The Bontrager twentyfour12 (24 12) is a relay race using an 8 mile route round Newnham park near Plymouth. It’s sponsored by the component manufacturer Bontrager. The course is open from midday Saturday to midday Sunday, allowing a 24 hour race and two 12 hour races.
We put in two teams of five for the 24 hour relay race.
Masters: Lee Morgan, Francois Ford, John Speedy Spurs, Richard Barnett and Tom Stickland.
Vets (old gits): Chris Hopkinson, Simon Morgan, Stuart King, Gary Yeates and Dave.
We had an affiliated twelve hour torchbearer (midnight to midday) racer: Nikala Harries.
Team managers (aka skivvies): Helen King and Phil Mayger.
A group travelled down on the Friday night and got started on preparation. i.e.: drinking various ciders and eating home made pizza. They also did some useful things like putting up the club gazebo and flags.
The rest turned up on Saturday morning and after the 11am briefing we were ready to race. With a large team and laps taking about an hour each then the day consists of a fair amount of waiting around interspersed with periods of intense exertion and concentration.
The feedback from the first riders was that the route was a lot of fun but defintely more uphill than down.
Out on my first lap at 4pm (12 hours since I got out of bed) I discovered that my gamble of using a new chain with an old rear cassette was a bad idea. I’ve got away with doing this several times before and my ride round the car park at home had suggested that it would work. As soon as there was any serious load on then the middle gears would jump so I had to use the extremities. I also underestimated how slippery the rocks were and washed the front wheel out on the first rocky section. I had to hop along, ending up with the bike pointing through the barrier tape but still on my feet. I realised that I’d pumped up the front tyres too much but couldn’t be bothered to stop.
After the lap I called into the Bontrager bike store and bought myself a new rear cassette. The event also had free bike mechanics from Weldtite, as well as sponsoring suppliers such as Green Oil, Bontrager themselves, free massage, free light charging from Exposure Lights and free clothing loan from Goretex Clothing.
It was a really well organised event. The route itself was clearly marked out and with several marshall points.
My second lap at 8pm with a softer front tyre and gears that worked turned out a lot better. The lower front tyre pressure really made a difference on the slippery rocks and roots that were a prominent feature of the route. Since I knew the route a bit better I was able to open up a bit ont he fast sections. It was a real buzz leaving an “expert rider coming through” behind on the final downhill section.
As darkness fell then the teams settled into a rhythm of sleeping and riding. Our team managers did a great job using their radio to keep people on time.
Nikala set off on her race at midnight. This was her first 12 hour race and was in at the deep end by starting in the dark.
With these events it’s the dark laps that are usually the most magic. The various bomb holes with slippery rocks were certainly interesting in the dark. The early hours brought dew and extra slipperyness on the roots and that lengthened the lap times for most people.
On my fourth lap it was daylight again and I finally cleared every part of the trail properly. I’d managed the ramp of slippery roots up to a tree on an earlier lap, it was just a tight left hander at the top of a pile of rocks that had caught me out every time previously. The route certainly had enough of these interesting features to make the race a decent challange. A favourite part for most people that I spoke to was the final descent. This followed a swoopy line along a hillside and allowed a lot of speed to be carried over various rocks and bumps.
By 11:20am on Sunday it was clear that we were a few minutes short of the time to fit in a bonus lap for the masters team. Very much a case of if only we’d all been a few faster then we’d have been a faster team.
We ended up with the teams in 31st and 32nd positions. This was a result that we were quite happy with, though we’d love to do better.
Meanwhile Nikala was second in her class, giving her a podium finish and a set of exposure lights as a prize.
A great weekend of racing. Twentyfour 12 is a great event and we’ll be back in 2012.