Sleepless in the Saddle proved to be my nemesis this year. I don’t want to complain about the weather too much because it was fantastic, but just a bit too hot. We were sweating just standing around in the campsite, let alone out on the course. It was damn hot. Results can be found here.
Jed and I had a plan, to ride two on, two off until about 8pm and then start doing three on three off night laps, to maximise the burn time from the lights. I still stand by this plan as a good one, but I now have to admit it might not have been suitable given the heat.
The course was fantastic with a mix of fast track roads, single track, climbs and descents. There was enough technical content to keep people occupied and enough fast bits to make up time if you were caught in an early bottleneck. Having arrived after sunset on Friday night, my first chance to ride the course came just after 9am on Saturday and I clocked a 39 minute recce lap and rode the entire course. The start and finish area allowed the sponsors to do a bit of advertising. and there were plenty of trade tents (more here).
After a bit of fettling and preparation, the rider briefing was soon upon us and we stood and sweated in the heat while we were read the riot act and told to expect to drink 15 litres of fluid a day I this heat. We didn’t need to be told, we were drinking like fish already. The new race kit was donned in preparation.
The Le Mans run from the start seemed to last forever, but was a reasonable way to spread the field out over the course, the run through the single track sections certainly narrowed the running field down to single file at times. Having picked the bike, camelbak and radio up from Jed back at the transition area, I set off on two laps.
The first was incredibly dusty with a high concentration of riders on the loose gravel road tracks kicking up the dirt. There was plenty of opportunity to pass slower riders and those that had gone off too fast in the run and were now paying the price. The heat was stifling and the humidity in the wooded sections was stifling. A few people rode in a fashion unbefitting of the spirit of the event, with one guy running into the back of my bike on three occasions on the same single track section where I was being held up by a queue of riders in front. Words were said.
I turned down Jed’s radio offer of a change over and stayed out for another lap and rode at a steadier pace managing to clean a lot more of the course which had earlier been clogged with riders. By the end of my first stint I was quite happy to hand over. Jed managed a good couple of laps but picked up a puncture on the curb of doom at the top of the campsite early on.
My next two laps were a bit more comfortable, but after them I was pretty iffy and ended up seeing the contents of my stomach, which was a nice touch. Following rehydrating and getting some food I felt much better and recovered enough to do my night laps.
These went well, except for the fact that it was frequently the case that you would get stuck behind a slower rider and not be able to find a safe passing point for some time. The first two laps were dispatched without too much problem, but lap three was the final nail in the coffin. I started feeling ill about a mile it the course, had to stop and lie down for five minutes, managed to get up and keep going and then was ill. What followed was a painful crawl back to transition with a few more sickbag stops on the way.
At the transition Jed and I decided to call it a night and I crawled back to the tent and died a thousand deaths. Heat exhaustion had taken it toll (and a certain energy drink may have been partly responsible). We will be backâ€¦