I’m sat drinking a protein shake trying to relive an epic experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.
The first thing that pops into my head is that we really underestimated the travel fatigue
associated with driving 1000 miles each way! The fact we had done a 24hr race in 30
degrees before setting off on the return leg means I am totally destroyed now! We definitely should have gone for the Keith Forsyth approach and made a real holiday of it!
On arrival at Finale we quickly sorted the hotel rooms and parking situation with staff at the Hotel San Giuseppie. I’ve got to say the team there are some of the nicest hotel staff I have ever met, they made sure we had everything we needed and even made us breakfast at 5am on the morning of the race.
Thursday consisted of a ride to the race HQ to register and a recce lap of the course. It was unfinished at that stage but it gave a taste for what looked to be a course that would suit my riding style. I knew the heat would probably be a crucial factor; how many British riders regularly race in 30 degrees? (Don’t all raise your hands at once!) We spent the rest of the afternoon eating as much a possible, including some of the ice cream delights of Finale.
On race day I woke at 5am having had a disturbed night and quickly pulled myself together to get up to the event site before the chaos began. Donna, Deano and I had stayed at the same hotel as Gillian Pratt and we all left together to transport everything to the pits which was a fair task on its own. Offloading everything on the main road outside and carrying it in was the first job of the day! One hour later it was all set up and it was time for some breakfast, it was a chance to take a deep breath and relax for 5mins.
10am and the bikes were setup and waiting in the transition area with a 500m run the only thing in the way! The elites were off bang on 10am and the rest of us had a 5-minute deficit.
I’m no runner but managed to stay in the top 10 as we jumped on the bike. I was quickly
joined by Keith Forsyth who had the same idea as me and we set about riding up into the
elite pack. By halfway round the first lap we had achieved it and we decided to sit up and
knock the pace back. A few laps passed as the heat gradually rose to over 30 degrees and
eventually took its toll on a few riders, but I managed to keep on a reasonable pace and
gradually pick riders off during the daylight. I was so glad to see dusk and the temperature drop, around 8.30pm it was full steam ahead and keep tapping out consistent laps right through till dawn. Eating in such high temperatures was a problem I had not experienced before and I was very aware that my calorie intake was not really enough to sustain a strong pace but luckily everyone’s pace was fading so it was not of great concern.
The bike was totally faultless and handled the technical terrain really well. My lap times were reasonably consistent so as we entered dawn my spirits lifted slightly and I realised I had a little left in the tank so I pushed on! I no real idea how I was doing as the timings were very hit and miss and at one point they had me listed as a 44-year-old! (I’m 38!!)
The only riders I recognised were the Brits and I knew I had passed most of them so this
was a massive confidence boost in the early morning laps.
At 32 laps I had decided it was my last lap and had confirmation that I was comfortably 2nd in category but had very little chance of catching 1st as he had 30 minutes on me!
I wish I had known that I was the leading Brit as this would have given me the drive to go out for another lap. My finish time was 19mins within the 10am deadline so I could have got another lap in. Well done to Carwyn Davies who put the effort in to go through for a 34th lap to become top Brit and World Champion in his category (Under 23’s).
The course was generally dry, dusty and loose with sharp rocks on the technical descents. I’ve been told that it’s probably the hardest 24hr course in the world with almost 1000ft of climbing per lap. I found the last section of technical climbs the most testing and chose to walk a few sections during the race to fend off the impending cramps. A lot of the race became a blur and I had no idea how many laps I had completed until the end. As always our supreme Pit Man, Deano, proved to be the person holding the NIER/Chia charge together with constant food and hydration.
At the finish we had exceeded our expectations and I came away with 2nd in my category (35-39 years) and 14th overall which I am very happy with. Donna had a strong race achieving 4th in her category (40-44 years) and 16th overall which is a great achievement. We were also pleased to see our friend and fellow rider Gillian Pratt achieve 1st place in her age category(world champ) This race will certainly be remembered, it happened to finish on my birthday which meant extra celebrations. All the British riders met up at a local bar and we shared our stories and celebrated our achievements. It was a great atmosphere and one I won’t forget! We are already talking about going to next years, how we can prepare and looking forward to
experiencing Fort William. Next up is Mountain Mayhem where we are competing as a mixed team. Best get those bikes