19th January 2018
Written by Rupert Guinness
“10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.”
So came the end to 24 hours of solo bike racing at Tailem Bend, near Adelaide, from 3pm on Saturday to 3pm Sunday 14 January.
Finishing the inaugural Revolve24 Australia on the brand new ‘The Bend Motorsport Park,’ was a massive box to tick.
Yes … I quipped in my pain and suffering that I would not come back again soon after finishing 9th of the soloists with 586.5km ridden – against the incredible 811km of race winner and Australian track endurance coach Tim Decker.
But no sooner had dawn risen the day after, I was allowing little thoughts of how I might race better – and hopefully further – to develop into bigger thoughts, and even a plan.
As too were my crack pit crew of Sydney personal trainer Nicola Vrachnas and Adelaide bicycle mechanic Bill Dragos.
The Revolve24 Australia, founded and promoted by David Fell is the latest ultra endurance event to feature in Australia. It is also an ideal precursor to South Australia’s festival of cycling that climaxes with the Santos Tour Down Under.
Revolve24 Australia, held also to raise funds for the Leukaemia Foundation, certainly left an imprint on all who raced in the 24, 12 or 6 hour races, that included solo and team relay categories, with plenty to remember it for – and also on those who worked on the support crews of entrants.
After starting in the fashion of the ‘24 Hours of Le Mans’ sports car race in France where drivers run to their cars – in this instance with riders running to their bikes held by a support crew member – no-one had to wait for the inevitable fatigue and sleep deprivation for that to take effect.
It was clear we were all in for something memorable before the race even began with the sight of strong winds and sand blowing across the full 7.7km circuit before the race – which was precluded with the South Australian criterium titles and the start of stage three of the Women’s Tour Down Under.
The scene was akin to conditions Revolve24 Australia race director Stuart O’Grady recognised were like when he raced in at the Tour of Qatar – where riders were often blinded by the veil of dust and sand sweeping across the circuit, and stung by the sand lashing the legs, arms and face.
It came as no surprise then, when O’Grady announced that the 7.7km circuit was shortened to 3.4km, to contain the race to a more manageable size in case of an incident, especially in the darkness of night so as to limit the chances of a rider suffering misfortune without anyone seeing or knowing.
The images of riders ploughing their way into the winds and sand spoke of the hardship, as did the portraits of dirt covered faces of riders as they came in to their allocated pit areas where respective support crews worked around the clock to attend to solo or team riders during their breaks.
I could not help but smile when I saw O’Grady take my photo. I thought of how things had changed since the Santos Tour Down Under began in 1999 – with myself now on the bike six hours into 24, realising the worst was to come in Revolve24 Australia, and he no longer the professional cyclists answering journalist questions when in a world of pain during or after a race, but now a race director asking the questions.
With night approaching, while eating a meal of two minute noodles with a Vegemite broth, I knew the race was to shift, but I was prepared for that, having raced in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race from Fremantle to Sydney in March last year.
Night also brought what I and I am sure others had hoped for – an easing of the winds, and a beautifully star lit night for all but a few minutes when there was the slightest fall of rain.
Night time riding in the safe environs of a motor racing circuit is terrific. Aside from the knowledge of being safe, riding in calm and cooler conditions allows for a good number of kilometres to be accrued. And not before long, the kilometres mounted and the hours spent riding – broken by a short 15 to 20 minute intervals every two hours – passed by.
Finally came ‘nature’s movie’ – the sight of dawn rising. With every lap, the sky turned lighter – finally to blue. With every lap, the ray of sun beamed more – from a slither to a full ball.
Dawn, with sunset, is one of the most beautiful gestures from Mother Nature, and Revolve24 Australia reminded why.
However, despite the lift of spirit that came with it at 6.30am, that there was more than eight hours left to race was an abrupt leveller of the mind, and of the fact that the night had passed without sleep. It was a point reinforced at about 8am when my eyes starting closing sporadically, forcing me to take five minutes to lie down with my eyes closed while not sleeping in my pit area with my feet up.
It was a move that paid dividends, for sleep no longer was my need; rather I discovered that my real need would become strength that with every hour that passed began to deplete. But herein the spirit of Revolve24 Australia showed its true colours. Not only was encouragement coming from the race commentator and crowds at the finish, but from riders between themselves – and of all categories and abilities.
It was a grind right to the finish. I would have been happy had the race finished three laps earlier than it did, so tapped was I for energy and strength at a time when the winds had returned. But then, so happy was I to have experienced the suffering of those last laps and thankful for every single word of support that came my way to my very last pedal stroke.
Revolve24 Australia has arrived. I, for one, hope it remains.
I have a sneaky feeling that I am not alone in that.Back to R24 CC
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