Bontrager TwentyFour12 - 2014
After having such a superb time at last year's event, there was no doubt in our minds that we'd be back for 2014.
We got our 12 hour pairs entry in early and spent most of the winter looking forward to racing at Newnham park again. There was a lot to do before the event; my bike was in dire need of an overhaul, and we wanted to improve our living arrangements over the weekend. On top of that, we both wanted to improve our fitness.
As the event drew closer, preparations were well underway. I had a new bike to build up and the Land Rover was being transformed into a more comfortable camper, (details of those jobs will be in the relevant sections of the site), we'd even been managing to put in some training hours !
Rolling into Newnham park on Friday afternoon, we found a spot to camp and got set up. Wandering round the arena, that familiar chilled-out vibe was all around. We signed-in, wandered around the traders and had a good chat with a lot of nice people. We paid a visit to the Torq fitness guys to collect some of their superb energy gels and have a chat about the event. They were fielding three teams this year and as always they were happy to spend a bit of time in friendly chat. We wandered round some of the other stalls, including the (bigger than last year) Bontrager yurt, once again scattered with bean bags, a big TV, an open fire and many other relaxing things.
Next stop for us was Exposure lights. They do a superb deal at the TwentyFour 12 whereby you can rent their lights for the event. They'll also provide charging, support, etc. for you. I was happy with my main bar-mounted light, but was concerned that my helmet lights' batteries were no good. I collected one of their 'Diablo' units and we headed back to the camp.
It was not long after this, that things began to go wrong. We were planning to go out and ride a gentle recce lap of the course to get a feel for the layout, any changes from last year, etc. so we unpacked the bikes and gave them a once-over. My bike, being nice and new, was fine. I got the wheels on, checked all the brakes and drivetrain and was ready to go.
Kate's bike on the other hand was not so ready. As we were checking it over I spotted a crack in the frame, right behind the head tube. A whole raft of emotions passed by; surprise, denial, anger, depression and a few others. We couldn't quite believe we hadn't spotted it before we left. It was obviously quite new, and it was serious enough that the bike wasn't safe to ride. I'd lost my team mate and Kate had lost her weekend of riding.
We decided that it was still worth me going out for a recce since I was still going to ride, so with a lot of glum looks Kate and I parted company as I went off to explore. It was quite hard to be positive or excited about the event at this point, but I headed out onto the course and started the slow plod up the all-too-familiar Clif climb.
The usual care and attention had been paid to the course layout. Everything was well marked, and you could see straight away where the bottlenecks and overtaking areas were going to be. A shorter climb on tarmac was a welcome change, replaced in some part by a new section of woodland riding. Nothing too technical but as will all things on the TwentyFour12, something which would need respect in the dark to avoid silly mistakes.
The route was similar to last year's event, but a number of the more 'boring' sections had been replaced with slightly more technical runs. One thing that was clear to me was that the course was begging to be ridden quickly in a lot of places; something with Keith Bontrager mentioned in his pre-race talk, reminding us all that it would be easy to get hurt out there if we weren't paying attention !
As midday on Saturday neared, I started to get geared up for the race and headed over towards the start line. There were already plenty of racers lining up, keen to get a good track position for the first lap. We joined the throng and waited for the countdown. As usual, the first lap was slightly extended to help spread the pack out and avoid too many bottlenecks. For the most part it worked, but in the same place as last year a fumble by a rider caused a blockage on the course. Usual stuff I suppose !