of our mind that this was a loan bike and no way did we want to crash it whereas on the Tarmac, we chucked it around a bit more.
What was (were) you most impressed with in terms of the event as a whole?
SH: Vegan food! I didn't expect there to be much on offer for vegans at the event but I was able to get vegan porride for breakfast, vegan granola bars, vegan dahl for lunch and a vegan black eyed pea curry for dinner. Special shout outs to Rock my Bowl for hooking up the amazing vegan lunches and breakfasts!
CD: The challenge itself. It's more challenging than it looks. It's what you make of it yourself too. Initially, I may have been a little naive in thinking it's only 6 hours or so of riding. However, add the breaks in between, full gas effort, lack of sleep and suddenly it becomes a tough challenge. Even tactically there was a lot to work out in terms of rider shifts and maximising our time out on course. As for the course itself, I think it was well selected. No section of the course was flat - this made for a pretty varied route and you really had to think about pacing up the rises, especially the likes of Breakheart Hill.
AM: The organisation was great. What you would expect from a world leading brand. It was the first time they ran it so a few things they would change I'm sure but for a first event it was great. It was the stupidity of racers high on adrenaline that interrupted the event, although I hope the guy is okay. Redbull did themselves proud.
BR: We did like the whole village aspect. Reminded us of the London Revolution sportive where riders had opportunities to mix and it felt more of a community. It was quite flawless in terms of allowing the event to flow. We did get some mixed messages at the start about instructions but that's understandable for a first time event and everyone was quite helpful from the hero Wiggle mechanic Steve (fishing out the valve extender that had dropped in the rim after a puncture), the Ghanian guys at dinner and porridge girls at breakfast to the cheery marshal who was walking up and down the pens chatting to anybody and everybody!
We were also impressed with the route. Obviously it's Windsor Great Park's own roads but we were worried about the lack of light but it was lit enough by their side lights on certain sections and the constant stream of lights from the riders, we never felt in danger especially with the speeds on show. Might sound quite soppy and poetic but the night time rides were actually a beautiful experience (unmanly thing to say but we have a soft side!).
Put your criticism cap on, what was missing from the event?
SH: It would have been good to be able to park a little closer to the pits so that we didn't have to do so many long walks back and forth to the van!
CD: Food - A paltry selection of vendors were present at the event and only open with limited opening times. I think it should have been made clear that you need to be mostly self sufficient. Fortunately we were but I imagine others were caught out by the lack of offerings. I wasn't best impressed when I went to get dinner and found myself in a queue for 50 minutes straight after a hard shift on the bike at 9pm. It certainly didn't help the legs recover. The most popular food vendor, Mac and Cheese, had closed by then so there was only one option left. I walked over to the info point and asked whether I could just swap the dinner token for a breakfast token. I was told we should actually have breakfast tokens and the staff said they would get some and bring them out to me. The tokens never appeared. I suspect staff had breakfast tokens themselves and they got confused. Cyclists generally love a good coffee and yes it's a Red Bull event, but they missed a trick by not providing a barista-staffed vendor.
Campsite and parking layout - As we arrived we were directed to our parking spot... seemingly at least a third of a mile from the event village. Many trips back and forth followed to cart our stuff to the pen which certainly didn't leave the legs feeling rested before the event started. After everyone got setup it was clear that the event staff had overestimated how many people would actually setup tents. A very patchy campsite was left that we still had to traverse to get to and from vehicles. I am just glad we only had to deal with dew. We still got wet feet but had the weather been worse it could have resembled Glastonbury levels of mud. It would have helped to have a dry walkway down to the campsite area and perhaps in future they can consider providing each team a designed square metres space to park vehicles and setup tents together. Even better if they allowed us to drive nearer the pen to unload all necessary items.
Arrival time - We had a 7AM arrival time, which meant a 5:30AM alarm call despite the race not starting until 12PM. A few hours certainly required to get things setup but it did feel like we had a good 1.5-2hours spare that I'd rather have used for sleep.
AM: They need to decide who they are pitching the event too. Is it your everyday fitness fanatic or are we looking for pros. I think what was good was we had a team 'Dirty Weekend' who were around our level so we could compete with. But the top teams were a milestone away from us. Was it fair to just reward the pros of the event...? What about everyone else. Was a little unclear at the level of competitiveness of the event so that could be a little clearer.
BR: For us, it's just little tweaks here and there. There has to be a wider selection of food and drink vendors. We were dying for a cup of tea on the Sunday morning or something different to drink rather than the generous amounts of Red Bull on offer (don't get us wrong, very much appreciated!). Maybe with the 'car park' is allocate tent and car space areas together rather than spreading it out. This could be a fire and safety issue we assume but the walk to the village was quite long and not something you want to be doing all the time after your stints.
You can be totally honest here, we won't edit this! What did you think of your team mates performances?
SH: Overall we did pretty well, finishing 20-something overall. Ali was a machine all day and night, always ready to go out for a stint when needed. Chris put in some quick laps times and covered the most overall distance, doing some extra laps to cover for mechanicals. Ben, you put it a good 2 hour shift to make up for missing one overnight which helped us out on the Sunday morning. All in all a good effort from everyone.
