Last week saw Redbull host the first edition of its 25hr “Timelaps” event. a 4 rider team relay held in Windsor Great Park over the night of the clocks going back.
I was lucky enough to be one of the 600 riders who got in to the sold out event with a team of 3 hardened 24hr racing experts. Ok, so that bit might be an exaggeration but we were keen. And that counts, right?
Now, I’ve done a 24hr team relay once before, not long after starting life as a road cyclist as a charity fundraising event for an old employer, so I had a pretty good idea of what was coming. The other 3 team members? Well, not so much. We had an experienced Crit racer, a Vets CX racer and a leisure cyclist with a massive engine but no racing history. It was always going to be interesting just to see how it panned out for the four of us, and who ended up dealing with the situation best, let alone racing for position.
An arrival slot at the venue of 7.30 meant that car Tetris had to begin at 5am, picking Pete up at 6am with a car that already looked worryingly full. Luckily we’re both experts at filling small cars up with things that have no business being inside them, so half an hour later we had it sussed and were on our way. Minus rear visibility, but with everything present and correct.
Redbull have a pretty long history when it comes to event organisation, and the event village and general preparation around the event showcased this nicely. Getting in to the park and set up took very little time, with no queues to speak of. We were soon in and set up in our Shimano branded gazebo (thanks Nick) which did lead to few queries as to whether we were the “real” Shimano. Alas we weren’t, and didn’t have any spare 105 crank arms hanging around to loan out.
At 10.30 we all headed out, along with the other teams on a recce of the circuit. For those of you not familiar with Windsor Great Park, it is a beautiful place. The route that Redbull had chosen was a lovely flowing loop, around 6.7km long with some interesting turns and gradient changes but nothing really tough. It was certainly much more fun to ride than the Brands Hatch circuit had been during Revolve24. There was no reason to get out of the big ring, and there was only really one technical descent on the run back towards the start area.
Race start was 12pm and I took to the start line for the team. It was pretty much a coin flip between myself and Pete, our resident bunch racer for the first stint and in the end we both got a go at it. More of that later. The first half a lap was led out behind a motorbike to give the bunch a chance to settle. Halfway round the green flag dropped and it all went mental. Everyone on fresh legs aiming for the front the pace was as high as any Crit race I’ve ever done. Did these guys not know it was a 25hr race?! Clearly not.
There was a huge mix of abilities and experiences present. Some very experience racers, along with some guys and girls who were clearly super strong at the start but who showed some, how to put this delicately? Patchy bunch riding skills.
Unfortunately 40 minutes in, up in the front group there was a huge crash, seemingly caused by this mix of abilities and the event was red flagged. We were all directed back to the pits while the unfortunate riders were put in to an ambulance and sent on their way to hospital.
2 hours later, Pete got his go at a start and he reported back very similarly. It was tough out there! After Pete finished his first stint Jules, our CX racing member got his turn, followed by Jim. By this point it had started to calm down and break up a bit and it was a case of finding a few riders to bunch together with and share the work.
The event rolled in to darkness with parts of the lap beautifully lit by Redbull. With the darkness came a fresh sense of excitement as the circuit looked completely different under cycle lights. Around the third set of stints the energy was starting to wain, and we started to get a good idea of who was going to handle the event the best. Pete started getting competitive. While Jules and Jim were happier to keep themselves to themselves. It’s the night hours that really are crucial in an event like this, and the whole team needs to be flexible in their stints to allow for riders who are struggling or who have had mechanicals.
Come 2am it was time for the unique part of the event. The invisible hour. From 2am until 2am Redbull had designed a “power hour”. A slightly shorter loop which riders would use for that hour, with each lap completed counting double. I got the dubious honour of riding the power hour, and after setting off late because of a strategy cock up I spent the entire hour passing slower riders trying to find a bunch. I never found one and I am not afraid to say that the effort broke me.
Our tactical mistake dropped us from a position in the high 30s to the mid to low 50s. I struggled with my fifth stint, having put a lot of effort in to the Power Hour. Jules and Pete were both strong at this stage, with Petes power still looking good enough for me to suggest, tongue in cheek, that there was some doping going on. In reality, I think it was most likely fig rolls rather than anything illicit.
For the final stint I suggested to the others that I probably had 3 fast laps in me, that was more use than me flagging around for 5 or 6 slow ones. So out I went, and well, the result can be seen below.
Jules took the honour of riding the final few laps and saw the chequered flag after 25 hours of hard racing. That put Team Tinkoff Sexy in 60th place, having ridden over 700km collectively and utterly exhausted. I had my first can of Redbull of the event on the drive home just to keep me awake!
For those who like that kind of thing i’ve included a break down of my power data for the event below, it makes for interesting reading. Will we be back? It has already been mentioned, so time will tell. But it was certainly a brilliant event, and one hell of a way to bring down the curtain on the race season.
Next week I’m off on an adventure to ride the perimeter of the M25 with Pete and many cafe stops, so the winter well and truly starts here. More on that next time!
38mins – 22km – 34.9kph – 218w NP
68mins – 39.8km – 35.1kph – 229w NP
65mins – 33.3km – 30.3kph – 184w NP
64mins – 33.6km – 31.2kph – 188w NP
70mins – 33.3km – 28.4kph – 156w NP
38mins – 20km – 31.5kph – 196w NP
5hr 43m – 182km – 31.9kph – 195w NP