This was the ‘BIG ONE’ as far as TORQ’s endurance specialists were concerned. Going into the European 12 and 24-Hour Championships, codenamed ’12 & 24 Hours of Exposure’, TORQ’s James Lister had to be hot favourite to win the 12-hour event and TORQ’s Josh Ibbett (3rd last year after leading the race convincingly for 18 hours) was in excellent form and was a very credible contender for the win in the 24.
For myself, there had been months of publicity surrounding my participation in this event. This had been wholly self-inflicted, because I had written a series of articles in Singletrack Magazine entitled ‘Come train with us’ whereby readers could follow the training endeavours of the magazine’s editor ‘Chipps’ and myself as we embarked on what was for us a huge challenge. Chipps was coached by TORQ’s Performance Director ‘Anth’ and I coached myself, so it was an interesting experiment.
I guess I’d put myself under a bit of pressure and I’m sure a reasonable proportion of the Singletrack readership will be intrigued to see whether I would triumph or ‘bomb-out’! Irrespective of this pressure, I felt nothing but excitement in the days leading up to the event and couldn’t wait to get onto the trails. 12 hours of racing is a formidable challenge and I knew that I was stepping into the unknown, but I also knew that I couldn’t have prepared myself any better and if anyone should have the knowledge of how to fuel one’s self for this kind of event, it should be me? After a blistering start, where TORQ Performance rider James Lister lead out the field, I fought hard to get a good position going into the first section of Singletrack. I gave one unadulterated anaerobic effort to gain a good position early on and once we were clear of this bottle neck, I quickly settled down to a ‘sensible’ pace.
A fair few riders passed me, many of them pushing so hard up the climbs that I just knew that they wouldn’t be able to sustain the pace. I just let them go and rode my own race (which is what I’d planned to do), expecting many of them to come back to me later in the race. I was right, because one by one I overhauled them, some of them having blown up completely by the later stages of the race.
I level-paced the whole thing really and stuck to my fuelling strategy and then upped the tempo further with a couple of laps to go. The weather conditions deteriorated towards the end of the race, so this increase in tempo wasn’t clearly reflected in my lap times, but I knew I was squeezing out more power. Riders kept coming back to me and if one more had of done, I would’ve been on the podium! Unfortunately the next rider up finished 10 minutes clear of me and although I had a pretty significant mechanical on the last lap, this wouldn’t have been enough to deprive me of a 3rd place as it probably cost me 3-4 minutes. So I got 4th with the chap behind me in 5th only 2 minutes down, so at least I held onto 4th despite an eventful final lap. I was really pleased with the result – my first and last 12 hour race!
Chipps achieved a highly courageous and well-earned 15th place in the Vets category and I’m sure you’ll be able to catch up with his account in Singletrack when it hits the shelves in a couple of weeks. TORQ’s Anth Roland (Chipps’ coach) also entered, but suffered from quite a serious back injury and had to pull out. I know he was gutted.
The hat has to be taken off in a big way to James Lister though, because although in my mind he was the favourite to win, I didn’t quite expect him to take the field apart in quite such a dramatic fashion. James lead from the start and by the time the chasing bunch had got to the end of the first section of fire road, he’d already stolen a minute from them. James continued to drive the pace for the full 12 hours and eventually finished 60 minutes up on the 2nd placed rider. I was about 1.5 hours down on him in 4th place.
So, TORQ Performance got 1st and 4th in the Men’s European Championship category – a fantastic headline for the team. James Lister is officially the ‘European 12-hour Champion’ and is the proud owner of the coveted winner’s jersey.
In the 24-hour event, our hopes were pinned on TORQ’s Josh Ibbett, last year’s 3rd placed rider, but 2011 wasn’t to be his year. Here’s his account of the event – it does make interesting reading and gives a feel of the competition from a racer’s perspective:
“The weather leading up to the race was far from perfect. Plenty of rain fell overnight, however the course drained well and there were only a couple of tricky muddy sections. Come the morning of the race, the sun was out again and the track riding fast. I was feeling fresh and confident and eager to get underway.
At 11:30 we all assembled in the town square in Newcastleton and waited to be called up to the start line. After last year’s result I was ranked number 3. Like last year we were escorted out of town by the local bagpiper before the race started for real. The neutral section was very nervous. I could tell right away that the pace wouldn’t be as pedestrian as it was last year and that I wouldn’t be riding away from the field on the first lap again!
My game plan was simple, to follow Matt Page or Ant White (1st and 2nd place last year), because I knew these were the guys to beat. From the off, the pace was rapid and Matt and myself formed a small gap over the rest of the favourites, along with Simon Earnest who was riding the 12h race (we let James Lister do his own thing as he disappeared into the distance). We were working well together, trying to force a gap when Simon crashed on a gravel corner. Matt then rode over him and had to stop for a few seconds. This allowed Ant, Rich Rothwell and Dave Powell to catch up leaving a group of 5 at the front. The pace was still high although we seemed to be working fairly well together, the race was neutralized for now. About half way into the 2nd lap Matt punctured and there was a comical moment when the rest of us looked at each other then rode flat out to take advantage!
