Race Report: Bontrager TwentyFour12 Celebrating 10 Years
August 11th 2015
By Nigel Smith
This event is probably the most renowned 24hr mountain bike race event in the UK due to the continued sponsorship from Mr Bontrager and the quality of the course; approximately 12-14km entirely off road. I was racing in a pair with my Partner Donna and this year’s race was on 25th and 26th July.
On Thursday we arrived at Newham Park in Plymouth to find nice sunny conditions to set up the trackside camp and await arrival of our support team. This type of event relies heavily on a strong support crew as when riding in pairs you have very little time to take on food and make running repairs; plus the fact you become extremely delirious at 4am so assistance is a must!
At 2am on Friday morning the heavens opened and the torrential rain didn’t stop until 5pm. This changed the course massively and whilst the outlook for Saturday’s race start was fair weather, to some degree the damage was already done!
At 12 o’clock the race start was chaos with over 200 riders fighting for a good line and there were a few broken bones for a R.A.F rider within the first mile of racing. Once we hit the first climb the pack split rapidly and I ended up in the top 25 going through the first lap, but I had to monitor my efforts as many of these “fast lads” were riding in teams of 4 or 5 and I was in for probably 3 times as many laps as them!
I went out for another lap to give us some chance of opening up a lead over the 8.3 mile course and on hitting transition and passing the baton to Donna we were up by 1 minute!!
This was short lived as the calibre of the multiple TwentyFour12 champions, Jay and Maddie Horton, began to show and they quickly wound us in and by 6 hours in they were over a lap up.
All went to plan as Donna and I continued riding back-to-back into the darkness, then the rain began to fall much heavier than I expected which turned the whole course into a river. Some sections of routes were now crazy to ride and a few over-the-bars moments occurred!!
As we hit daylight at 5.30am we assessed the situation. We were clearly in second place and had very little chance of chasing down first place as the pair ahead of us were three laps up. So I went out to do a double lap and gave Donna some rest time. On the second lap my energy reserves had depleted and I felt like I was crawling round. The track was at its worst and I was extremely cold and wet! I called at the track side camp for a quick drink of coke and the decision was made at 9am that we could finish in a secure second place and there was no need to ride the last three hours as we had put enough in and I was at the point of “I can go on but I’m on my knees”.
The Hortons (fully sussed) continued for another hour then called it a day with a clear win and third were nowhere to be seen… we came second… job done!
On reflection we learnt a lot at this event:
1 – xc/24hr/12hr champions take some beating
2 – Weather can be really grim down sarf
3 – When you’ve burned over 10,000 calories you must keep eating and drinking
4 – Our support crew are the best!!!
Next for me is the 12:12 TORQ on 30th August at Minley Manor in Hampshire. This will be my first 12 hour solo effort and I’m really looking forward to it.