2012 12 Hours of Exposure
I had a lot of reasons to look forward to this race with it being the first big event of the season and the culmination of the first structured training plan that I’ve done. So together with a large contingent of riders from south Wales we braved the Good Friday traffic and made the journey up to the Scottish Borders. It was pretty special for me to race here as it’s just along the road from where I grew up, even though I haven’t done any proper riding in Scotland for over 10 years.
First impressions on arrival at Rock UK, the outdoor activity centre that hosts the event, were really very good. Together with Loco team mate Gareth Hayes and Skyline Cycles rider Jason Tompkinson, we had booked a trackside cabin and had plenty of space for our pits area, with our gazebo tent literally forming the side of the race track. This meant our wonderful pit crews had access to everything they needed and could keep a close eye on the racing as well. The centre itself was sweet with plenty of activities for those not racing such as a zipwire and a swimming pool. It was also well decorated with loads of flags hanging from the trees lending a real Championships vibe to the event.
Gareth and I have been training hard for the races, me for the 12hr and Gareth for the 24hr. Often we’ve been putting in 7hr mtb rides or centuries on the road. I’d normally then have a rest and Gareth would then go and do the same again the next day. So with quite a lot of self-inflicted pressure I was really looking forward to race day. As a rookie over 12hrs solo I had 3 rules to follow:
1.Pace yourself and don’t chase anyone going too quick too soon
2.Remember to eat and drink properly
With these rules in mind (and a lot of preparation of bike and body) I rode down with the other riders to the start line in the sleepy little village of Newcastleton. Feeling pretty chilled at the start I knew I should have a good one, as from experience too many nerves can lead to disaster. Was good fun to put my name against the big sign on board and receiving last minute best wishes from my family and Cat. The start was fun with the piper leading us off, then pace car, then the fast riders upping the speed as the race got underway. I had a decent start, up at the back of the first group but conscious not to over exert myself. The first single track climb was a bit hectic but after that the riders settled down.
My heart rate however was frantic for the first lap, even though I was spinning a fairly light gear HR was up to an artery bursting 185 when I really didn’t want to be more than 165. I realised this must be down to nerves and not doing enough of a warm up and fortunately it then did come down to something less worrying.
First couple of pit stops for a gel were critical as I also had a rookie pit crew, Cat Wilkins, who turned out to do a fine job. The course itself consisted of a couple of steep climbs out of the wooded Rock UK centre, then a bit of forest road before joining up to the super smooth and flowy Newcastleton singletrack with a couple of forest road climbs before a final drag back over a horrible lumpy bumpy drovers road that reminded me of my first biking trips in the Borders many years ago. Final descent was brakes off, bumpy and brilliant. After a couple of laps I realised that you didn’t have to jump off every drop off or clear all the doubles. Reeling that in and taking a couple of ibuprofen helped the back ache I sometimes get.
I wasn’t aware of my position for the first half of the race, but was going well and was passing plenty of riders. All the 12hr races could be identified by a blue bit of tape on their seatpost, so double points for passing one of them and even better if they had red tape as well to indicate a rookie (I was hoping to get the rookie jersey). Obviously a lot of the riders were doing the 24hr but passing was always easy enough.
Disaster struck on that final descent when I overcooked the final corner and lost the rear wheel in a loamy rut. I had what felt like a proper Danny Hart moment – massive rear wheel drift, foot out and bouncing! (ok, maybe not quite as fast). Massive adrenaline rush too but tyres seemed ok, then on the next lap I punctured on a flat bit so maybe the tube pinched? Fortunately this happened right next to the on course mechanic so I was able to let them fix the puncture with my tube and their track pump and eat their Jaffa Cakes, cheers guys.
From then the laps were being ticked off and I felt strong, taking on a torq gel and a little solid food every lap, together with a full 750ml of energy drink. Every lap at the pit I did a little check: bike, body and bottle to keep things ticking over nicely and the support crew were fantastic. The head game was good too and I was enjoying the event. I even managed to see a bit of the battle between Rich Rothwell and Matt Page as they knocked out the laps at a rapid rate.
Just before it started to get dark the commentator said I was in 9th, inside my top ten target which was a huge boost. So it was lights on and keep plugging to do 3 night laps to the finish in 9th with 9 laps! Not bad for my first go, even if I was lapped by some of the really fast guys in the top 5 (and the eventual rookie winner). Plus lots of room for improvement for next time.
Overall a fantastic event. Those last two laps were tough, but finishing at 11.30pm, meant time for a Guinness before bed and being able to support team mate Gareth Hayes and associate team member Huw Thomas (Niner/Stans/Ergon UK). Great to get some sleep then wake up to see those boys still racing – nutters! Even better to see them both on the winners podium.
Oh and the bike wash outside the Rock UK swimming pool was the best one I’ve ever used, and I didn’t have to queue once. Thanks to SIP Event for making it such a good one and to Loco Tuning for the support.