Rich was in a determined mood and was smashing it at the front of the group. This carried on for 2 laps, Dave Powell was dropped after the first hot lap and Ant and I were hanging at the end of it. Matt caught us up again though and immediately attacked. This was the catalyst for the splits to begin. I dropped Rich and Ant and began to close down on Matt.
This was roughly 6 hours into the race and little did I know that it was a key moment. Entering the first descent I could see Matt about 20seconds ahead. I was pushing hard hoping to close the gap. On the descent, I caught and passed a number of back markers. I then was stuck behind another and called to pass, but he didn’t appear to hear me. Then suddenly he moved aside and in my haste to catch Matt I dived past. The next thing I knew I was somersaulting through the air and landed in a heap. As I passed the rider his rear wheel skipped out,which hit my rear wheel sending me over the bars. It could have been over there and then. I was pretty shocked so the only word that came to my mouth began with an ‘F’, so I apologise to the poor bloke who was on the receiving end!
The crash took away a bit of my impetus and Ant caught up with me again, although we were still less than a minute behind Matt. We rode together for a few more laps until I started to drop off a little bit. My back was starting to ache a bit from the crash
As darkness came, so did the rain. There was a massive downpour which totally soaked me at the start of the lap. I then got quite cold which started to make my back ache from the knock in the crash. I slowed a little, but made it back to the pits after a dark psychological patch (I was close to quitting cycling and hating bikes etc – the usual bad-patch thoughts). Once I made it to the pits though, I was able to eat some food, change my clothes and suddenly I warmed up and felt great again. I then began to smash it!
I was feeling super strong and as soon as I was warm, my back pain disappeared. Over the next few laps a gradually began to bring back time on the guys in front. It was still raining, but I was feeling great and still had plenty of power in the legs.
Just before dawn, it rained really hard again and the wind picked up. I was still in a comfortable 3rd position but the cold gradually began to get to me. The same happened again and as soon as I began to get colder, my back seized up. This time however it locked solid and the power in my legs just vanished. My lap time was half an hour slower and I only made it round with the help of another rider (Rob Dean).
Once in the pit, I had to be prized off the bike. My back was in spasm and I was frozen to the core. I had to see the physio and it took an hour to loosen up my back enough for me to be able to move about again. By this time I had slumped down to 7th position 15 minutes behind 5th. The podium was out of reach now and the weather had worsened. If I am totally honest, I really didn’t want to get back on my bike to chase for 5th position. I decided not to go out again. It is very frustrating that the crash cost me the challenge of a podium place, but at the end of the day I guess that’s just racing.
There are plenty of positives to take away from the experience and also plenty of lesson learnt. Hopefully these will make me a stronger rider in future 24hour races. One thing is certain though, I want the national title more than ever now!”
Josh has also uploaded this footage of the event, which gives you a bit of a flavour of proceedings: http://www.vimeo.com/23652491
Although not a TORQ Performance rider as such, TORQ-fuelled Kate Potter from the AQR team has a long history of working with TORQ and our products. Kate secured a fine win in the 24-hour event, but unfortunately, because she’s not European (Australian), she couldn’t claim the championship jersey. She did provide a dominant display of her 24-hour experience and prowess though, having raced World Cups for the last two seasons, she turned back to what she’s better known and succeeded in a comfortable win (she may argue that although the margin of her win was significant, she was far from comfortable). Kate will be making regular updates to the TORQ website shortly along with our other fast TORQ-fuelled and tuned females Sally Bigham (the UK’s best Marathon racer) and Emma Ruth-Smith (Pro X-Terra competitor).
And last, but by no means least there’s Matt Page (Wiggle), the winner of the 24-hour European Championship jersey. Matt is sponsored with TORQ products through Wiggle, his main sponsor and apparently consumed some 40 TORQ gels, a mix of Natural Lemon and Pink Grapefruit TORQ energy drinks and like the rest of us used TORQ carnitine in the build-up to the event. Matt defended his title admirably and was a worthy winner of the championship (full report to come from Matt on this site).
Once again, a huge thank you to our sponsors. Without their help, these sucesses would not be possible:
www.konaworld.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.champ-sys.com – Performance Cycle Clothing
www.mojo.co.uk – Fox 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, Multi tools & pumps
www.rapidracerproducts.com – Neoguards.
www.cleecycles.com – KCNC Chains, Skewers & Bottom Brackets
www.superstarcomponents.com – Hubs, Seat Clamps & Headsets
www.sapim.be – Spokes
www.handcraftedwheels.co.uk – Hand Built Wheels
www.fibrax.com – Brake Hardware
www.joolzedymond.com – Photography
www.cycleops.com – Power Measurement, Turbo Training & Bike Racks
www.notubes.com – Tyre Sealant & Rims.
www.nomad-direct.co.uk – Nomad Cordless Pressure Washing
www.finelytunedride.co.uk – Bike Maintenance & Servicing
Follow the TORQ Performance MTB team’s progress on their facebook page: