TwentyFour12 #11 Report

Something old and something new

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BY: chris cooknell

Published: 28th July, 2016

Road trips are cool.  I finished work for summer, went to the pub (family already sailing or chamber music boot camp), got home, Teammate Rich picked me up in the shop van, already loaded to the ceiling with bikes and kit, and a new rider.  We  emptied the van onto  my street, repacked it with 2 more bikes and wheels and junk and hit the M5 bound for Plymouth.  Road trip, cool.

I squashed in to the crew seat with Maddy, our new rider.  New to the team, new to xc, new to twenty four hour.  Not new to awesomeness; the daughter of the shop’s accountant had just got a junior podium at the national DH champs, mixing it with royalty like Atherton, Seagrave…..  v cool.  

Pulling into the valley at Newnham made the hairs on my neck stand up.  Tents and vans as far as the eye could see, marquees, finish line inflatable, fires, and a forest of car-topped bikes, all with the sun setting on a warm evening - this was like the OLD DAYS!  I had a break from riding twentyfour12 but returning to this sight renewed my confidence in the future of endurance racing.  The campsite buzzed with music, catering (excellent), campfires and chatter.  We sneeked into a cheeky trackside camp enjoyed the atmosphere in front of “Top Gun” at the arena.  New sponsors Pivot cycles had a strong presence and the whole show looked great.

In the morning something old turned up - Iain.  Back in the day he was our secret weapon, but has taken a few years out to start a family and build a house.  Coming to these events is a great way to catch up with old friends, and make new ones….  Something new turned up - local  Enduro hot-shot Tom Dunn, certainly nothing that we could teach him about riding a bike fast, but perhaps he’d need to learn a thing or two about keeping the laps going for a whole day and night.

Rich took on the fury of the first lap and it’s killer start loop, Tom put in a blinder and then I was off.  Something new, half a mile of cx-style dead turns (to facilitate plenty of trackside camping) and plenty of old (favourites) the ford, cliff climb, bluebell woods, cottage return.  The course was always fun, lots and lots of great single track, techy bits and bomb-holes broken up with enough double tracks to make passing no problem.  Initially we were a bit shocked, a sub 30min lap was on the cards, so how would that spin out for a 24h race?  Pretty good it turned out, although the course did not suit my strengths (one year the course here had 450m of lovely climbing) it certainly suited Maddy and Tom.  The  rest of us had lots to learn.

Back in camp Tom and Maddy had lots to say about “carry speed” and “pump the corner” and “lines” - not just A or B but “go right and double this, then you can cut out that”.   This level of track scrutiny was new to us and had our old minds boggling.  Twentyfour12’s 5 person teams worked well with the short lap, two hours off between laps was the perfect rest between laps, enough time to eat and relax but not enough to get jaded.

For the first 6 hours we were neck and neck for the open mixed 24h lead tussling with Fruit 4 London - old rivals from many moons ago, we knew that we had a race on.  We kept lapping hard, no one missed a turn.  It got dark, it got wet I had no doubts about my old team-mates stubbornness, but what about the newbies?  At around 3am I checked that Maddy was ok for her lap and she half-jokingly said that it would be ok if anyone else  wanted to go, we didn’t (!) and she got on with it, the all-for-one ethic on the Bike City t3 team.  After every lap Tom would sink heavily into his chair and tell us that he felt “destroyed” but every time his turn came about he was up on time and would blast out our fastest lap.  It was easy to tell when he was approaching the hand over - only enduro riders jump on the pedals and sprint out of the last corner of a 6 mile lap!

Fruit4London kept up their pressure, and a couple of punctures and crashes let them slowly pull away (chapeau F4L you were strong) but our whole team kept riding hard and when 24h were up we’d held them to a 1lap lead.

This event was cool, everything good about 12/24h endurance racing.  Atmosphere, racing, chilling, old friends, new friends all concentrated in a beautiful location and organised by a team that got it all right.  

Big thanks to my home crew at home,  to Jane for her on site team support and logistics, to old gits Rich and Iain, and new aces Maddy and Tom.  Twentyfour hours is the way to go - a whole season’s xc racing in just one day!

More on the TwentyFour12 #11:
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chris cooknell

Chris lives in the cycling heaven of Somerset; lonely lanes in the levels, killer climbs and sweeping singletracks.

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