Leg 4 4.13am - 5.02am
No they Jam Cycling didn't bring out the jam but I've told George to get on it because he's missing a trick here! Once Fraser had set off on his 3am shift, I was starving! In the back of my mind, I knew not to over eat but I didn't listen to that voice and wolfed down 12 chicken skewers, 1 1/2 bars of granola and a banana. I was instantly regretting it. With sleep deprivation starting to kick in, my body didn't know what it wanted to. It had to keep itself ready for the graveyard hour whilst digesting the weirdest mix of food I've ever eaten at 3am in the morning all the while battling against going to sleep. Legs starting to feel heavy too, this next hour of riding was going to be a slog.
All the pit garages had gone quiet. Earlier on, there was birthday celebrations for one of the Attacus girls who I believed also had a really unlucky mechanical during the day with her rear deraileur. The celebrations had now died down and there was just bodies scrawled across the garage floor, banners hanging off the walls, pieces of cakes dotted around, I thought I was thrown into a scene out of Project X minus the nutters warming up on the revboxes! Shout out too the soloists in the garage especially Max whose Dad had travelled with him from West Sussex to support him. Kinda felt sorry for Max's Dad because there wasn't too much to do other than watch us lot roll in and out, moan about stuff, down some fluids and do it all over again. Felt like we needed a good boxset on the go to keep the support staff entertained. Think at this point Max and his Dad had took the opportunity to catch 40 winks but before Revolve24, Max had only completed a few lengthy rides, talk about a step up?! Much respect!
It was that time of the night/morning, we had lost track at this point! All we knew we had one more leg to do and we could look forward to an extended break. Fraser looked like a ghost as he rocked up outside the garage, could of been the Scottish tan or he was looking like how I was feeling! We barely said anything other than a 'sleep well' as we swapped the slap on wristband which acted as the team's baton for the race. I felt heavy and the first thing you have to contend with after the pits is the climb up to Druids. The roll down into it didn't do any good at this time in the morning. I was being overtaken quite a bit and looking back on my lap times, they were very poor. I couldn't care much for lap times, my focus was not throwing up and just trying to keep the mileage ticking over. I had this notion in my head that I would be the one that put our overall placing in jeopardy, I had no kick, legs struggled to get up to any pace we had managed in the previous legs. It was also not very comforting to know that for the first few laps, there was no team mates in the garage as Fraser had gone to bed and I suspect the other two were probably just stirring so even if I needed to come in early, I couldn't. It was probably one of the hardest slogs I've ever managed to do, it was far from enjoyable.
On one lap rolling past the home straight, I noticed Chris had awoken from his slumber and was ready to go, I decided to come in a little early than planned, I literally had nothing left in the legs. It wasn't really a feeling of hitting the wall, just I had no pace left in my legs. Chris looked fresh as a daisy and one thing I was jealous about Chris and Liam's shifts was that they would be riding through sunrise. Turned out to be a stunning backdrop to the track. I trudged off to the tent to try and get some shut eye but all I managed was basically a good rest. As sun came up, I could hear other tents around opening up and riders making their way back to their garages. I had set my alarm for 9.20 but got up at 8.30. Just so happens, Chris was knocking on the tent to see if I knew where the showers were but really he was checking if I was getting up!
Leg 5 10.16am - 11.06am
It was like being at cub scouts again. People with their washbags in the toilets having a quick scrub. It was nice though brushing your teeth after nearly a full day of eating crap basically. I kept splashing my face with cold water to wake me up, a ritual for me when I wake up for work each morning. After grabbing a tea from one of the vendors, I started to get myself ready again for the penultimate leg. Didn't fancy breakfast, think the chicken skewers were still sitting in my stomach so a quick banana and a fill up on the bottles and we were ready to roll again. Good to hear too that Liam and Chris had solidified our position in the top 3 and we had a 2 lap gap on our rivals. Not good to hear though that the wind had picked up at the back of the circuit and we had to contend with a crosswind as we rolled down the dip into Druids and battle a headwind at the back of the circuit. Swings and roundabouts though as it meant there was a tailwind on the home straight! Boom!
There was also a revitalised level of energy from the Jam Cycling lot, couldn't spot the cake anywhere anymore but social media queen Louise and her pink Bianchi made up for that! Our own team mate Liam had the same model bike, it was really just the wheels off Liam's and Louise's Simpsons style doughnut headset cap which told them apart. To say they were now besties would be an understatement, we were just waiting for the moment for one to take the wrong bike out! I didn't know what the legs would be like so we took it easy on the outlap but damn, they felt loose. That rest did help, weren't lapping like any pace like Leg 1 and 2 but I felt more competitive. The track though was a bit more busy than before as the 6 hour entries had begun too so being overtaken was now a common theme. You could spot the 6hr riders from their blue numbers so where I could, I tried to stick on a wheel or two just for a tow but a few of them were working in teams so keeping up with their pace was a failed mission.
The wind had definitely slowed everyone down, the small rises felt like pure slogs, during the whole race we kept it in the big ring but we were in the small cog at the back. As a rule to ourselves, we usually try to avoid this gearing, technically it's not great for the chain as you want to keep it straight and true, this prevents unnecessary stretching of the chain and probably better for your all round pedalling motion. Chris will probably correct me here! I did take advantage though of some great photo opportunities as one of the photographers had positioned himself on the inside of the high speed corner down from Druids. On each lap of passing, I tried to squeeze a little bit closer to him so he could grab that perfect action shot! 16miles covered in this stint which was 2 more than the graveyard hour in the same amount of time, just shows what a power nap can do for the body!
Leg 6 1.56pm - 2.49pm
I don't know what the others were fuelling themselves with but they were putting in some power times. Only the Onyx boys were matching there consistency, we felt a little out of our depth at times, our lap times were mostly a minute slower than our team mates, I was the weakest link really (someone go fetch that tiny violin over there and start playing something by Adele!). I was searching around for jiffy bags but the guys must of ditched them, surprisingly Liam wasn't coughing as much anymore! Coincidence?! We had all agreed to drop our last legs down to 45 minutes so we've all roughly completed the same amount of time on track. The last stint had mixed emotions. One of relief not having to climb Druids each time. One of sadness not ripping it up on the home straight. It did have it's celebrity moment though. Regular Revolver and Olympian Jason Kenny was rolling around on my last stint. On the Saturday, he had set a new record time up Druids averaging over 30mph I believe clocking a time of 8.947 seconds! Nah mate, that's just sick! I just hope he didn't smell my burger burps as I followed him round for a while. I had missed the opportunity of breakfast and was gutted Giro had run out of porridge, that's my super food for long efforts. So I gave in to the burger van and treated myself to something called a Double Hereford - 2 burgers, 2 bacon and 2 eggs. We have tried to change our diet lately to more veg' and less meat but I crumbled under pressure and gave into the grease!
As I shouted out to Chris 'last one', we was planning to put the hammer down one last time but that wind sapped a lot out of us so we left a little for the downhill run back to the pits. A rush of adrenaline surged through as we made one last push, don't think anyone following my wheel realised I was coming in on this lap. What a track though. I honestly can say I was not bored for one moment. You'd think you would be and maybe the soloists had that issue with being out so long in their sessions. But the track had character, Druids and it's little climbs to the downhill runs and quick home straight with it's banking. I remember feeling Windsor Park feeling a little tedious at times. Maybe because we cycle there regularly but the feeling of racing around a motor circuit like Brands Hatch is one you can't replicate out in the real world. It was a little sad rolling down the pit lane at 15mph (speed limit although a lot of riders were doing way over that!) but I had sweated as much as I could out for the boys, I even pushed for an extra lap to give Chris a little more rest so he could properly put the hammer down.
Race done, it was now down to Chris to bring it home. We had managed to open up a 3 lap gap to 4th but there was no chance of catching 2nd or the leaders where Onyx had pulled out an even bigger gap. Chris was busy chasing the 6hr riders but quite interesting he was playing cat and mouse with a rider on the last couple of laps. The guy in front was super fast on the flats but then blew up on the climbs allowing Chris to roll past and that was the narrative for the end of the race. Quite a few teams took the opportunity to spin with their last rider for the remaining laps but that meant climbing Druids again. No. Thank. You.
You could sense the achievement all around the pit lane, it's quite an achievement racing for 24hrs no matter what kind of team you were in. It's as much as a mental challenge as a physical one. The sun was shining, no rain all weekend and apart from the wind at times, perfect riding conditions. Chris managed to sneak in one extra lap before the timer hit 00.00.00 and presumably because the other teams backed off or rolled out the last few laps as a team, our gap ended up being 5 laps to 4th which meant 3rd overall was ours. We were 2nd in category only to Onyx but it was clear from the start they were on a different level. The team in 2nd place was a 6 person team so you could argue they had the luxury of longer rest breaks. Our overall speed as a team was 21.5mph for 515miles which equated to 212 laps. My personal stats consisted of 19.8mph for 116miles which made out to be 48 laps. The others managed a bit more at roughly 130miles each. I'm not at their level so personally, I felt I did myself justice but obviously room for improvement as usual. My quickest lap of the weekend was a 6.18, 65th fastest over the course of the weekend. It might sound a little arrogant but I never went 100% full out for a lap, it was a 24hour race not a 24min one! So would love to go back and give the circuit a full crack and see what I could do, the fastest lap overall of the weekend was a 5.05 which was ridiculous! We were all trying to work out if that was a gps error or the guy had cut across the track but it was true, a time we could only dream of.
Red Bull Timelaps v Revolve24
So you're probably wondering which one out of the two endurance events would I recommend? In my true honest opinion, Revolve24 has more of what you need. It's got the track, it's got the facilities, you get given a pit garage, there's access to microwaves, 24hr food vendors, free official photography, did we mention the track?! Don't get me wrong, Timelaps is worth doing, we always see something as an opportunity and love to try out new things. But there was a lot missing at Timelaps and hopefully this year, they can rectify this and the event actually has a hot drink vendor, did we mention we were dying for a tea last year?! You just can't beat the experience of racing around a world famous motor racing circuit, one which has super smooth tarmac and plenty of character. The laps in Windsor Park ended up being for us roughly 12mins around, I think that's where boredom set in for us. That's no one's fault, that's just the circuit. But the short sharp climbs of Brands Hatch compliment the fast flats and downhills you can really get your teeth into.
There are some things I would suggest that needs tinkering at Revolve24 to take it a step further. Lights or at least some cat eyes on the corners for the night laps would definitely be handy. A few riders did complain of vision issues although I found my eyes adjusted better here than at Timelaps where they did light up some sections. Signage to places could be improved, Chris and I were lost for a while and was even directed all the way back to the guards office for registration at one point when we arrived. The prize giving at the end was a little long in our opinion, granted the Revolve24 crew had plenty of categories to run through but the prize draw I felt could of been done maybe within the last hour, many teams gave up waiting and went home to bed presumably! Apart from that, it was a really good weekend. We would love to see Revolve24 evolve (nice play on words!) into a series touring other motor circuits. How cool would that be?! It was also a pleasure riding with Fraser, Liam and Chris. Super strong riders and definitely showing me a new level of racing I need to aim for. A special thanks to our DS David for organising the team and the guys and girls at Jam Cycling who put us up for the weekend. An extra special mention to our 'Revolve24 consultant' Jamie Turney who gave us some track tips and made his way down on the Sunday to show his support, much appreciated mate. And you know it's been a worth while experience when the first you do when you get home is look up on google other 24hr events...Nurburgring anybody?!