Ben is a new employee of TORQ, holds an honours degree in Sports Science and is a very keen Mountain Biker to boot.
The Ritchey Bikefest, held on the newly built trails of city centre riding hub, Ashton Court in Bristol is an excellent event with a laid back atmosphere. Racing takes place on a short, but fast lap with many sections modelled on a pump track, so rollers, jumps and berms galore…
Having taken many podiums at the event for the last few years (including taking the win ahead of some professional road rider back at the Oktoberfest http://www.torqfitness.co.uk/news/ritchey-oktoberfest), the team always come into these events as marked riders, which does put pressure on them to perform. This year was no exception. We had entered the 12 hour with a male team of 4 and a mixed team of 4 and both categories had some strong competition.
Our main competition in the men's team was from Cube bikes who had set up opposite the TORQ stand, with a line up including 2 national champions and a couple of professional riders from the Danish Cube team. The mixed team category also had a strong line up with the likes of the www.XCRacer.com team, which ensured that it would be a tough 12 hours of racing.
The Le-Mans start to the race is always carnage as cyclists (renowned for poor running technique!) attempt to run with limbs flailing to a mass pile of bikes strewn a few 100 metres further on, before heading off onto the tight twisting course. With the volume of riders fighting to get into a predominantly single-track course with limited overtaking, the first 2km of the race can have a massive influence on the result before the race has even really started. In the mens team, Anthony O’boyle did us proud by getting himself straight to his bike after the run and coming across the line of the first lap just inches behind the first Cube rider. Anth was shortly followed by Neil Hayward who had also done a great job getting the mixed team into the lead. The first few laps had the teams on tender hooks as positions changed lap on lap, with only small gaps forming between the teams, so it was all set to be an intense 12 hours of racing.
At around 3 hours in, both teams had pulled a small lead on 2nd place, but the nature of 12-hours racing and with such small gaps, anything could happen. The team had to keep the pressure on as even the smallest of mistakes or mechanical problems could’ve cost the lead. With the riders in the male teams lapping consistently, a strategy of a one lap on three laps off worked perfectly and ensured that each rider could maintain the lap’s times right through the 12 hours and get plenty of rest between. Things were slightly different in the mixed team where team tactics can really play a big part in the final result. With a spread of abilities in the team causing a big difference in individual riders lap times, how many times we send our slowest rider out can have a big impact on the final result. This makes it much more difficult to predict how the race will unfold and results in frequent changes in the lead. Using your fast riders to much too soon can spell disaster as fatigue sets in, but equally using your slower riders can result in gaps forming which are to big to reel in!
With 5 hours to go our male team were holding a small, but comfortable lead of around 5 minutes, a testament to how close the racing was, as even after 7 hours of racing, there was still only a short distance between 1st and 2nd place riders! In the mixed team things were hotting up. After leading from the start, we dropped into second place. It was only a small gap, but enough for us to take the decision to rest our slowest rider and step up the chase. The race now was really on. Over the next few laps, the positions changed by the smallest of margins with Neil Hayward taking us back into the lead 20 laps in. After a quick baton hand change over, Ben set off on his second to last lap. It was to be very close as XCRacer’s Richard Jones chased hard and closed the small gap. For the rest of the lap, the two evenly matched riders battled it out and crossed the line neck and neck, 21 laps in with less than 2.5hours to go! Would 12hours of racing come down to a sprint finish?
The rules of the race only allow laps completed within the 12hours to count towards the final result. With 8 minutes to spare our male team rolled in to take a well deserved win, just over 6minutes ahead of the Cube team in 2nd after 12hours of racing! After a very hard fought last few hours of the race, which saw the mixed team fighting back up to the lead, we missed out on top spot by a mere 5:05! Full credit to the XCRacer team who’s two fastest riders had completed a series of double laps to hold the gap and take the win - an excellent ride by all.
A great weekend of racing and an equally good start to a series of team events, which will see the TORQ team out in force with the Bearded Man 3 Day, Bontrager 24/12, TORQ In Your Sleep and Oktoberfest, its going to be a busy few months. In true testament to our sponsors after 12 hours of riding the team had not suffered a single mechanical and all the kit had performed flawlessly.
As an aside, we did meet these fellas! Team 'PORQ', professionally clad in some rather familliar colours did battle with us. They were a great bunch of guys and us TORQ riders couldn't help but raise a smile every time we snuck past them out on the course. The important thing was that we all did partake in a beer afterwards and took this lovely photo!
A big thanks to Roy Bevis for the excellent pictures, see his photos from the event here… www.roytheboyphotos.smugmug.com
Once again a huge thank you to all of our sponsors this year:
www.whytebikes.com - Frames
www.shimano.com – Drivetrain & Brakes
www.limarhelmets.com - Helmets
www.ritcheylogic.com - Handlebars, Stems, Saddles, Seatposts & Grips
www.max-mediagroup.co.uk - Team PR
www.schwalbe.com – Tyres
www.lezyne.com - Pumps, Tools and Bottle Cages
www.champ-sys.com - Performance Cycle Clothing
www.srsuntour-cycling.com – SR Suntour Suspension Forks
www.exposurelights.com - Advanced Lighting
www.juicelubes.co.uk - Lubrication
www.lakecycling.com - Shoes
www.jagwireusa.com - Cables & Housing
www.crankbrothers.com – Pedals
www.cleecycles.com – KCNC Skewers & Bottom Brackets
www.sapim.be - Spokes
www.stradawheels.co.uk – Wheel Builder
www.joolzedymond.com - Photography
www.cycleops.com – Power Measurement and Turbo Training
www.notubes.com - Tyre Sealant, Rims & Hubs
www.dare2be.com – Casual Clothing
Follow the TORQ Performance MTB team's progress on their Facebook page: