On the 26th July, Dan and I packed the van and headed for Newham Park, Plymouth for the Bontrager Twentyfour12, Dan as my new pitch manager for the weekend and at points he would have his work cutout for him.
Leaving with plenty of time on Friday the trip down would be an eventful one, first the van's clutch went near Andover and after arranging hire van and recovering the old girl to a local garage we were on our way again. Only to be slowed down by broken down cars, police clearly arresting someone and a burning van. We eventually arrived way later than expected and after 9hrs of travel and sitting by the road side, not terribly relaxing or good for getting enough food and drink in.
Once arrived, we set up the pit and went and found some disappointing food, normally the food at the Bonty is great. Oh well. Fed we relaxed a bit and then went to bed.
Saturday morning arrived and I was feeling a little ambivalent about things but soon found my stride, ate, registered and went for a half loop of the course to test the Wolf Tooth chain ring without a clutch mech and see what the condition of the course was like. Woolf Tooth chain = awesome, course = dry and rapid.
Dan and I finished setting up the pit and organising food and drink, whilst Chris and his dad Les did the same (it is always nice to pit next to friends, especially Chris and Les, they have a habit of keeping things real). Anyway soon enough it was time to head for the start line and wait for things to get going.
With no le mans start, some chatting and wishing friends well, the start came around and we were off. My plan was simple, survive the first 12hrs and then try to improve from there. My form has been off for a while, but has been coming back, so this was another step in trying to find it again. The start was fast as usual and soon everyone was strung out which made the going a bit easier.
After the first few laps I had the confidence that I would finish this one, but knew I would be out of the running for anything in the top 5 (but that wasn't the goal here). As things seemed to be going well ignoring Jason Miles absolutely flying an already lapping me after 3 hours, a mild disaster occurred. The drive-side crank bolt sheared off and my crank came away from its axle. I removed the chain and started to run/scoot the bike back to the start finish, with only once little mishap. Where after a little wait my spare bike was available and I was off again.
As the hours and laps ticked by I started to have a little wobble, but a short stop at the pit and some extra food and I was on my way again. Everything now working like clockwork, bottles being exchanged without stopping, food going in. Although another food based wobble did occur, but once again after some extra food at a pit I kept on rolling.
By now it was dark and the lights were on, Jason had gone past at least 3 times and a coupe of others at least once. But I was also making up places, slowly, but surely. The course was a typically good Bonty course, so as things got dark and the race got lonely as the 12hr races finished and retired to bed, you still had plenty to keep you sharp. Also, you pass other races or are passed, especially by the 12hr Torchbearers, 24 hrs Pairs and Teams, everyone has a chat and offers encouragement.
Despite all this, I was soon struggling, just to stay awake, body felt OK, but I just couldn't keep my eyes open. At the end of the next lap I had to have a nap. I wanted 15 and then maybe another 15. Sat in a seat with my sleeping bag over me, Dan let me have I think it was 8 and 9 minutes. But it worked, I woke and was raring to go and got straight back into it.
Strange things happen in the early hours of the morning, one being the realisation you are going to make it and thoughts turning to can I catch the guy in front of me. But for now I concentrated on maintaining my pace albeit slow compared to the top 5.
Soon the welcome glow of the red sky could be seen and the open sections of track revealed in daylight again. The 12hr races would be waking up and Chris, who had finished 3rd, and Les soon joined Dan in keeping me going. However, by now I was in the hunt, first to get in the top 10, then grab ninth and then somewhere in my last few laps, I grabbed 8th and opened a gap to the finish.
Finally I had re-found some form and my jubilation as I crossed the line resulted in poor Matt Carr getting a hug. Mainly because he was there and had been yelling at me and everyone else all night, he is a legend.
Overall, I was pretty happy 8th sounds pretty good and I guess it is. 7 laps behind Jason Miles in 1st, well what can you say, Jason was in a class of his own and owned the race and massive congrats to him and everyone else that finished.
It was great to see Chris get up for 3rd Mens Solo 12hr, Dan T and Verity roll comfortably into the 12hr Mixed Pairs, Fourth4 defend their title, the USE boys and Pivot-BoomPods boys smash it up!
As usual, thanks go to Martin and the team for a great event and course, the spectators and other riders, for a great atmosphere and company in the dark moments.
Big thanks to Dan for standing in for Nik as pit bitch and doing a great job.
Les, for helping Dan and me.
Chris, for groaning at me in the morning to keep going. ;)
Alpkit, Cycleworks, Weldtite and Wolf Tooth Components for your support.