I can see the flag

An entry level runner on an entry level bike…


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Fatty wins the day: Pivot Twentyfour12

We had such a good time at Twentyfour12 last year that as soon as entries opened in December we signed up again.

JB and I agreed to put in an entry for 24 hour female pair and if a team presented itself nearer the time we’d jump on board. Her version of the whole malarkey is here

As the weekend approached we (or at least I) got more and more anxious about the Twentyfour12. Plus, we’ve got That Thing In The Summer (leTITS) which is actually (OH FUCK) next week. As we have actually trained for leTITS we agreed a plan for Twentyfour12 which was to look after ourselves, make sensible decisions and come away from it in one piece.

Cut to Saturday morning when JB knocked on the door, MrJB was faithful pitcrew again along with MrH. Once again a round the clock service was on offer and I happen to know that vast amounts of bacon had been bought.

We arrived, pitched the tent, parked the van, unloaded and signed on. It was windy, and cloudy with the odd scattered shower, but generally conditions were good and the ground was bone dry.
2017 / 2018

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Anyway. We signed on and I noted that we were the only ones in our category, we weren’t sure if it would stay that way, but without giving it much more thought, we collected our souvenir glasses and beer mats and sauntered back to camp.

Then we just waited.

The start was dead on 12pm and JB had called for the first lap, which was fine with me. We found a spot and cheered her on when she went by, then back to prepare for my go.

JB and I had decided that the fat bikes were the bikes of choice for the weekend. Mainly because we have no other bikes; my hard tail needs some work, as does JB’s Strumpet, both of whom performed ok last year, it has to be said, and it was us that let them down!

We didn’t know how long the laps were this year, the course was different to last, and so after about 40 minutes I saddled up and headed to transition to wait for JB and my go. I didn’t have long to wait – JB said “there’s nothing unrideable, the climb’s a ball-ache, you’ll be fine”. She’s never said that before and it been true, so I was sceptical as I pocketed the rider’s token and set off.

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I set off from transition slightly anxious but really just wanting to get on with it. Twisted through the campsite fields and out on to the course proper. A tight right hander, there was a line there but I didn’t see it until it was too late. Fortunately it didn’t matter a shit because my Fat bike, Fatty, saw the line and all I hadta do was pedal. Phew. “You might be useful today” I told him.

On a bit, and what the fuck is this?

A rocky 90* corner straight into a rooty drop off and onto a narrow bridge. “OOOoooooooooh fuuuuuuuuuucCKKK I said to Fatty as we popped out nicely on the other side of the bridge. “well done Fatty” – I’m not stupid or naive enough to think that was anything to do with my input… 🤔

We pottered on, and the course wove back on itself a couple of times, through the trees and alongside the river. I recognised one bit where I’d spent some time last year looking for my shoe when it came off in the knee deep mud. No such bother this time, a bit rooty and rocky but nothing too tricky and we were spat out at the foot of the climb.

While all this was going on fast lads and the odd fast lass went swooping by, mostly safely. And then holyhell what the fuck is this

A near vertical ramp coated in loose gravel. I said some choice words to JB in my head at this point: “the climb’s a ball-ache in-fuckin-deed” People were all off their bikes pushing, heads on saddles, wills to live long gone. I clattered Fatty into Granny gear and told him “We’ll just try and get to that tree” at about half way. We passed a couple of pushers, then another, and blow me, we made the almost top. Of course it kicked up again, what ever else would it do? We plodded on, past the motivation station blaring out the All The Choons, my timing was such that Doo Bop by Hanson was playing as I passed so that made me get a move on 😝

We were still climbing, but the gradient had eased a bit, replaced by some rooty, tree-stumpy bits. The next two miles were up, but a good mix of woods with roots, some good swoopy singletrack to mince along, fire trails and The Bomb Holes which were my favourite part this year, unlike last year when I was frightened about going into one and never being seen again.

The fat was just awesome: like a surefooted (fat) Dartmoor pony, he never put a tyre wrong. He forgave me all my shit lines, gripped the gravel on the climb when the carbon full sussers couldn’t, rolled over roots the size of my legs, absorbed all the holes, rocks and mistakes; I wouldn’t want to have been riding anything else. Folk were all keen to say how mad I was riding it, and how they wouldn’t want to be me (hahaha – No. They. Wouldn’t 😝) and had the novelty worn off yet – er, this isn’t my novelty bike, he’s just My Bike… I genuinely couldn’t understand it. Also, they called me buddy, and mate. I hadta check at one point that my pigtails hadn’t fallen off! 😳

Time then to start the descent back to transition and the handover to JB. I was knackered – the lap was only 6 miles but they were tough ones and there was no point where there was nothing to concentrate on, and I even struggled to find a gap for a drink! I was pleased we seemed to have decided on only doing one lap at a time.

Rolling down the Bit Before The Cottage Return my blood ran cold. It was this bit again, that I couldn’t ride and could barely walk last year. Fatty drifted right… and before I knew it he’d rolled right down the drop off’s AND kept enough speed to get out the bomb hole the other side! I almost went weeeeheeeee! Then the cottage return, I enjoyed this one last year and this year in the dry it was even better: just enough to keep you on your toes but nothing scary then spat out onto the field and round and about to transition. There was no one there!

I found JB at the tent, almost ready. She announced that she was going to do a double lap and disappeared into the drizzle and wind.

Oh yeah: the weather. There was some by now, a bit of drizzle and the wind was warm but strong.

I settled into the campervan and MrJB threw sausage rolls, pork pies and crisps at me, along with a piece of flapjack which was the best flapjack I have ever had. As I drank about 20 litres of water he gently persuaded me that a double lap was the best approach, although it was hard, it meant that we had double the sitting down time, and a 3 lap stint would be counterproductive as it was too hard.

Soon enough I glimpsed JB go by for her 2nd (3rd) lap and I knew I had about 40 minutes before I needed to go to transition. I started to think that MrJB was right, I was starting to feel human and ready to go again.

I shan’t bore you with lap by lap detail, we did doubles twice, they were tough and I deliberately backed off as much as I could, leTITS always in the back of my mind. JB reported the same, 2 laps was a big ask. When we handed over for what I had already decided were to be my last laps before I got some sleep, JB said she was done with the doubles and we’d revert to singles as and when we could. Fine with me.

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I had my light for the last of my doubles. Setting out at around 7:30pm I was pretty sure I was going to need them and I was right. The first lap was ok, but in the woods and whatnot it was definitely dimming and I had the light on for the majority of the second. I’d forgotten that I love riding in the dark, and actually, had the much promised yellow warning weather not arrived I’d have been very tempted out again. As it was, when I rolled into transition JB was waiting and said she wasn’t going out again. Protected out in the woods I hadn’t realised how heavy it was raining and how strong the wind had become. I was so relived. Now we could get a decent night’s sleep and regroup in the morning. Plus, with no one else in our category, the prize was in the bag.

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A bite to eat and we turned in. MrJB decided that he was going to bed down in his van, leaving JB and I on our camping mats in the tent. We put the Fats to bed, jammies on and earplugs in and went to…. Wait. No. There was no sleep. It was like lying in a crisp packet on a washing line. The wind was so strong you couldn’t hear the lashing of the rain. Luckily we knew it was there because the side of the tent slapped each of us soggily around the head with every strong gust.

We lay there and maybe lightly dozed until it was time for MrH and MrJB make us coffee. I switched on my phone and realised that I must have had some sleep as I’d missed a message from MrJB telling us how warm and cozy and comfy he was in his van. *sigh.

When we emerged from the tent the field was at least half as full as it was when we went to bed! WTF? CH (also there, riding a mixed pair combo with IC) said that she hadn’t seen a rider go around in the longest time. A bit of arsebooking and some head scratching and it emerged that because of Conditions the organisers had felt they had no option but to stop the race at around 7am. Trees were falling down in the Bluebell woods and they had to consider the safety of the marshalls and riders. The easy rolling, tinder dry rock hard campsite field looked like this:

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I had to try really hard not to cheer; even although we’d already decided that we weren’t going to ride again, because leTITS, at least this way, it was out of our hands.

We lined up for the podium presentation, went and collected our winners bag of shit, I mean prizes. Here’s JB reverting to type and trying to leggit with the loot:

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We said last year ‘never again’ but this year I think I mean it. The riding is really good, and it’s a great event, but the camping? Not so much. In an event like that you need to maximise your down time, and in those conditions a tent is not the place to comfortably do that. If I were to do it again though, I’d take Fatty. He was the real star of the show.

