So it’s been a week and a half now since Revolve24 ended. The dust has settled, and I’ve shaken off the post-event cold so it’s time for me to pen a few words on the event and how it went.
Put simply, I found it tough. Probably tougher than I expected, although if I’m honest I didn’t really know what to expect.
Now, I have never been known for my ultra-endurance abilities. Sure I’ve done some decent length rides, a few imperial centuries and a decent number of long group rides but before committing to Revolve24 I’d never done any really long solo rides.
Despite knowing this I found myself entering the 24hr event as a solo competitor. After all, it was run around a motor racing circuit, and they’re all smooth and easy, right?
Fast forward 6 months or so, and I’d put in some reasonably serious training (By May I had already ridden more miles than I did in the whole of 2015, despite nearly a month off the bike after an accident) so I felt reasonably confident. Let’s just ignore for a minute the fact that 6 hours was still my longest day on a bike, and that involved coffee stops. I was prepared. Or so I thought. My FTP was the highest it had ever been. I’d had some decent rides at local Crits and a local TT and was feeling in good shape.
So let’s talk about the plan. Having done a fair bit of research, and spent a lot of time talking to other riders, and previous soloists I settled on adopting the principle of “just keep riding” stopping as little as often, and aiming to stay out on the bike wherever possible.
I managed to recruit Jules, an actual mechanic to be my pit crew for the event, which given my own maintenance skills was certain to be a good thing. His job was essentially to keep man and machine functioning and keep me from going completely loopy in the wee small hours. More on that later…
I arrived at the circuit on the Friday evening, pitched my tent for the night, got registered and settled down for dinner. Having raced my motorbike at Brands Hatch a few times I knew the Indy circuit well, but the GP loop was very different. It really is a great venue. From the start/finish straight you turn right and head down Paddock Hill, a steep descent in to the bowl in which the circuit is set. This leads you straight up Druids, which is a short, sharp climb. It is hard enough to have most riders out of the saddle. But short enough to be easy to recover from. You then swing back down the hill and through Graham Hill Bend, which caused a lot of riders problems. It’s a tricky left-hander, which is off-camber through the apex. No issue in the dry, but slippery in the wet.
From there you head along the back straight and then out on to the GP portion of the track. An undulating woodland loop with two decent length uphill drags and some flowing descents bringing you back round towards the start/finish. All of this is a 3.9km loop, with 65m of climbing in every lap. 65m in such a short space of time is a lot of climbing. And there’s very little time for rest. You’re always either going up a hill, or back down the other side fairly rapidly.
The morning of the event soon came around and Jules and I headed to our pit garage and got our gear set up and ready to go. In this time it has gradually dawned on me that not only is Brands Hatch hillier than I’d pictured, but also that it is going to rain. There’s no avoiding it, I’m going to need those waterproofs.
Nevertheless, at 2.50pm bikes at the ready we all lined up ready for our Le Mans start and waited for the flag to drop. 3pm came, my heart rate rocketed and off we went! I set off at a good pace, getting out of the mid-pack chaos and attacked Druids for the first time. Two laps in I looked at my Garmin for the first time and realised it was time to slow things up and drop my power down. This was just in time for the rain to start.
I spent the first 4 hours lapping in the rain, watching my Garmin to keep my power in check, lapping consistently making sure I drank enough and working my way through my pockets full of food. At 19:15 I headed for the pits with just under 130km on the Garmin, I was well ahead of my schedule. This wasn’t a good sign. I’d gone off to hard and had spent 3 hours gradually dropping my average power down to the level that I had planned for it to stay before the event, between 130-140w.
So, I headed into the pits for fresh socks and jersey and a sit down. After 20mins or so I headed back out in the rain for another go. Not feeling particularly motivated and wondering how I was going to get through another 20hours. Another 50km and I headed back to the pits. Unable to wear my glasses because on the weather I think I probably looked like a drowned rat. Jules has commented since on how red my eyes were saying that I looked awful. I’d also been struggling with some chest pains, and decided to take my HR monitor off to see if it was that causing me the discomfort.
It was a 40min rest stop this time, while I tried to settle a stomach that wasn’t reacting well to a diet of gels and liquids. I decided to change strategy and break the ride up in to shorter stints over night to keep my motivation up. 6-10 laps at a time followed by a break each time.
Darkness arrived and the track got quieter as the various teams changed their tactics and got some sleep. Halfway through, at around 3am my motivation was at an all time low. I headed in to the pits having covered around 250km. This ride was already the same mileage as an average training week. This was big.
3 hours later, having slept a bit and got colder than I’d have liked I headed back out on to track in to the dawn. Another 5 laps and I pitted for some arm and leg warmers. After a fairly warm night it had got cold all of a sudden. My knees were causing me some problems now but I decided to have another go. Another 7 laps and I stopped again. It was 8.30am and the sun was out. Maybe I could do this?
An hour in the pits again and I headed back out, another 7 laps in the bag followed by another break. I was cooked now. I’d hit my limit and after 19.5 hours and 330km I was happy with my days work. But I decided to look at the live tracking app to find I was in 21st position. It looked as though Lee in 20th had been struggling through the night. Maybe I could catch him? Another 5 laps in the bag I pulled in again. I worked out that I’d need 30kph plus average speed for the last hour. There was no way I could do that.
I pulled in to the pits again, and decided to go out for the last 30mins to make sure I crossed the finish line at the end to celebrate. I headed out, and put in my 3 fastest laps of the entire event, to cross the finish line just after the flag went out. I got back to the pits and collapsed over the bars while Jules held me up.
So I finished. My result? 95 laps put me in 21st in class. Covering just over 370km. Strava tells me that my average moving speed was 26.9kph which it turns out is roughly the same pace as a normal 25km commute for me. I covered 4,749m of elevation and an average power of 135w or 2.25w/kg.
Before the event I had tentatively suggested that 400km+ might be on the cards. And had the weather been good for 24hours it probably would have been. However, 5 hours battling the rain and headwinds took a lot out of me, and once added to my inexperience at lasting the full 24hrs I think 370km was a more than respectable total.
Would I do it again? Not solo. I’ve ticked that box, crossed it off my list and am happy with that. We’ll be back next year in a team though to have a go at the 4man category. I have to thank the team at Revolve24 for putting on a fantastic event. I also have to thank Jules for staying awake for most of the 24hrs, keeping my bike running sweet, feeding me and putting up with my nonsensical 3am ramblings and hallucinations about funny sounding wheels. You were an absolute star, thank you! A massive thanks to Pete for loaning me his super fast, although disconcertingly loud wheels. And also thanks to my girlfriend, Hannah who for months before the event put up with my planning and hypothesizing, and for days after it coped with a boyfriend who appeared to be afraid of stairs/steps/bending his knees.
In my next post I’ll talk about my plans for 2017 as I decide them, but for now, from a still very tired ex-24hr soloist. Thanks for reading.