by Sean Lacey
Date: Thursday 13th September
Distances: 12 hour or 8 hour
Entry fee: £150+vat Solo, £250+vat Team
Start: Brands Hatch (full circuit)
Catering: Hot and cold drinks and food all day
Feed stops: N/A
Timing: electronic tag worn on ankle
Goody bag: Event jersey, various product samples
After I had taken part in this year’s AMR Ride24 endurance event as part of a 4-man Cyclosport team and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, I was hungry for more. After seeing this event in the Cyclosport listings I reckoned a 12 hour solo ride would be the perfect next step up.
With my entry confirmed, I had some time to consider my plan of attack, and come up with some sort of tactics ahead of the ride. In my allotted stints (6 hours total) at Ride24 I managed to cover 120 miles, so I set myself a target of 200 miles for Cyclothon. Sounded reasonable to me, but was it…?
Organised by ex-Bath and England Rugby star Victor Ubogu through his company VU Limited, the event is held at Brands Hatch, on the full GP circuit which is 2.613 miles in length and with a healthy dose of elevation, this isn’t your usual pan-flat race track. Victor is a real character, always smiling and full of encouragement for those around him.Registration was early to ensure the race for the 12 hour riders started at 07:30, so thankfully I had managed to stay locally as I was working in the area. Getting to registration early was a bit of a bonus too as there was no queue at all, which wasn’t the case a little later. Duly signed on we were handed a goody bag containing a jersey and assorted bit and pieces, handy if you wanted to wear the event shirt for the ride. We were also allocated space in one of the pit garages, giving you somewhere to store your gear and take time out.
Fellow Solo Riders Arrive
The solo riders were split over two adjoining garages, and I had time for a few greetings with other riders who I would get to see quite a bit of in our 12 hours here.I had brought a box with numerous spares and energy products with me as usual, but they were rarely needed as the facilities provided were excellent. There was the usual onsite mechanics (from Gary’s Bikes), free massage, numerous entertainments and food and drink provided all day in race HQ. The food included full breakfasts, buffet lunch, afternoon tea and cakes and snacks, fruit etc. in between. The place was also looking spick and span, with a fresh coat of paint on the buildings and circuit as the Paralympic cycling events had been held here only a week or so beforehand.
Garages And Village
As I had to leave the hotel at an early hour I had missed breakfast, so it was it was a godsend to hear the catering facilities were already in full swing, with anything from a croissant to full English on offer. The place was also a mecca for the sports fan as Victor’s involvement brings in a lot of famous faces, especially from the Rugby world. I’ve got to be honest, Rugby was never an interest of mine and other than Rory Underwood didn’t recognise the majority of the players, but you couldn’t miss them; their large frames imposing in full Cyclothon kit. It was certainly a privilege for the fans to mingle with them in such an open way.
The circuit was opened up for sighting laps just after 7am, and by the time I had decided to go out, got sorted and on my way the first riders were getting ready at the start. I just managed to finish my lap before the final call to go. Counted down by Victor and our emcee for the day Anthony McCrossan, fresh from his job commentating at the Vuelta, we were off. As always, despite tactics or common sense pretty much everybody, me included went out like scalded cats, a flurry of legs and out of the saddle efforts on the climbs. After two laps at this pace I really thought this wasn’t a good move, so settled into a slower rhythm to stick to my two hour stint plan.
12 Hour Almost Ready
A few more laps in was where my plan for the day started to fall apart. I had driven Brands a few times on track days but in a car you never really notice the elevation, and I had never seen the back of the circuit before as most track days can’t use the full circuit due to noise issues. The one climb I was aware of, which hits you after the first bend from the start, Hailwoods Hill, is but a blip in a fast car, but steep and draining on a bike. From the top you get the fast drop down from Druids to Garaham Hill bend where a decent lean angle and some carried speed is the reward for staying off the brakes. Then it was into the mild headwind before the next climb, the real leg sapper as you don’t have a descent before it to carry you part way up, Surtees. Once up to the top a long dive down before the rise up Hawthorn Hill, rounding Hawthorns and Dingle Dell before heading down Stirlings, Clearways and Clark Curve before heading over the start / finish to go again.
I saw out the two hours, despite my legs not being happy at the fast cold start and the climb / freewheel / climb / freewheel nature of the circuit. In for a quick pit stop, refill of the bottles (made easy by the garages having sinks) and a stretch before heading out again. My plan was to keep on doing two hour stints with the minimum amount of rest in between, but this just wasn’t going to work! I did just under an hour for the next ride and came in for a slightly longer break and to investigate the HQ facilities.