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Twentyfour12 – a tale of Two Fat Two Furious

“You’ll be on the team won’t you? Good, that’s that settled then” said JB, and apparently it was. We decided on our team name, the entry was placed and we began our ultimately fruitless search for a 5th member for team Two Fat Two Furious for the 2017 Twentyfour12 – a 24hr ‘he who rides the most laps wins’ race. Our team consisted of me, JB, CH and XP.  Quite a line-up I’m sure you’ll agree (and no, really – there is no need to spot the weakest link… ;-)) MrMegster set to work on the t-shirt design and how exciting it all was. If only we’d known…

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Fast forward to Last Friday, when we loaded the car with all the camping stuff and bikes and set sail for Newnham Park, the setting for Twentyfour12 and our home for the weekend.

We pitched up next to CH and MrCH who had blagged a family motor home and filled it with All The Good Stuff. Spirits were high as JB, CH and I set off on a practice lap. CH set the pace, or at least I think she did- we’d lost sight of her by the end of the first climb as she refused to be overtaken by our rivals, who had just ridden past JB and I.  We knew 3 teams had entered the Female 24hr category and JB and I readjusted our expectations to “2nd place would be really good” at that moment.

The lap itself was confidence giving, nothing too technical, a couple of walks for me, and a couple of parts that would remain unrideable for the whole weekend, but more on that later… JB rode Twentyfour12 last year and although the course was different (and longer) there were familiar bits… “look out for the old man that lurks there in the dark” she told me as we went down the Cottage return – you what now?? “It’s ok, he’s not really there…” “Oh! Well that’s ok then” :-O

As we neared the end of the reccie the rain came. And stayed. The course was already muddy, it wasn’t going to improve – at this point though it didn’t dampen our spirits, even when the motor home awning fell down, nearly taking me out with it. “Well” we laughed, “if that’s the worst that’s going to happen…”

We had decided on our running order, and just before 12pm on Saturday JB positioned herself mid start pack, a brave move, and then the off. 700+ riders swooshed around the grassy start, through the campsite and out on to the course proper. Nothing to do now but wait. So we meandered back to camp, MrJB and MrCH got busy making teas and coffees. MrMegster turned up with all the stuff we forgot, including DryRobes, sandwiches and MrJB’s special chair (don’t ask)… We killed some time and wandered across to see JB go by, estimating about 20 minutes ’till she made it back to transition. She had a blinding lap, handed over to me and I was off!

I set off in the rain, with JB’s advice of “ride it as you see it” rattling round in my head. Stuff was slippery but all very rideable (well except the bits that I was never going to ride). The Cliff Climb came and went and I rode past some riders pushing their bikes – in fact as conditions worsened I began to look forward to the climb for its lack of mud and slippy. Onwards and into the Bluebell Woods, issuing instructions to my bike and self, “look up…” “FFS look up!” (to me), and “roll…” “c’mon, roll you little fucker…” “atta boy” (to my bike) – no foot down, straight through. I’m not scared of roots anymore, although there’s plenty that’s taken their place! :-O The lap was, by later standards, uneventful – I even bagged myself a couple of Stravia PRs for my efforts and I handed over to XP feeling pretty chipper, although it has to be said, soaked to the skin and covered in feckin mud.

Down time was spent washing my bike, drinking coffee and eating everything, with bouts of cheering in XP and, when it was her turn, CH.

The rain was relentless but my little antique tent kept everything dry including the tshirts for at least 6 laps (haha) that I’d packed. Dry socks and wellies made the waiting bearable, and we bantered and joked about the conditions, if we hadn’t I think we’d (I) have cried. Even the walk to the porta-loos was getting tricky!

Soon enough I headed to the soggy transition for my second lap. My dry t-shirt soaked before I’d even racked my bike. JB came in and handed over – something had gone wrong, I could tell, but there was no time to find out what.

This lap was no worse than the first for me, the rain had washed some of the stickier mud away and bits that I’d slipped and slid on were easier riding, although other bits, like the campsite loops on the grass were, well – frankly fucking awful. Every pedal stroke made your back wheel spin or try to overtake you. The only rideable line was along the tape, and it just slid you down into the mire. Still, I finished only a couple of minutes down on my first lap and so was quite happy with that.

On my return to camp, a plan had been hatched. We would ride into the night until the end of JB’s next lap then all get some kip, and I would resume at 3am. A good compromise, giving us all some sleep and each a dark lap. After not much longer, around 10pm I went to bed optimistic for a few hours sleep. Decided against ear-plugs cos I didn’t want to miss the alarm. All cozy and dozy in my tent till something went twang and someone tripped over my guy-rope and gave me a proper fright.  I *may* have shouted something rude…  I later found out that it was XP’s parents arriving to support us, hmm not at all awkward…. 😉

So I slept not a wink, too much noise, adrenaline, caffeine, anticipation about the night lap, and of course, needing a wee. Twice.

