Here we go again! Red Bull Timelaps last year, Revolve24 this year. I think we decided that after last year gruelling 25hr slog in the day and the dark, we would say no to anymore endurance type events. But when David from Dirty Wknd put the bat call out and we saw the DW in the sky, we had to rise up again and defeat some demons which were still to this day haunting us, some people don't let go do they?!
Big Scot' Fraser was team captain for the weekend but we needed 2 more riders to fulfil the DW squad. Now who do I know who doesn't say no to much, is an all round extremely quick rider who goes that extra mile on the bike without being asked? Chris D was that man. The weekend before he had rode 100 miles off road back down South to his home town, why? Boredom probably! One spot was open and we had scouted around to find that one rider who could give us the edge over others. After some negotiating with Jamie Turney (who was half keen but was already a graduate of Revolve24) he kindly stepped aside for pocket rocket Liam to step up in his shoes. Liam is a racer/climber, the guy eats speed for breakfast with a side dosing of salbutamol (he is actually asthmatic, there's no jiffy bag dealings here!). So the team was set, a whatsapp group was created, must have lists was thrown about along with the banter, we all felt quietly confident that we were better prepared this time round.
What helped with Revolve24 was that as the race didn't begin until 3pm on the Saturday, there was no getting up at stupid times like Timelaps. That's what killed us in hindsight, we were up from 6am and did not ride until 3pm at Timelaps, our body was already asking WTF?! At least with Revolve24, we could take our time and relax into the day. Chris kindly offered to drive us there with us being neighbours and that! The drive to Brands Hatch turned out to be rather easy, M3, M25, M26, we were there in just over an hour. Driving under the bold welcoming sign of the circuit, it became quite clear that this whole weekend was a festival of bike racing. Whilst Chris and I were trying to work out where to go (signage was difficult to work out), the National Youth races were warming up on their rollers or zooming up and down the car park, there were some committed parents there!
After some asking around, we were allowed to drop off some gear (no, not salbutamol!) by our pit garage for the day. To go behind the scenes of a famous motor racing circuit was pretty special, it really did feel you were somewhere important. Don't get me wrong, Timelaps focused on the community spirit with their village but you were more or less in a tent/gazebo in the middle of Great Windsor Park. Here, you had the backdrop of the circuit, the stands, the timing.media centre, the race control cars leading following groups around, marshalls on the side of the track, the food vendors and of course the track itself, a 2.4mile lumpy circuit in the middle of a forest. Just so happens, it had the weather to go with it too.
One thing we did need to organise was the order of the day. After much debating, it was decided the one with most racing experience would lead us out, Liam. I pushed to be sandwiched in somewhere so got 3rd after Fraser which meant I would hand over to Chris. The night shifts ended up being a lengthier discussion including some A-Level mathematics thrown in for good measure. At Timelaps, we were supposed to keep on a rolling 1hr on/3hr off rota but my body just said no to this (partly due to the fatigue of just sitting around and being up stupidly early). As I have mentioned before and probably for the last time, I like to think I made it up to my team mates at a time by putting in a 2hr shift in the early morning just before sunrise to give extra rest to the guys. This time round, I was extra keen to put this right and not let anyone down. Fraser, who it seems is a fan of countdown especially the numeric rounds, devised a plan that we would pair off and work 1hr on/1hr off in the night to cover our workload so the other pair can sleep for longer. Being honest, I wasn't too sure at the time and was in favour of going 90min/2hr stints but mathematically this didn't work out so we went along with Fraser's strategy.
