The following is copied wholesale from the on-one site, I’ll just add here (mostly for Matt’s benefit) that the berlingo rocks for transporting masses of kit to bike races. A lot.
For the uninitiated, Clic24 is a 24 hour event down south in the Mendips (or up north in the Mendips of youâ€™re from further south, obviously). Itâ€™s aim, apart from raising lots of money for charity, has been to mix a laid back atmosphere with a great course, a feat the organisers have achieved brilliantly for the past few years. Many riders come back year after year to one of the smaller 24hr events on the UK scene for another crack at the 10 mile, singletrack infested loop and to chill out in the countryside in between laps. Including me, competing in it for the third time in as many yearsâ€¦
After a good winterâ€™s training, followed by a poor spring (donâ€™t really know whatâ€™s been wrong with me, but every big ride has left me knackered for twice as long as it shouldâ€¦meaning Iâ€™ve had to knock lots of rides on the head in order to get some extra restâ€¦but I digress) I wasnâ€™t sure how I would fare over the full 24hrs and as such my overall aim was to just sit at â€œsummer race paceâ€ for as long as I could; to get some information on how fit I was for later in the season. Of course, Iâ€™d won the event last year, so my ego also demanded that I push it a bit, so as to at least make it hard for anyone else who might dare to think they could take the title off meâ€¦
Iâ€™d spent the Friday night with a few friends who were riding as a team, â€œpreparingâ€ for the race by drinking ale provided by the on site bar and watching massive thunderstorms roll across the hills around usâ€¦praying that they would stay away, which they duly did. By the Saturday morning, as the first of the team riders and the soloists began to line up on the start line the laid back atmosphere was in full effect, with everyone chatting away to everyone else about what kit they were running, how they were hoping to do, the weatherâ€¦anything really, it was just a great place to be and we knew it!
12pm arrived and the long snake of riders shot off into the hills, bathed in sunshine and eager to start hammering the swooping course as quickly as possible. I got into a nice fast rhythm and set about working my way through the riders in front of me, flinging the 29er across the trails and grinning from ear to ear as I skimmed over the rocks and roots chanting â€œon your right/on your left/hows it going/cheersâ€ almost non stop.
The pace was almost ludicrously fast, the bone dry and quick rolling course meant there was little time for respite while off road (though a one mile flat road section back the transition area provided opportunity for drinking/eating) and just over four hours in I was finishing my seventh lap, still feeling strong (if a little cooked in the sun) and delighted to have been told from a couple of onlookers that I was in the lead by about 5 minutes. I carried on at near enough the same pace for another four laps before coming off the course to get my lights set up for the night and to shovel some food down my neck.
Amazingly, my stomach was feeling in good shape and I was able to eat whatever seemed like the best thing to munch on at the time (sorry, I canâ€™t remember what it was, it might have been some sort of sundered tomato and pasta thing), unlike my usual state of having to force down anything bland while my digestive system has a fit. After eating more than seemed necessary (the calorie counter on my heart rate monitor was claiming Iâ€™d already burnt off nearly three days worth of food, so much â€œcookie-monsterâ€-esque gobbling of high carb foodstuffs took place) I headed back out on to the rapidly darkening course, with my legs feeling as fresh as they were at the start but arms beginning to ache from the constant pounding the baked dry ground was giving them.
(Pic stolen from Alex Leigh’s flikr site – click it for more)
Three laps later Iâ€™d slowed down by about ten minutes a lap (from about 42-44 up to nearly 55), partly because of the darkness but mostly because what had been a mild ache in my hands, wrists and forearms had become a severe enough pain for me to have to clench my teeth together and grimace my way down most of the descentsâ€¦which had started to rut up quite badly under braking, just to make it worse.
By 3.30am I was having serious trouble holding on to the bars, so made the decision to stop and rest up for a bit. I spent just over an hour sat in my tent, cradling my arms and applying copious amounts of ibuprofen gel (â€œwhy donâ€™t my fingers go numb if this stuff actually worksâ€ I thought to myself as I smeared another layer of the gel into already saturated skin) before realising that I would just have to get on with riding in the state I was.
The temperature out on the course through the night was just about perfect (far better for endurance riding than the heat of the previous day) and despite having to go slower than I would have liked downhill riding though the dawn lifted my spirits – as did finding out that I was still leading after the time off the course.
Throughout the morning, each time the current rider rankings were released by the organisers the gap between myself and the second placed rider rarely stretched to more than about thirty minutes. It was a great incentive to keep out on the course as much as possible and try to ignore the battering my now swollen arms were taking, and although I did have to stop a couple more times to rest up (and to enjoy being able to eat at that point in a 24hr raceâ€¦) I was still enjoying the competition.
By 10.45am I finished my 22nd and last lap, deciding that I should really have a rest before the long journey home and not risk blowing up (hey, Iâ€™ve got another 24hr race this weekend, Iâ€™ve got to ration the energy!). It turned out that despite doing this I had ridden enough to win for the second year in succession â€“ the first person to do so and had equalled the record for number of solo laps in the process. Ace.
Sadly, while packing everything back into the car I discovered that carbon downtube on the cabal had come unbonded from the headtube, making it a write off .
This was a bit gutting really, as Iâ€™d really grown to like the feel of the frame over the past twelve months (but would go some way to explaining the loud creaking coming from the front of the bike during the last few lapsâ€¦), câ€™est la vie I guess.
Iâ€™ve now got the rest of this week to prepare for the Wildboar24 race in Grizedale, Iâ€™m hoping that I can recreate a bit of the pace that I found at Clic24 and, if I can, try to keep it up for a little longer â€“ itâ€™ll be great training for the big summer races!