CD: Overall, we did a pretty good job as a team and worked fairly well together. I think everyone put in their all while out on the course and our overall result really wasn't too shabby considering we just entered for a bit of fun! Ali, though likely disappointed by the early finish to his first stint, after the crash that closed the course, he consistently kept on pushing and pulling in some great turns. I apologise on behalf of my bike when it decided to fall on you during your sleep on the floor!
Sam pulled in some great stints and his racing experience clearly shone through. He bridged to a good group in his first stint with Pat from Dirty Wknd and consistently rode fast laps. I'm glad Sam took up the power hour and returned with the full 8 laps adding double that to our total.
Ben. Well, well, well. I kinda expected at least 10mph faster than everyone else with such a bike. The motor must have failed! In all honesty, it would have been nice to see a little bit more respect for our agreed ride/rest schedule. An extended rest break resulted in the rest of us covering and sacrificing our own planned sleep periods. That being said, it could have been an unavoidable event such as a catastrophic mechanical or injury so we just had to plow on regardless with a few easier laps here and there to make up for the lack of rest. When sleeping beauty woke he did relief the team for a fair 2 hours before handing over to me just before the rain arrived. I'm sure that wasn't actually intentional!
AM: 2 fantastic riders in Sam and Chris who make cycling look easy. They wouldn't look out of place in any of the pro teams. But genuine nice guys who you can enjoy being around for 25 hours and remain focused and upbeat, albeit with 1/2 hours shut eye. Ben is the same rider as me, we started together and do adventures together, mentality is always strong around him. We are as strong as each other on the bike and it's good to push each other on even if I did eat all his pasties, Trek bars and Haribo - not sure he realises...sorry buddy!
BR: I wasn't at all surprised by Sam and Chris. I knew Sam would enjoy mixing it with some pro riders and would use it as a test against his own progress in terms of his racing talent. He used his intelligence and race pace to enhance the team's competitive placing, his fastest lap was a sub 10minute which was right in the mix with the big boys. His experience riding in fast packs was priceless especially as it showed he was a seasoned wheelsucker and you had to be to gain advantages in this race!
Chris is wasting his rides at the weekend. Why are you not racing mate?! Chris clearly showed he sets a fast tempo and it stays that way for a very long time and even then, he still has enough for a kick which even pushes the top riders to the limits. He is a machine defined, think he was just drinking diesel over the weekend as even though he admitted he was empty, he was the first one to jump to keep things going and we think he just loved being out there.
Ali did surprise me but all in a good way. If you size Ali up, he is a big lad but it's all power. His time working at Virgin Active has allowed him to up his fitness game by miles. Honestly, on his first lap round, I was expecting him to be nicely nestled in the main group biding his time but no, he was chasing the pros down. He's also someone who hates failure and literally will keep going and going until the mental war with his mind finally wins over. He didn't disgrace himself at all, he stepped up.
Final question, another 24/25hr event next year?!
SH: Yeah I wouldn't say no to it. Only if we all agree to push for a top 10 though. What you say?!
CD: This particular event certainly left me with a buzz over the whole weekend and I'd like to repeat something similar in the future. I am most intrigued by the Revolve24, particularly as the course looks fun, wide and a pit garage looks useful. I'm one that likes a bit of variety (no wonder I'm starting to get bored of Surrey/Berkshire roads!) so to do the same event again would require some consideration. A few colleagues in the past have asked me if I've ever done London to Paris before and I've always responded that if I am to do it I'll aim for under 24 hours. Perhaps that will happen in the next year. Time will tell!
AM: If they pitched it differently, definitely. I even told Ben I would invest in a camper for the event. I think my next challenge is to head abroad and kick arse at another event. If everyone is up for Redbull 2018, show me the dotted line. Such a great brand and ambassador and you know you'll get quality with these guys. I wouldn't take 15 cans of redbull home with me if I didn't believe in their products! I couldn't find the cases otherwise it would of been 15 x 12 (not even sorry, I work long hours!)
BR: Gotta be honest, the more we think about it and other 24hr races come to mind, if it was with these 3 again, we would be game. We enjoyed that the racing was full on but you were still competing against yourself mentally, we liked that balance. We would probably approach it with a more calculated approach now we know what to expect.
On a side note...
SH: Just want to say thanks for all your effort at the weekend, you all showed you should be riding at higher levels. Think we just showed we are your average commuter who happened to blag a decent bike for the weekend!
CD: Again, thanks for giving us the opportunity! It was worth it!
AM: Ben, organisation has been great as always, I think it doesn't go without saying your a great ambassador of the brand your building with notinthepeleton. The effort you've put in has made our lives easier and the event more enjoyable!! Bravo, thank you and here's to the next adventure on 2 wheels!
BR: It was a pleasure to have these guys represent NITP, we do look up to them all in terms of speed and climbing talent, we strive to be at their level and hopefully one day, it will be a level playing field so we can all make the step up together. Here's to our next race boys!