Wednesday 1 September 2010

Torq in your Sleep

My last major race for 2010 was the Torq in your Sleep organised by Gorrick near Yateley. There was no let up in my meticulous planning for the 12 hour endurance race as detailed lists were prepared and everything was packed into the relevant boxes for the day.

Arriving at the campsite soon after 9am, we set up the gazebo and other equipment right next to the track. I say ‘we’ as I had the luxury of a dedicated support crew in the form of my daughter Lorna and her boyfriend James.

Following a quick warm up getting a feel for the course, I was ready for the start at midday. 300 riders completed a controlled lap of the arena before diving into the first section of single track. Initially it was crowded, but not too congested as I worked my way into the top third of the bunch.

The course was surprisingly dry considering the recent heavy rain during the week. The single-track sections flowed well and there were a few decent 20 foot near vertical drops to glide down, some with a steep climb out. The first 8 mile lap was completed in excellent time where it was quite an adventure not knowing what was coming next. Lap 2 enabled me to pace myself around the course whilst still maintaining a good speed.

Pulling in for a quick change of my CamelBak, I was off into lap 3. By this stage I was adopting the best lines to take on the technical sections and looked forward to my favourite part that weaved tightly between several trees.

Taking a slightly longer stop after lap 4 my average speed was 10.7mph, which is pretty fast for single-track. It was at this stage the heavens opened with a torrential downpour. I questioned my choice of summer tyres as the wheels slid all over the place on lap 5. Previously calculated lines in the dry were useless in the wet conditions, so it was back to basics to pick the safest line over the roots whilst remaining upright.

Just near the end of lap 5 my rear tyre punctured but the slime did its stuff allowing me to continue riding to reach my support crew. James did his stuff with the track pump, and then I was off into lap 6.

The rain had now stopped and there were signs that the course was drying out. I’m glad I didn’t change my tyres as they were once again rolling fast over the hardened surface. Using my new toy, James washed down my bike with a portable pressure washer. With mud free gears I headed back out onto the course.

Laps 7 and 8 came and went where I still had the strength to power up the hills overtaking several riders. It is very difficult whilst out on the course to know my position in my category. At each stop Lorna gave me the low down with my position in the field and the times between myself and the riders ahead and behind me. She even gave me their rider numbers so I knew who to look out for. At one point there were 3 riders all less than 5 minutes ahead of me. This wealth of instant information provided a huge mental boost and motivation.

The lights came on for lap 9 as darkness fell. Trusting my tested lines on the technical sections I conquer the roots in the woods, although I was caught by a couple of surprises. Managing a good lap time I head straight into lap 10. It was now pitch dark everywhere and I really enjoyed owning the night with my bright lights.

Setting off into lap 11 was a real struggle. Motivation was low, my legs were tired and everything hurt. The 80 miles of technical riding had hit me hard. I then punctured again, it was the last thing that I needed. Fortunately the slime plugged the hole and a quick squirt of the gas did the trick.

Refuelling after the lap I pushed on into lap 12. Gathering all my strength I complete my final lap which seemed to take forever. Reaching the Finish for the last time, I take a well deserved rest while the support crew sorted everything out.

Out of 38 solo riders I took 8th place, which felt pretty good. It was a well organised event with around 600 participants and special thanks goes to Lorna & James for being my fantastic support crew.

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