Revolve 24

When you see racing cars going around a track on the telly, you don’t look at it and think “oh look that track is quite hilly” – you might look at it and register the fact that there are fast bends, slow bends and straight bits but the illusions created by TV cameras and the speed of cars or motorbikes means that gradients probably don’t make much of an impression. Perhaps it’s just me.

I went to Brands Hatch knowing there are a couple of uphill bits but when we arrived a couple of hours before the start of Revolve 24 – a 24 hour road bike race on the circuit – I saw people actually climbing up a steep hill. Brands Hatch, in spite of what the TV cameras suggest, is far from flat. About 65 metres of uphill per lap, in fact.

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It’s all fine, I thought. Every 24 hour MTB race I’ve done in the past has been hilly. What was different here though was that a lap was only 2.4 miles long, rather than the 8 or 9 miles of a typical 24 hour mountain bike course. Add to that the higher average speeds of racing on tarmac and you’re looking at each lap taking a few minutes, rather than almost an hour.

The circuit starts with a fast downhill bit, immediately followed by Druids – which is a steep (properly steep) hill, then there’s another fast down with a sharp left-hander, named after the legendary Graham Hill. A short flattish bit into the wind is followed by another steep climb then it’s up and down for a mile-and-a-bit, then a nice fast quarter mile past the start finish then it’s back to Druids. Or ‘Bloody Druids’ as it was known. It seems easy at first because none of the climbs are particularly long, but a few dozen laps later and it’s a completely different story.

Time to get dizzy and time to start learning my 65 times table.

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Debbie got my pit sorted out in one of the pit lane garages and I lined up for the start. The plan was to ride 10 laps and then pit – change a bottle, have a moan and carry on. With a +/- 2 laps variance Deb held up a little sign when it was time to come in at the end of the next lap.

Two hours in and I’d been lapped already – my mind playing tricks with me as ‘a lap down’ sounds like a lot but in reality it was 7 minutes.

10 more laps. It was raining now, quite hard and the track was getting exciting. Several sections of the normally grippy (a little too grippy really) tarmac were incredibly slippery, especially the fast downhill entry into the Graham Hill bend.

A 3pm start meant that I was soon riding with lights – I’d somehow forgot all my lights but luckily the race was sponsored by my amazing lighting sponsor – Exposure – who obviously took the piss a bit but sorted me out with some lights.

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10 more laps.

Pit. Moan. Bottle.

10 more laps.

Pit. Moan. Bottle.

10 more laps.

Pit. Moan. Bottle.

10 more laps.

Pit Moan. Bottle.

10 more laps.

Pit. Moan. Bottle.

10 more laps.

Pit. Moan. Bottle.

10 more laps.

Pit. Moan. Bottle.

10 more laps.

Pit Moan. Bottle.

I quickly lost count of how many laps I’d done but Deb was able to give me an accurate picture of where I was in the race. The riders who started off quickly several hours ago had long since had to have a sit down and I was at the front. Physically I was aching a bit but fine – the hardest part of this race was becoming the mental aspect and it was difficult at times to keep concentrating. I was pulling out laps, though. Here we go.

The track was now in complete darkness but the skies had cleared and the moon was shining.

10 more laps.

Pit. Moan. Bottle.

10 more laps.

Pit. Moan. Bottle.

10 more laps.

Pit. Moan. Bottle.

10 more laps.

Pit Moan. Bottle.

Pot Noodle. Moan.

Sunrise. The wind that had earlier spoilt one of the only flat parts of the course had by now settled down and the track started to dry out. By now I was starting to hate this track and I was starting to use the small chainring to try to increase my cadence and manage the pain.

10 more laps.

Pit. Moan. Bottle.

10 more laps.

Pit. Moan. Bottle.

10 more laps.

Pit. Moan. Bottle.

10 more laps.

Pit Moan. Bottle.

How many more laps do I need to do? Twenty? Ok. That’s sort of TWO in real money.

10 more laps.

Pit. Moan. Bottle.

10 more laps.

Pit. Moan. Bottle.

Just a couple more and I can stop. I’d maintained my 8 lap advantage so I lurked around the start of the finish straight until someone found the chequered flag and rode across the line, 167 laps in the bag.

It was certainly an unusual experience for me, I’m used to riding lots of laps in races, but normally 20-something 8 or 9 mile laps at a 10mph average, not 167 eight minute laps at 20mph.

There was something really cool about the race though – the sheer mileage covered (406 miles), the fact that you can sit in someone’s wheel and go fast enough for there to be an actual drafting effect, the prestige of racing around such a well-known circuit and mainly because it’s the first 24 hour race I’ve done where it rained and I wasn’t absolutely caked in mud.

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Thanks to everyone who organised the event, to Deb for pretty much steering me through to the end of the race, Tom and Mark at Exposure for their unwavering support as usual and to Phil at Scott UK for loaning me the fast, comfortable and just BRILLIANT Foil 20 (you’re not having it back).

 

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