Scotland- World 24HR Championships

Scotland is part of the United Kingdom and covers the Northern third of the Island of Great Britain.  Having some bloodlines from Scotland and having watched the movie Braveheart and William Wallace battle the English for Scottish Independence I had a dream of going there one day. This past week this dream came true as I flew across the Atlantic to the small Island nation to defend the World 24 HR title I won in Italy last year. 

Mom joined me for the first part of the trip as we did some sightseeing, got some rest, and then watched Braveheart to get fired up for the weekend. My support team flew in Friday, with Leighton and his girlfriend Candace coming from Canada and Hiran, from Radical Lights, coming in from Australia. We worked great together in Italy, ending 7X World Champ Jason English’s streak, and this year we had the added bonus of Candace in the pits and the cheering from my Mom and her friend Louis in the stands.

The race started off hard with European 24 hr champ, Matti Takhola from Finland going off the front.  Josh Tostado (USA)  and a couple others would counter
attack after I brought back Matti and they would open up a small gap.  Keeping tabs on them, eventually bridging up on the 3rd lap,  we’d ride a few laps together until I upped the tempo a bit as two of the race contenders,  Jason English (Australia) , and USA strongman Taylor Lideen were still behind and I wanted to keep the pressure on. Surprisingly Josh backed off and I’d go solo off the front for the next 7-8 hours.  Usually it’s nice to have company for the first half of these 24 hour races but I didn’t care and just kept on the offensive as I was in the position I wanted to be and I thought a good offence is a good defence!

Racing for 24 hours people have all kinds of philosophys.  Some say the real race doesn’t start till 12 hours in, some say don’t go above your threshold or certain wattages, some say pace yourself, etc etc…  In my eyes every 24 hour race is unique and the foundations of the race are laid in the first 12 hours, hours 12-18 is when a lot of riders self detonate, then the last 6 hours is a shoot out with whoever is left standing.    There’s no hiding in a 24 Hour race, your weaknesse’s will be exposed and whoever is able to best cover them up usually wins. 

At one point in the night the Americans, Josh and Taylor came back up to me.  It was nice to have company as it was getting boring riding alone after 8+ hours. Being all together our pace slowed down a bit, until the long bermed out downhill on course in which they put there droppers down and seemed to push a bit harder.  The 2nd half of the downhill was a bit gnarlier with wet rocks and roots, just like the West coast riding we have in Canada each winter.  I came around them with my high post and decided to set the pace a bit higher, and incidentally dropped the other boys in this half of the descent . Wanting to ride with these guys a bit longer I stopped for a piss and joined back with them as they came by.  This wouldn’t last long as the next lap things would blow apart and pretty soon Taylor was 4 minutes back and Josh, over 13.  He would eventually succumb to the cold wet conditions and pull out,  our Finnish friend Matti was having a tough race with a broken chain and we soon lapped him, leaving Jason as the other main contender not accounted. He was apparently drifting backwards which was a good sign as often he turns the diesel on in the middle of the night. 

With just Taylor standing in the way of my title defence, I kept on the offensive and road my pace, pitting a bit longer each lap to take precautions of any potential late race meltdowns.  The body and legs were feeling good, so the key was to keep the stomach happy, the bikes safe, and to keep lubricating the eyes as they have gone blurry in the later parts of 24 hour races before due to dryness and dehydration.  Luckily dryness wasn’t a problem in Scotland as it ended up raining or drizzling for 20 hours of the race.  The weather man called for a low of 10 celsius which sounded great for jersey and shorts riding, but he must’ve been drunk as it dipped almost down to 4 celsius.  It could’ve been worse, but I know from past history that anytime it dips below 6 degrees in the rain,  you need to be careful as the core temp can drop dramatically very fast.   My pit crew was great, making me stop twice to put on a dry jersey, and at first a light rain jacket (7Mesh Oro), and then a heavier one (7Mesh Revelation).

My pit crew was doing an amazing job with my buddy Leighton handling the bike, clothing and food, Hiran from Radical Lights looking after the lighting system and using his 24 hour experience to read the race, and Leightons girlfriend Candace taking pictures, updating social media, helping in the pit and finding a shit load of potatoes to keep the engine running the last 12 hours of the race.  Generally I can last 16-18 hours before my stomach goes sideways, making it difficult to eat anything but this race at hour 12 it started to get weird.  Asking for french fries, Candace came back with an even better option from the local concession, small potatoes with oil and salt on them.  This turned into the fuel of choice for the last 12 hours as i’d be given a zip lock bag full every time through the pits. More research is needed as the stomach is still the weakest link in these races but every time it’s getting a bit more refined.

