The first weekend of the school holidays only means one thing – 24:12! Formerly the Bontrager 24:12, now Pivot have taken over main sponsor duty so it’s the Pivot 24:12, complete with lots of shiny Pivot test bikes for the whole event. We’ve been racing here for 4 years now, and it gets better and better each year. The format is simple. There are kids races at 12 or 24 minutes and there are adults races at 12hrs or 24hrs. To go along with all this you have, in my opinion, the best endurance racing track on the circuit, a stunningly beautiful Devon valley to camp in, rivers and woods for kids to play in, bands, pizzas, local Dartmoor brewery free beer and a welcoming festival vibe that sits perfectly with this relaxed race weekend. Well relaxed until the races start that is.
We get there a full day earlier to relax, practise the course, and catch up with folk. I rode a lap with Fred and saw that many of the sections from the previous years had been reversed. This gave a great fast and flowy Bluebells Wood, Topeak downhill section and the ever-present Cottage Return – one of the finest bits of downhill rock-strewn singletrack around. Getting the height in early was done on the loose and steep Cliff Climb. Tougher than before, but better for it. This was a great lap and a lot of fun. Karen also got some practise in, then we settled down to dinner and a beer or 2.
On race day we assembled our team:. Fred for the u12s, Edith for the u8s, Karen for the Torchbearer 12hr solo (midnight to midday) and Paul, Jeremy, Tricky, Bennett and I resurrected the mighty ‘New Mills Massif’ endurance racing team name for the 24hr Mens Open. (Massif,Massive – geddit? ;-))
The kids race first on Saturday morning. Fred lined up first for the u12s 12minute race. Aware that there would be a bottleneck at the first bombhole, Fred nailed it off the start and came out of the first bend in 1st place. Still sprinting, Fred put a big gap to 2nd before the bombhole, and then settled down to his race-pace. Keeping it smooth and steady, Fred extended his lead and won the race! Great start!!.
Edith was next in the u8s. Edith was away cleanly but was held up a bit at the first bombhole. Keeping it smooth, Edith moved up to 2nd and held that for her race, finishing in a well-earnt 2nd place. Wow, podiums already.
I lined up next as the opening rider for our team 24hr race. This is a relay format race so good organisation and timekeeping is needed to avoid missed handovers. It was hot on the startline, but soon enough it was midday and we were off. We had an additional loop before the lap to string the field out. I more or less held position in the top 50 or so overall throughout the wheel-to-wheel opening lap and then handed over to Bennett. Rotating through the team doing single laps worked well with everyone fresh enough to put in consistently fast laps. At night we switched to double laps to give more rest to everyone. We had a few hours of rain about then too, making bits of the course greasy. Nothing much to worry about though and were still consistent and made all the handovers so far. About this time we checked our category position. We were in 4th, but then passed the 3rd placed team to take 3rd and open up a few minutes of gap. Then our one and only technical issue – Bennett’s light failed and he was left walking!
Midnight saw the start of Karen’s 12hr solo. I planned to support Karen and do her pitstops when I wasn’t on a lap myself. The rest of the team and our kids helped out when I wasn’t there. We kept pitstops short, 30seconds to about 1minute as any more soon adds up over 12hrs. Karen started in about 3rd place and kept it consistent for the first few laps. In one of these night laps Karen crashed in the bombhole section, but nothing was broken, so all good. The 3am-dawn period is when everyone’s bodies slows down, but as soon as we hit dawn we all speed up again. We re-took 3rd about this time and Karen moved into 1st with a 12minute gap to 2nd.
Our team’s last few laps saw lap times matching those of Saturday’s as we all sought to really push it hard to the finish. This opened up the gap to 4th and made us safe in 3rd on 37 laps and our 2nd team podium in over 10 years! Nice one everyone, especially Bennett who is new to team racing.
Karen also sped up and pushed hard to the finish, lapping 2nd place and finishing 1st on 15 laps in just over 12hours. Fantastic ride!!
Podiums, beer and food followed. It might have rained a lot around midday, but we didn’t care – we’d all had a tremendous race weekend. Congratulations to all.
A big thank-you to Martyn and his team for organising the best version of 24:12 that we’ve done