Monday 29 August 2011

The Other Side of the Fence

“3 scoops of energy powder per bottle with a gel, and an electrolyte bottle every 3rd lap with 2 gels.”  The pre race briefing for Torq 12:12 was very detailed as meticulous notes were taken.  Having ridden this race solo last year, see report, I knew the challenges that lay ahead for the riders.  This time, instead of riding I was staying in the pits providing support.  Involved in the race from a completely different perspective was a new experience.

The AQR / Cotic race team had 2 solo riders, Rachel and Simon, and a team of 4 consisting of Ian, Rich, James and Kate.  Another Ian was the chief mechanic, Ant did everything including taking photos, and Carole was ‘Pit Mum’ an essential role for keeping everyone fed.  I took on the role of Simon’s buddy to ensure he had everything for his solo ride.

Although we all had our roles, we all did everything.  The well oiled pit machine was able to turn a rider and bike around in about a minute.  Having experienced this frenzy of activity on the Exposure 24 ride in May, it was very interesting seeing how it all came together.  The ETA of each rider was calculated and as the time approached someone was on lookout duty to spot them ride across the hill, giving us a 2 minute warning.  Prepared bottles, gels, clothes, mug of tea, bowl of warm water and flannel were all on hand for the rider whilst the mechanics were armed with the pressure washer, lube, spare lights and a spare bike.

As the rider approached, rapid instructions were given for what they wanted which were immediately produced by the swarm of busy pit crew surrounding them.  The warm flannel for the face wash was never requested, but always appreciated.  Notification of their race position with the lag and lead times was provided before the rider was cheered back on to the course.

Whilst clearing up the aftermath of the pit stop, notes were taken on food intakes, lap times and any other useful details, before the preparations started for the next time.
As the day progresses there were numerous tasks to occupy us between the laps; preparing the pit area lights for the night time, modifying the gazebos to cope with the heavy rain, refilling water bottles, drying clothing, checking race positions, updating Twitter and endless bike maintenance.  In addition to this Carole provided us with numerous cups of tea and food to keep us going.

7 hours into the race, I realised that I had hardly sat down.  There was barely time to get a 5 minute rest before Simon was due in again.  The 5 minutes, however, was just enough to keep me going until the finish.

One the race had finished, the riders still needed feeding and sorting out so they were warm and dry.  Cracking open the beers and firing up the barbecue with tasty burgers and sausages was especially satisfying. 

The celebrations were well deserved with Rachel winning the Female Solo, the team came 4th in the Mixed Team and Simon had to retire after 8 hours from 6th place.

The next morning after little sleep, bacon butties washed down with tea, provided the energy to pack away all the gazebos, tents and other equipment.

The AQR / Cotic team presented such a friendly atmosphere with uncompromised support to their riders.  Receiving such effective race assistance makes a huge difference to riding the race, whatever the weather.  It’s not surprising to see that AQR / Cotic have gained podium positions at all the many events they have attended this year.  I was delighted to be involved to see how it works.  Thanks for an amazing experience.

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