Tag Archives: Sleepless In The Saddle

Sleepless In The Saddle

 

The weekend of 14/15th of August saw the Shimano 24 Hour Sleepless In The Saddle event, and after some persuasion from event veterans (in both senses of the word) Sue and Pat Jackson I decided that it would be an ideal way to celebrate my 40th birthday.

So back in May I sent off the entry monies and Team Main Beam was born. The team comprised Myself, Jimmy Winfield, Matt Withers and Jason Brown. A real motley crew.

 

 

 

bomb2

A five minute planning meeting held in the pub without Jimmy present was the sum total of our preparation, and when the weekend arrived we set off in convoy for Trentham Gardens .It turned out we would not be camping on our own! Along with other club members Sue & Pat, representing Team Phaff Pro, and Martin and Chris Urmston, representing the Why R We Here team, & Neil Arnold in the Hope team, there were nearly 2000 other entrants and all there supporters vying for a pitch on the 30 acre camp site.
We pitched our camp in the failing light of Friday night, fed ourselves, then Jimmy and Donna produced a birthday cake complete with candles to remind me of the alleged reason for being there. Thanks very much guys. We had a few beers before retiring at aroundmidnight .  cheers
Despite persistent rain for the previous five days Saturday dawned clear blue. Tents opened, bodies emerged, breakfasts were eaten, and the magnitude of the event started to play havoc with my nerves.On several occasions that morning I checked out the toilet facilities on the pretext of reducing my racing weight! As we looked around that morning it became apparent that this was a BIG event. The organisation appeared to be spot on with plenty of trade stands and free facilities such as Shimano mechanics and sports masseurs on hand right through the night.

 

 

 

motley

After a spot of bike tweaking, cleaning and oiling we registered, collected our race numbers and batons, and resplendent in Hawaiian shirts and helmet mohicans attended the race briefing whilst Jimmy’s son Ryan did a course reccy for us. (Thanks for the tips Ryan.)

Apparently I had volunteered to take the first lap. I don’t remember that part, particularly as it would involve a half-mile cross country run to the bike in bike gear!

At 2.00pm , to the soundtrack of Top Gun we were off. By the time I got to the bike my legs felt like lead and I hadn’t pushed a pedal in anger. The course was excellent. Brutal climbs, tight single-track and technical downs. After a brief warm-up round the lake the first climb was a killer and with no time for a breather you were into the single-track. A second climb brought you to the first technical downhill, a rutted, stepped chute through trees that required full speed to make the off camber swoop back up round a tree  for a second, almost identical swoop down and up. It was around this point the extent of the mud was realised. The stuff was everywhere! Deep, gloopy, sticky stuff that made progress and steering a nightmare.

The course was rounded off by a long fire road climb that lead to a double bomb-hole that was the cause of much swearing and falling off, followed by a quick circuit of the camp site and a sweet single track chute back to the start/finish. An hour. I was more than ready for the handover to Matt. One by one we went out and came back knackered, sweaty, muddy & grinning like lunatics. The three hour period between laps passed in a blur of panting recovery, eating, re-hydrating, cleaning bikes and changing clothes before dashing back to the handover corral. Through the day the course improved as a dry line appeared, then just as darkness fell a heavy, dew coupled with five hundred riders an hour blundering around in the dark, turned the course back into a swamp.

The idea of a two lap strategy through the twilight zone to allow others to rest went out of the window. The memory of being woken at 2.15am , after an hours sleep, and climbing out of my tent and washing my bike in cold water before setting off on another lap at 3.00am with totally inadequate lights will be with me the rest of my days. It was at this point that I was talking aloud to myself and questioning my sanity. I do this for fun?

 

Jason was out for the dawn lap, and Matt was riding as the sun came up over the hills. I remember now why we do it.I send my apologies to Matt, for as my next lap loomed I took the opportunity to let the Shimano mechanics take my bike to pieces as Jimmy came in for the handover and after a quick radio call Matt went out an hour early still eating the bacon, sausage and egg teacake he had scrounged off Martin. The sun did its job and the course dried up again. There was even dust! (Note to self: take variety of tyres next time).

It was amazing to see how quickly the time had passed. Whilst not breaking any records we were consistent.

 

 

sue

Then just as we were feeling confident I snapped my chain mid lap at a cost of twenty minutes – most of which was spent rejecting offers of help or parts from every third rider passing. I was overwhelmed with how friendly everyone was. Two laps later Matt suffered the same fate and got his revenge on me as I was forced to go out on a final lap less than fifteen minutes from the end. Truth be known you would have had to fight me to stop me.
We completed 22 glorious laps and came in 126th out of 221 teams in the fun men’s group.

 

 

 paul3 Martin and Chris came in an impressive 116th when you consider that for more than twelve hours they only had one bike between four team members.
Sue and Pat finished a creditable 28th in the mixed group, but all us “fun men” know that it must have been far easier with five in the team. Just kidding! Anyone who saw the look of determination/agony on Pats face on every lap will appreciate how hard he was going.

All in all it was a fantastic event. We had a great weekend, even the non-riders had a ball. It took over a week to recover and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

If you can make it in 20015 you won’t regret it, even if you only come along to offer support.

 paul2
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