Heading upstairs the HQ was a hive of activity, with riders hanging out, taking a break or just waiting for their turn on track. Breakfast was still being served but having already eaten earlier I just had a couple of pastries and a coffee. Also in here were live timing screens showing the individual names and number of laps covered; at this early point I was in the top ten. But, eating and drinking in comfort wasn’t going to keep me there so back out again for more miles. The 8 hour race was starting shortly, and as they would be going out Le-Mans style from the pit lane, access was closed off so we had to keep riding the circuit until they were underway and the pit lane reopened.
Ride Well Under Way
Team Riders Waiting
My bike, despite me having serviced it and re-indexed the gears was shifting terribly. It was ride-able but not great, making a bit of a racket on downshifts, if shifting at all. I persevered for a time, but a short while after the pitlane reopened I pulled in for the guys at Gary’s Bikes to take a look. It turned out that the rear cable had split slightly and that the chain was worn. They re-indexed to accommodate as best they could and said they could fit the necessary parts later on if needed. The bike behaved more or less for the rest of the day so I didn’t actually get back to them, sorry guys – it’s good to have a team of mechanics available though and these guys knew their stuff.
As the day wore on, the miles racked up and the climbing got slower and slower as my legs succumbed to the relentless short sharp hills. Just after the midway point I had a half hour break and managed to get in a massage, professionally handled by the team of six masseurs that were working, ensuring no-one waited too long. Feeling a bit more refreshed, lunch was in order. Consisting of a buffet of sandwiches, vol-au-vents, coated prawns, fancy cocktail sausages and other buffet regulars. Although tasty, I would have liked to have seen more basic ‘cyclist’ food; pasta, sandwiches without fancy fillings and mayonnaise and the like.
Fed and watered and feeling a bit more energetic the afternoon, now in blazing sunshine went by a little easier. My turns now had become half an hour or more on track, five minutes or so off, tiredness and fatigue were setting in and looking like they were here for the day.
That Hill Again
View From The Garage
It just so happened that I managed to pop in to race HQ for afternoon tea to be served (the provided timings of the day’s menu had no bearing on that, honest) to be confronted with a glorious display of baked treats which again provided a welcome boost. The last two hours were a struggle, I can’t lie. I regularly ride for 7-8 hours but adding on those extra four was harder than I expected.
As the sun began to set and it got a little chillier, my inner energy seemed to flourish one last time as the end was in sight. Now the ride became an odd opposite to the thoughts of earlier on, in that I didn’t want it to end. Riding what I knew to be my final lap as the time had just passed 19:30, a sense of achievement rose up, and I reckoned I’d had as good a crack at it as I could. Victor and Anthony were there again to wave us in, and a quick U-turn into the pitlane the wrong way got us back to the garages and a round of congratulations with our fellow competitors.
Solo Riders, Tired But Happy
The race category winners were presented on the podium, complete with champagne, and there was a dinner and awards presentation afterwards in the main corporate hospitality building. I unfortunately had to skip this, as I had a three hour drive home and needed to be on the road again at 8am the following morning to get to the Isle of Man, but I believe a good time was had by all.
The whole day went smoothly and was very well organised and run. The facilities at Brands are excellent, and the additions organised by VU leave nothing out. There was never an issue waiting around for food, massage or mechanical assistance, which is a big thing if you are chasing a high solo target.
Ride24 give priority to solo riders but it wasn’t a problem that it wasn’t the same here. The food, on tap all day was good, but as mentioned would have benefitted from a more cyclist friendly menu (bar the cake, every cyclist likes cake).The event is also used to raise money for various charities, the players taking part also, and last I heard the total was over £65,000, a fantastic achievement.
So, did I meet my target? Sadly, no. I hadn’t considered the constant climbs, but with 61 laps raced (and a 1 lap warm up) I covered just over 161 miles and climbed over 10,000ft, so not too shoddy and I had a great time doing it.
Strava ride data (missing a few laps): http://app.strava.com/rides/21869435
- 13/09/2012 - Brands Hatch Circuit, Kent
Rating: 91.1% based on 1 review - See Previous Ratings
- Cyclothon UK - 05/09/2013 - Brands Hatch Circuit, Kent Rating: 93.3% based on 1 review - See Previous Ratings
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