Sadly, the start time was pushed back half an hour due to a quite a serious accident on the last lap of the youth race. The organisers who I had the pleasure of meeting, Huw and Vicki, had clearly put a lot of effort in and had managed to keep the race to the length of 24hrs although there was a mixture of applause and grunts from the crowd depending on your feeling towards the announcement. We all set off for a recon' lap with the rest of the teams and soloists (yes, some wanted to do the whole thing by themselves!). First thing that hits you out of the pits is the quick downhill where you even feel a bit of G force as you speed up into the Queen climb of the circuit Druids. Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk... that was all you could hear as the gradient kicked up to the 9-10% depending on who your source was. We made the mistake of being in a too big of gear so the team rolled on without me. It felt a little weird too as Chris and I were not in racing gear and instead pedalling around in summer wear and pyjamas! The track's surface was heaven scent, obviously it has to be with the amount of motor races it caters for each year. The back of the circuit was where it was most undulating, it seemed most people had the right idea to try carry as much speed into the rises to conserve energy on the climbs. We expected the top guys just to go full gas around the whole way. Our first stint at Timelaps was too quick for our standards and we paid for that too so I was scouting where the spots where I could ease off the gas.
Back in the pits, we were getting Liam ready for his Le Mans style start. Think we're supposed to have a 'grid' position but it just ended up being anyone everywhere. I helped out one of the soloists from our garage who was from one of our local clubs Kingston Wheelers. It was interesting to see what he had in his top tube bag, the preparation for something like this on your own must take a lot of thought and calculation. I assumed people would just ride non-stop (my naivety showing there!) but it was comforting to know that ????? he was planning to come in a few times for food and rest. Countdown and began and it did look like something out of a Carry On film with everyone running across the home straight in their cleats, the race was on. It really did feel being like at a F1 race peering out of the pit wall waiting for the first group to appear and seeing where Liam managed to find himself. After roughly 6mins, the first group appeared and they were flying. Liam wasn't in there. Probably 15 seconds back, Liam was working with another rider to try bridge the gap. Strong start from the pocket rocket, his lap times started to tumble too. Obviously positions at this point were meaningless, everyone was finding their feet with the track and setting into the rhythm.
Leg 1 5.30pm - 6.30pm
Fraser continued on Liam's strong start and the positions started to filter themselves out. We were fluctuating between 3rd and 4th overall noticing our rivals were a 6 person team and another 4 man team. The guys out in front were blasting away. We've come across the Onyx boys before, mainly on Strava, they own a lot of the Richmond Park segments but they were also at Timelaps and quick would be an understatement. Fraser is a tall lad but he's a strong climber probably because it looks like he has a strict diet of just spinach. He has some racing experience behind him as well and our DS back home would be happy to know he was sporting the Dirty Wknd kit on his first stint. I didn't feel as nervous as I did at Timelaps, I think knowing there was a wider track for overtaking put me at ease as it did get cosy at times being overtaken in Windsor Park.
Fraser rolled in, Wahoo bleeped, we were off. Light was still good at this point but lights were to be mandatory from 6pm so I had them ready to go just in case I was pulled over by a marshall. First lap was done at a relatively moderate pace, we had the heart rate monitor going too which did help at times but further into the race, I didn't take much notice of it although it is interesting to see where you were forced to push on or how low my heart rate was on the flats, I seriously thought I'd be blowing out of my....! Luckily for me and it's something everyone was looking for on their turns was finding a group and one came rolling up on my second lap led by Chris Hall from the Attacus team and a guy from Morvelo who was just doing a couple of hours, we assumed it was for pacing. The group must of been around 10 riders give or take. I was watching Chris and the Morvelo rider on the climbs and they seemed to be saving their legs here so I adopted the same strategy, probably not out of choice though because if they had kicked on, I would of fallen back. On the flats, I pulled to the front a few times to share the workload but it seemed not many understood the rules of working in a group or just didn't want to and decided to take advantage of a free wheel. The pace was high despite of this and we clocked a solid 24miles in our first stint, not sure if that would be repeated though.