The two Kona Hei Hei’s I was running were set up great with Shimano XTR drivetrains/brakes, WTB wheels, tires and saddles, MRP Forks, and Squirt Lube on the chains. 1 bike had a bit lower handlebar and 105 mm of travel for climbing while the other with a wider/higher bar and 120 mm of travel for a bit more comfort.   The course was one of the best 24 hour courses I’d ever raced as it was real mountain biking with some tough climbs, fun descents and a bit of fire road mixed in to recover on and pass people.  It definitely took it’s toll on the riders making it a hard ride for everyone which is what you want for a World Championships. 

It was a long night in Scotland, close to 13-14 hours with the lights on. Luckily I was running the best lights in the business, Radical Lights, and felt this was a clear advantage over the competition.  Hour 18-20 turned into the witching hours as the night dragged on and a solid Scottish storm blew in with rain and cooler temperatures.  It was on the edge of turning truly amazing but held off from going that far.  Knowing Taylor was from the sweltering deserts of the USA I figured this was playing into my favour and opted to keep it steady, and sure enough pretty soon he started to drop off in the final hours of the race.   This was a nice relief as it prevented having to go into overdrive to really put the nail in the coffin.  Dieseling around the last couple of the laps, taking longer pits, it was a great feeling knowing this one was nearly in the bag.  This was a bad thing though as I let my guard down too early and ended up crashing hard with just under 3 hours to go.  

There was a 8 foot wooden ramp near the top of the course on the first switchback of the descent, I had taken it successfully 24 times, but on the 25th attempt 

some of the chicken wire must’ve worn thin as the front tire washed out sending me 6 feet down into a pile of rocks.  My numb body couldn’t feel anything as I lay there in shock analyzing the body and checking the bike over for any damages.  I  had angels on this one as miraculously nothing serious happened except for a bloody knee and inside gash on one leg.  Before the race I had dedicated this ride to my fallen Nepali brother Narayan Gopal who had drowned in a river in Sri Lanka earlier this year while racing.   I told myself no matter what happened, I’d ride this one out for him and I swear he was watching over as a crash like that would generally result in a some serious bike or body injuries. 

Heading out into the last lap was amazing as all I had to do was not mess it up and I’d successfully defend the World 24HR title from the year before.   It’s times like these that all the hard work in the months and years leading into the race pay off.  Last year a dream came true in Italy, and this was the icing on the cake being able to defend the World title in Scotland!  Not sure what a 3-peat in Brazil next July would feel like but I’m starting to think it’s worth a shot to dig deep to try and find out.. 🙂  

One of the highlights of racing these 24 hour races is being around so many other athletes from around the World that have the same interests and crazy minds.  Each race is full of drama, and pushes you well out of your comfort zone and into some far off mental states.  I’ve never done drugs of any sort but to me 24 hr racing is a one of the best drugs around.  Racing 1 a year is enough as it gives the body time to recharge and get all fired up for the next one and it also lets the nerves properly heal.  After this one I had a hot shower to warm up and then was walking back to my pit area when my feet start to feel like fire balls.  Throughout the race I was shocked the feet didn’t give me the normal grief with hot flashes and numbness. This must’ve been because they were too cold as once they started to get circulation back it was like I was walking on burning coals.  Limping into the concession area I sat on a couch for an hour eating french fries and having my buddy Leighton try to massage some life back into the feet.  The leg was also swollen up like a goose egg as I was worried I had re-injured it after having a big crash on the same leg in BC Bike Race back in July.  It had taken 3 months to feel normal again after that one and now it was back to square 1 it seemed. 

The first 24 hour Worlds I did in 2008 in Canmore left my body in a state of shock for 2 weeks afterwards with my resting heart rate being elevated to 70 beats per minute vs the normal sub 40.  Overtime the recovery has sped up after everyone one of these races and the body seems to come around quicker every time.  For some reason it seems the body bounces back to a stronger state then it was before the race, about 10-12 days afterwards.  This must be some sort of super compensation, I’ll have to ask the smartest coach I know when it comes to analyzing a persons body, Luke Way, at Balance Point Racing.

Last year we celebrated the World title with champagne on the beach in Monaco and this year we took a steam engine train ride out to the Scottish coast for Ciders and fresh seafood.  Scotland is a gorgeous country, the weather is crap, but the people more then make up for that and the rich history is intriguing.

Next up is Nepal, first to rest/acclimitize up in the high Himalayas for a week and then onwards to try for a three peat at the World’s highest mountain bike race, the Yak Attack. A week after this will hopefully be another attempt to ride the Annapurna Circuit in under 24 hours too fundraise $5000 USD to keep the newly formed Nepal Cycling Centre open another year.  Details of this will be online soon, until then it’s time to eat some more Indian food as I have 20 hours to kill here at the Dehli airport between flights.  Someone needs to introduce the 24 hour transit visa to India as this is ridiculous.

Huge thanks to all my family, friends, supporters and sponsors who have stood by me all these years enabling me to keep chasing these far fetched mountain biking dreams around the World 🙂 

Over and out!

Picture credits: Candace Mihalcheon 

 

 

  

 

   

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