24 hour mud bath: the Bontrager TwentyFour 12 endurance MTB race #TeamRutland

Words by Aaron Scott

on 29/08/2013 17:01:00

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Staff rider Drew enters his first ever 24 hour endurance mountain bike race, and lives to tell us the tale.

"The Bontrager TwentyFour 12 is a 24 hour relay endurance mountain bike race run at Newnham Park near Plymouth. This was the 7th year it has run and my first 24 hour race. Admittedly I'd done a wholly inadequate amount of training for the event, but we entered the 'Just-for-fun' category with (originally) a team of 7, that fell to 5 after a couple of drop-outs.

Friday morning, we packed up the car (in the pouring rain) and headed off down the M5. We arrived at about 4pm to a welcome, albeit brief, dry spell. The camp site was already sodden however. We found a pitch, just far enough away from the porta-loos to be left in reasonable peace, and set up.

There was the option to do a test lap of the track, but we decided not to bother.

We then started the fuelling up. The race was due to start at 12.00 mid day on the Saturday, so we had plenty of time to make sure we took in enough fluids. Pasta and BBQ'd chicken was on the menu.

We decided to have an early night to make sure we were rested for the next day.

Unfortunately, our sleep was disturbed by the weather! The rain came, and came, and came. It was as if someone was aiming a pressure washer at the roof of the tent. Then, as if that wasn't enough, in the early hours of the morning, the wind picked up, shaking the tent. Finally, at about 3am, something gave - that was the gazebo!!

We found it half way down the field with 4 bent legs! We had no choice but to recover it and bundle it into the tent until we could sort it in the morning.

We then proceeded to re-erect half of our team mate's tent (not that they knew anything about it, they were fast asleep). For the rest of the night, all we heard was people recovering their wrecked tents and gazebos.

The following morning (after 2 hours' sleep), we awoke to find a site flooded and in chaos. Everybody, at best was re-pegging, at worst, completely scrapping their tents!

Post breakfast, we wandered down to the main arena for registration and race meeting where we were told that we were on the verge of being evacuated from the site in the early hours and the race cancelling due to the weather! Fortunately this didn't happen and, other than a couple of small course changes, the race was allowed to continue.

Keith Bontrager himself made an appearance with a welcoming speech. He actually raced the 12 hour solo himself.

The main 24 hour and 12 hour race started at mid day with Keith leading out, to be shortly overtaken by various XC racing whippets from some of the major teams.

Our first lapper Ian maintained a respectable position in the middle of the pack.

I followed just over an hour later, taking the baton (An Exposure, rear light casing on a lanyard) and starting off on my first lap straight into a half mile fireroad climb. This was a great warm up and pleasingly I managed to overtake 7-8 people from the off.

From here we went straight into the the mud! Immediately started to wheel spin. This was the theme for the next 10-15 mins of riding.

Further on, we came to the 'Cliff Climb', a section my team mates had hoped had been cut out, and after hearing the horror stories about this climb with an ever increasing gradient, I was not looking forward to it!

However, faced with the task, I sat forward, dropped a few gears and ground up it! Not wishing to blow myself out, I took my time, expecting the worst to come, only to find myself over the top and cruising down the other side.  (next lap I'll go for it!!)

I was really impressed by the Yeti Arc's ability to climb, it was effortless!

Further on, through the camping field to be cheered on by my team mates, came a couple of climbs, then the mud hit again. My speed slowed to below a crawl as the bike clogged up. Staying upright and clipped in was a nightmare.

I stubbornly stayed on the bike, not wanting to have my riding ability questioned.

However it got to the point where people were walking past me with their bikes, at which point I gave in, shouldered the superlight hardtail and ran! This in itself caused problems as my overshoes covered all the grip on my shoes, not to mention the fresh rugby studs if fitted for the occasion. This led swiftly to a twisted ankle.

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Finally out of the mud, we hit the last descent, a wet grassy slide down the side of the hill into the transition area. Much show-boating and 2 wheel sliding followed, into transition and over the makeshift jump. To hand the baton over to a reluctant Sara.

I now had 4 hours to get clean, have something to eat and fettle the bike for the next lap.

The day progressed, many muddy people passed though in various states of filth. My second lap went better, now knowing the course. I had also given up on the thought of riding through the mud, it took out so much time by getting on and off the bike, that as soon as a muddy section came, I just got off and ran with it. This saved quite a bit of time (despite the previously twisted ankle).

I returned to the site happy to see the BBQ on and plenty of chicken on the go!

The night laps started here and the site began to calm as people, already tired, settled into their night-time slog.

My next lap was due to start at about 2am but I decided not to do a night lap, having only had just over an hour's sleep the night before (however much I wanted to have a play with the 1900 lumen Exposure light I'd taken from our demo fleet).

Early next morning (though not as early as intended due to sleeping through my alarm!) I got up to do another lap. I decided to take my IBIS Mojo for this lap for a bit of comfort and to make up some time with the better traction.

BIG mistake! By this time, the mud on the course had thickened and congealed in to a clay. This completely clogged up in the limited clearance and tight linkage of the Mojo. I had to stop several times and clear it out just so that I could pedal!

However, the Mojo got its mojo back on the descents later on, and I was able to make up some time.

Further on, while carrying the bike through yet more mud, I was struck by the worst cramp I'd ever experienced. Serves me right for not stretching before riding! I fought through it, knowing I would suffer the next day!

Though the final sections down to transition and my race ended.

We were not in a competitive category and the conditions removed any level of enjoyment. So after Dean completed his final (and fastest) lap, we threw in the towel. We left with a mediocre 13 laps - not so bad, considering we had 7 hours' sleep and stopped at 9am with 3 hours still to go.

We packed up and headed home, glad of the experience and actually more motivated than ever to train up for the next race, where we do intend to be competitive!"