At about 2:50am I gave up, popped in my contact lenses, pulled on dry gear and went out into the night. Transition was deserted, bar some light from the solo riders slowly going around. Garmin on and I set off. Got to the first bank, easily rideable on previous laps, now ankle deep in sticky mud – some of which went straight in my eye. I gave it a cursory rub and my contact lens fucked off. Shit. Now the sensible thing would have been to go back for another, but my sleep deprived brain didn’t offer me that option and I carried on, alternating between blurry (2 eyes open) and focused (one eye open ;-)). It was SO muddy now and with impaired vision I couldn’t even ride the easiest of paths, nervous and twitchy, confidence shot to tatters, I even started to do the maths for how long it would take to walk back pushing the bike :-O Blundering over the roots, seeing things that weren’t there and not seeing stuff I needed to, it was the stuff of nightmares! I had Dory from Finding Nemo in my head the whole way “just keep riding, just keep riding”… “get out of my fucking head, fish” I shouted! “You alright love” some bloke asked… “why yes of course, why ever wouldn’t I be?”…

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Made it down the Cottage return thanks to my one good eye and then my feckin chain came off. I unclipped my emergency light – I really needed a light to see to unclip my light, it was that sort of dark… put the chain back on and arrived at the river path. Tight bend into a puddle, wait, that’s no longer a puddle. I’m up to my axles in mud. Slid off into it and heaved my bike out and began to shove it along. Then the mud took my shoe. Have you ever tried to find a fuckin’ shoe, with one seeing eye and no light? Unclipped my emergency light, again, shut the ‘bad’ eye and began scouring for it, eventually spotting it, about 3″ down in the mud. It was such a relief – I didn’t want to get muddy feet on top of everything else ;-)

I eventually finished my lap, having had another chain off moment in the campsite, this time, thankfully, stoping next to a tent who’s owners were made of angels and had a water squirter and a light. The lap had taken me an hour and 50, 40 minutes more than my previous effort. Felt like crying but manned up enough to hand over to CH who was taking XP’s lap as she was struggling with a really painful back. Into my tent to try and get warm and some sleep, unsuccessful again, for now the campsite was coming to life. I was so cold and pissed off I think I was probably mean to everyone. MrJB made me a coffee which thawed me a bit. Then I remembered the Pro-plus and Dextrose. Half an hour later I felt tip-top (relatively, you understand) and although my vocabulary was reduced to “fucking cold” and “fucksake” I was ready to face the world and a bacon sarnie.

When JB went for what was to be her last lap we were met with the news that we’d moved into the lead overnight! WTAF?? The team in 2nd didn’t want to ride again because of the conditions, but stood to loose 2nd if the team in 3rd went again! Suddenly it looked like it could all be over! And we were the winners! Yeah – cos our luck goes that way doesn’t it..?! JB and I agreed we would both ride again if we had to, plus, I really wanted the chance to put my nightlap right.  When 3rd went again, so did 2nd and so, so did we.

JB did another cracking lap under extreme conditions – well the sun had come out you see, and made the mud even stickier and revealed all the things in the puddles that you’d have never ridden over if you’d seen them!

She handed over to me, I had 2 and a half hours to get round, and we would still have time for CH to go again if we needed her to.

My chain came off AGAIN before I even left the campsite.

And again on the Cliff Climb. And again at the top of the Cliff Climb. And again and again and again. Still at least I could see this time, fresh pair of lenses and sunnies! I used all my drink spraying the chain and chain ring to clean it, only for it to be clogged seconds later. I lost count how many times it came off. I opened a hole in my finger and my pedals twatted the back of my legs from all the pushing! When I got to the river I waded in and dunked the bike, hoping that I could wash away my sorrow… I mean the mud…

I eventually got back, with 20 minutes to spare, JB was waiting at the finish: “we’ve done it!” We’d won. I got off my bike and abandoned it. Just relief, no elation or happiness just pure relief.

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We waited until the end, packed our tents and hosed off the bikes. MrJB, with not much effort, was easily able to diagnose what was with my chain, the mud and grit had eaten my front chain ring. It’s razor sharp in places and the pointy bits have all gone. I suspect that’s the tip of the iceberg too, and there’s going to be a maintenance bill when I am brave enough to get the bike outta the shed… I’ll need a hearty breakfast before that though.

Never ever again.

So, next year, there’s talk of entering as pairs, although someone’s just asked if she can be our 5th team member…