Lone ranger for 12 hours
12 hour mountainbike race in Denmark
Photo report from Scott H12
– with Tim Wiggins on Racing solo
The sun breaks through the trees, casting long shadows on the dusty trails. Riders make their way to the starting grid with nervous chatter and friendly banter. We are at the biggest mountain bike race in Denmark – the Scott H12 in Gribskov forest.
A new mindset
Team GripGrab are fielding three teams this year: two four-man teams in the ‘Men’s Team’ category, and myself – the lone-ranger in the ’12 Hour Solo’.
Riding a bike for 12 hours is not in itself something that I find overly intimidating; I recently rode non-stop for 28 hours from northern France to the Black Forest on the #BlackForest400. What is slightly intimidating is that this will be racing non-stop, and off-road. That requires a whole new mindset. It requires constant concentration and constant effort. Add in the fact that I have not ridden a flat-bar bike for 15 months, and you can see why I have a few butterflies in my stomach…
The start line beckons though, and there is no more time to consider if this is really such a sensible way to spend my Saturday morning. I shuffle up towards the front of the grind, and fiddle quietly with my bike computer.
The gun sounds, and we are off. Dust rises through the beams of light, as hundreds of tires skid on the dusty forest floor.
The first few laps are hectic. Flat-out. Head-down. I try to hold wheels; not sure if they are the wheels of fellow solo competitors or those of the relay teams; the two strategies are dramatically different, with one a relay sprint of one lap, and the other a 12-hour solo endurance marathon.
Rein back the power
The course requires constant energy. Tight turns demand out-of-the-saddle accelerations; steep inclines demand low gear efforts; fast forest track demands pedal-thumping power. I keep pushing, but my heart rate hovers at an unsustainable level.
By lap three I have cooled things down a bit. I am unaware that my initial efforts have put me in the top position, but I know that I need to rein back the power if I am to last the full 12 hours.
I am being cautious, but perhaps still not cautious enough. On lap four I hit a tree root, hidden under the shaded pine needle covered forest floor; it throws my front wheel off balance, and I hit the deck… standing up, I check I am physically okay; but the bike’s saddle has snapped clean off the rails. There are still 10 hours left to race, and now I need to face it on a broken saddle. It seems life just got a bit more difficult.
Back on the trail, I push on. Riding hard to try and regain lost time. It is a delicate balance between speed and safety, between riding fast and riding fatigued – the endurance cycling juggling game.
I stop for ‘lunch’ mid-afternoon. It is a comical display of trying to wolf down a chicken sandwich in the shortest possible time. It does the trick though, as I return to the track with fresh energy.
That ‘fresh energy’ seems a little too abundant though, and on a relatively easy section of trail I lapse concentration, and my front tire slips out from underneath me. I go down hard, and this time cut up my hip and knee, as well as tearing the bike computer from its mounting.
I pedal on and have to stop in the pits to tape my computer back in place. I curse my over-zealous post lunch return.
Towards the end of the afternoon, my energy really begins to fade. Perhaps it is the heat, the dust, the constant concentration, or just the preceding 10 hours of pedaling. Whatever it is, my lap times get slower and slower, and eventually, in a helpless state I watch the second place rider overtake me, and my lead position rides off up the trail. I barely have the energy to try and chase.
I adopt a conservative approach for the final four laps. Pace yourself, don’t make any mistakes. It works, and I protect my second place, to roll over the line in a state of utter exhaustion.
Mud. Blood. Dust, sweat, and gears. What a race. My love of mountain biking is rekindled. Despite barely being able to stand, I already begin thinking of the next off-road challenge..
Words by Tim Wiggins
For more photos from Scott H12, please visit the full gallery on GripGrab Facebook Danmark
Read the GripGrab Guide: ENDURANCE CYCLING KIT FOR A 12-HOUR MOUNTAIN BIKE RACE, if you interested in tips on endurance racing.
Photo credits: Martin Paldan | GripGrab
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