Our secret weapon smashed his first turn. If you have ever rode with Chris Detsicas before, you would know that there's not many terrains he is weak on. I try to work out where he gets the power from whereas Liam tries to use the power of inception and encourages Chris to invest in deep rims to make him go even faster. I secretly hope he doesn't buy any upgrades as there goes any social paced rides with him! The times he was putting out dipped under the 6min mark a few times, only the Onyx guys were consistently putting out those times. We were afraid that they were gonna' come down to buy him off us!
Leg 2 10.00pm - 11.00pm
Darkness was upon us. We were all curious if there was to be any lighting of any sort. There wasn't really. Timelaps had lit up a few sections in Windsor Park which depending who you asked, helped and hindered. I thought it worked ok because the paths through the woods were narrow and I liked seeing the edges. During my 3hr break, I stopped off at the pop up Giro Cafe who were a heaven scent with their beverages. Timelaps let us down badly in this area, it was like a rehab for coffee junkies who had only just gone cold turkey. People were sniffing out coffee flavoured gels from other teams just to get their fix, scenes out of The Walking Dead is the closest comparison you could make! Not a problem at Revolve24. Giro and the other vendors overlooked the back of the circuit and all you could see was streaks and streaks of little lights rolling up Druids and around the back. Better make sure my lights are charged then!
Liam and Fraser put another consistently strong shift in. They did report back that it was difficult to find groups or people to work with. The Jam guys in the garage who were very welcoming with their hospitality for the weekend including allowing our team to use their Revboxes to warm on which was very appreciated, was on a crazy 30min turn around strategy. The upside to this was they could blast around the track full gas. Downside obviously was less rest. I was also eyeing up George's beard and wondering who had a better beard game too?! Jury is out on that one! I was up, lights were on, was anyone home though?! Once again, outlap I took easy and cautious, I needed to know what I could see out there. Surprisingly, quite a lot. It helped following the racing lines of others by aiming for the red beams. Had to be careful though as the rider 'not-in-the-peloton' (nice drop!) could of been making a mistake so giving a gap from the rider in front to compensate was key in my racing strategy. One corner which felt dicey but I managed to nail it later in the hour was the downhill left hander off Druids. Key was to hang out wide then dive in, I think people didn't realise how wide the track was, it would be one hell of a mistake to roll off here, the bike could handle the speed coming in usually near the 30mph mark so I was overtaking quite a bit here. The nag with me was the riders who didn't keep to the inside and would take the corner on the outside. I tried to avoid undertaking them as they could swing in anytime to get back on the inside line. A respectable 21miles was accomplished but we were now beginning to enter the graveyard shift with our racing partner for the night Fraser.
Leg 3 2.00am - 3.00am
Chris and Liam went off to sleep. We had pitched a tent up in the car park behind the track, not sure what the spooning arrangements were but both came back eventually with a smile on each others faces! So our strategy was in play, Fraser was take it in turns of 1hr on 1hr off to give the other pair a chance of a good sleep. George and his Jam lot went up to 45mins on their turnarounds, I thought that was crazy but they were pushing through it. I managed to wolf down a portion of chips and a protein supplement from Giro. I had brought plenty of fruit along with me, it is hard to know what to bring in terms of food because when it comes down to it, you don't know if you really fancy that sandwich at 1am in the morning, there would be no question if it was after a night out, my Mum used to hate me strolling in early hours drunk and making toast! Revolve24 did provide hot water and microwaves so there was a few ready meals flying around the pits.
Fraser came in and his face said it all. This was going to be a slog. I felt ok rolling out, the chips had helped and I was as awake as a I could be. The pace had dropped and I was worried that I was letting the other teams catch up especially as I head one rider catch me up on Druids and shout 'got him!'. Not sure if that was aimed at me but it was in my head to keep the miles ticking over. Halfway through this stint, I started to fade. I was getting hungry, my digestive system had quickly used up the greasy chips and it needed something more. The last couple of laps the pace dropped again. Our position in 3rd was holding at a 1 lap gap. Had I put us under pressure? Would Fraser and I make it through to the changeover? Did Jam Cycling bring out the jam?!...