Team of 4.
One rider at a time.
Complete as many laps as possible.
I was chuffed to be racing with my Team Sponge teammates Jane, Dave and Nick for the first time for this end of season blow-out. For me, it was my first race since Cholmondeley 70.3 way back in June and I was looking forward to a hit out to see how the 7 weeks of training post-whooping cough’s has gone.
We met on the outskirts of Windsor Park early Sat am to get camp pitched and registered before Jane took the first shift at midday.
Only 10 minutes into the race the red flags went up. “Stop the race immediately”. Someone took a nasty tumble so the race was stopped and restarted. It took a solid 90 minutes to scoop up the poor rider and restart the race.
Jane, Dave and Nick churned out a solid 5 or 6 laps each and then it was my turn. It was already ~5pm by this point, so the lights were on and off I went. I’d aimed to sit somewhere near sweetspot (88-92% FTP) for each ~1 hour shift, but at the end of the first one I was in trouble….I’d held just over my FTP. Ah gawd. Eejit.
But I couldn’t help it. I’d never ridden in what felt like a proper bike race before. I’d never really drafted properly before, let alone take shifts in pulling from the front. And what was this ‘flicking the elbow’ thing? It took me only a few minutes to realise that it meant I was to take over and do some work! I loved it. Short laps, frequent cheering from the team and Kezza who’d taken on the crewing duties (and was the only one of us who’d remain awake for the full duration – kudos!). I loved it, and I felt strong.
I took the Power Hour – the shift between 2am and 2am when the clocks go back. We hit a different part of Windsor Park for this shift, and Red Bull had pulled out all the stops for this nighttime bike race…loud music, lazers on the roads directing us. I was woken 10 minutes before the start of my shift, bleary-eyed and not really caring, but once on the bike I was hammering it and absolutely loving it.
Cycling at night was wicked. Sure, it’s always a little hard those first few minutes waking up, pulling your damp shorts on and clipping in, but the atmosphere was brilliant. It’s the kind of event that, with poor organisation, could become a real slog. Despite being tough, it never lacked energy, even at 3am.
After another early morning shift, my last would be the last of the race, from 11am – midday, when the laps would be totted up. I was chomping at the bit to ruin myself, and by giving it all the beans I had, managed to pass the start/finish gantry with just enough time to be allowed to squeeze out another lap.
I was proper hanging those last 15 minutes. Hanging onto a bunch of riders I shouldn’t be near. I did my turns on the front, but to do so I’d be pushing 340 – 360watts for a few minutes, then cranking hard just to hang onto the back as I had what I could of a recovery break before surging again at the front.
I’ve never been so shagged on a bike. Even on an FTP test. The constant surges, the lack of sleep, the rather pointless but very real drive to get that 7th lap in in the dying minutes of the race….so good. Crossed the finish line and the legs had well and truly departed!
Congrats to Red Bull on a stonking event.