Phil, Gareth, Rak and James were tackling the first 12 hours, midday Saturday to midnight, as a team, while Mat was going for the Torchbearer 12, a solo race from midnight to midday Sunday. No 24 attempts this year!
The principal is simple enough- as many laps of a set course in the allotted time as you can do. Stacked against you are mud, rain, roots, creeping exhaustion, other riders and the knowledge you have a dry, warm sleeping back in the tent!
Here's how Phil got on:
Wow, there are only a few days that i will remember for the rest of my life and Saturday will be one of them. The 5am start to the drive west, the floods in Somerset on the way down, the blocked roads, the police, the rain, it was a challenge just to get to Plymouth! Then there was the mud. I set off 3rd, after 2 good times from Gareth and James on a full sus Cannondale that just clogged in the deep mud. I hit the deck hard on the first technical forest section and began to think I should have stayed at home but I dug deep and got round, just.
For the second lap I changed to my trusty old rigid single speed which was great, I must have passed 25 riders and I took a whole 5 mins off my first lap time. Lap 3 started just before 11pm and was ridden / run in the dark, arriving back exhausted about 11.50pm just in time to hand over to James to do the final (and his 4th) lap. James put in a good time for the last lap and brought us up to a respectable 15th place. I needed to be back with the family on Sunday so jumped in the car at midnight and headed east. 4.11am to bed. A whole 24 hours to remember.
Mat carried on where the other guys left off:
After an afternoon of watching everyone else get out and do their laps, by midnight I was raring to go. Taking Phil's advice I'd gone for simplicity and was on the rigid singlespeed, hoping what I lost in top speed and easy climbing I'd gain back in not having broken gears and getting stuck in the mud. As it turned out things didn't go entirely to plan!
My first two laps were fairly quick although the thick mud caught me out in a couple of places and dropped me on the floor until I got used to it. Super skinny mud tyres meant I could ride where everyone else was pushing, but made the rooty sections (of which there were many) something of a white knuckle ride. Two laps and I stopped to grab more water and supplies, to be told by Gareth I was only minutes behind the leader. It wasn't going to improve! On the third lap I started getting some nasty sounding noises from the cogs, but pushed on because singlespeeds don't go wrong, right? Or perhaps they do. Starting a little way into the fourth lap I started losing the chain increasingly often. The first flush of dawn was showing by now and I was a 'bit' tired to deal with a difficult mechanical, so I got used to shouting at the bike, putting the chain back on and carrying on. By the end of the lap I could barely get a pedal in before the chain unshipped and ended up pushing the last section.
Back at base I dumped the bike, grabbed a cup of tea and a bacon butty and enjoyed the atmosphere for a little while. Then I went to find a bike. Pivot cycles were doing demos the previous day and very kindly kitted me out with a very posh full suss machine (Mach 5.7, kit fans). Well, daylight, bacon, a new bike and the course was drying(ish) out, what more could you want? I smashed out a couple of fast and fun laps which Gareth told me had got me back into second place. On my 7th lap I had some suspension issues, possibly to do with total immersion of the lower bearings, but when I got back the Pivot guys swapped me straight onto a fresh bike and sent me out again. I got back before midday, so could have gone out again, but by this stage I was knackered and ready to lie down. I wasn't about to lose 2nd though! The guy in third could just possibly squeeze in under the wire to get out for a 9th lap, so I sat by the finish ready to chase if he did try. Luckily he didn't, so I went to grab some food and watch the last tired riders drift in....
The night laps had been hard work, but by the morning the course was running beautifully, with some fast and fun descents and plenty of mud surfing at speed through the trees. Probably helped by the Pivot which was a fantastic bike! I'm really grateful to the Pivot mechanics who went out of their way to get me round the course. I can't wait to go back next year, try the course in the dry and, of course, have a crack at getting 1st place!
Now there's only one question- at £2100 for the frame, which kidney do I sell to buy the Pivot?
Gareth got some good pictures, look here- http://www.flickr.com/photos/garethashton/sets/72157630500706294/
Check back here- the organisers put together fantastic videos, including their very own aerial footage. A link will appear here when it becomes available!
UPDATE- video now available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tkrqRGO7uc&feature=player_embedded