12 Hours of Exposure
Having had a few days to recover from my trip north to Newcastleton on the Scottish Borders to compete in the 12 Hours of Exposure, UK and European Solo MTB Championships, I can now sit and do a write up of the event, and maybe the result I've brought home will finally sink in!
I came 2nd in the Open Male 12-hour Solo category, and with it being my first 12-hour solo attempt, I won the UK and European 12-Hour Solo Rookie Championship!
The event was my first main focus for this season so all training and other events leading up to the race was geared towards what I regarded as a pretty major event. I was under no illusion that the race would be easy and I knew the competition for the title would be fierce with some big names I recognised on the entry list. With it being my first 12-hour solo attempt I had set myself a realistic target and decided I would be very happy and settle with a Top 10 finish for this year.
My training for the event had gone really well and mostly as planned and I felt confident that I'd done enough preparation to do well. I had a couple of decent results from my "season warmups", 8th place in the Goshawk 50km enduro in Wentwood in March, and 17th place in the 2011 Howies Dyfi Enduro, just the weekend before the 12 Hours of Exposure.
This was the event's second year of running and the first time for the 12 hour solo championships. Expectations were high from what I'd heard of the previous year's event and I was looking forward to racing. Lou and I travelled up and arrived on Friday in time to set up and have enough time for a practice lap and relax and rest.
The 17km course used much of the 7Stanes trail at Newcastleton and included some of the best singletrack sections the trail had to offer. There was plenty of climbing to cover each lap, with my Garmin Edge 705 recording nearly 500m ascent per lap. The course was longer than what I was used to, and I estimated it would take around 1 hour 10 minutes per lap over the 12 hours at the pace I had in mind.
After an early night but a restless night's sleep, it was time for breakfast and the usual last minute race prep (I am organised, honest). Lou was prepared and ready to go with bottles, gels, stash of solid food, spare clothes, hosepipe and all the other things that she does to support me. I must admit that when it was time for the rider briefing I was more nervous than I'd ever been before a race, and rather intimidated to be amongst some of the best 12 and 24-hour racers in the country.
The time came for the roll down into the centre of Newcastleton for the start, where each rider signed the entry board against their name, number and sponsor, which I thought was very cool! The procession of riders were led through the town by a piper, Scottish flag bearer and local cycling group with some very odd looking bikes before we were let loose back up the road to the Rock UK centre (who were hosting the event) and onto the course proper.
The pace that was set from the start was fast, very fast, but I stuck with the lead group of around 25 riders and got on to the course early with very little race jams to cope with. I felt strong from the outset and got in a few early quick laps before settling in to a pcae that I hoped I could sustain for the rest of the race. The conditions were mostly good for the 12 hours with some rain showers which made the course wet but didn't really hamper the riding. A couple of the woodland sections got slippery as darkness fell, but it didn't dampen my spirits.
I heard fairly early on in the race (after Lap 5 I think) that I was in second place, something I really didn't expect to hear, trailing behind James Lister of Torq Performance. He had a good lead which I wouldn't have been able to chase in the time I had left, if at all (he's a machine!), so my aim was to push hard and hold my position. My main concern was being chased by Juice Lubes VeloBrands rider, James Porter who stayed within seconds of me for the first half of the race, but I managed to pull away towards the end, finishing with a 6 minute lead on him at the end (not enough of a gap to be comfortable with!). Lou and her support with bottle changes and feeding was spot on, and I only stopped very quickly once throughout the race to jump on my spare bike for a lap so that Lou could wash my main bike.
There were around 5 riders behind me putting on the pressure but I'm happy to have been strong enough to fend them off. Over the last two or three laps I started working out how many laps I had left. I was on track to complete 10 laps, possibly 11 before the course closed at 12 midnight. Unfortunately I didn't make it back in time to go out to complete my 11th lap so I had to settle with 10 laps after 11 hours 5 minutes and crossed my fingers that I'd done enough to hold my 2nd place. I waited at the finish line until I saw 3rd and 4th place cross the line and was met with a wave of relief that I'd done it!
I had to wait a long time to stand on the podium and the presentations, as the 24 hour race was still going on. The heavens opened after midnight and course conditions got steadily worse for the guys doing the 24 hours. Having ridden in similar condiitons for my 24-hour solo race at the Bontrager Twentyfour12 in 2010, I knew what they were going through and didn't envy them, and guiltily I felt glad that I could go to bed.
Taking the 2nd place in the Open Male and also the Rookie Championship has to be one of my best achievements on a mountain bike and it was a very proud moment I must admit. I happily share the prize with Lou as I could never do it without her support and even though I'm riding solo, it's still a team effort. Thanks to Simon at Loco Tuning for the shock and fork servicing, tuning and set-up for the race. It was spot on!
The next main focus for me is my trip to Vancouver with Mark to race in the BC Bike Race in July, although I have the Erlestoke 6 hour solo to compete in and the Bristol Bikefest 12 hour and 6 hour pairs (with Mark) between now and then, so have a busy couple of months ahead!
Some race stats collected from the race:
10 laps completed
Fastest Lap : 00:59:38
Slowest Lap : 01:10:48
Average Lap Time : 01:06:30
Distance : 172km
Total Ascent : 4,450m