Bontrager (the company) has sponsored a 24 hour race in England for the last two years. Bontrager (me) helps out with it. I've done 60 of these things now so I have a decent feel for what a good race is like. We've worked hard and done our best to get it right and it has worked out in most ways. The rest has been good instruction. Some of what goes into a good event is out of our hands, though.
English weather has a bad reputation, though it was never clear to me that it was deserved, based on my experiences there. I've raced quite a few times in the UK over the last 12 years and have only been really muddy a few times. The UK weather extremes I'd faced were typically somewhere in between warm and pleasant to clear and crisp. I know, that sounds wrong, impossible really, but it's true. After the last two years I'll admit that my run of luck, if that's what it is, seems to have come to an end.
We had a good course for the inaugural Twentyfour12 event, but English weather intervened and it all went wrong when it was wet. We had no idea what it would be like when it rained because we didn't test it when it was wet. There wasn't that much rain on race day overall, but it dumped down pretty hard for a half hour or so at one point. That combined with some clay soil on the first part of the course and the resulting grease effectively stopped the race for a few hours. The clay became too slippery to ride and some of the short climbs were too slick to even hike. My friend Julie called the worst of it "Bambi-ing". You run out of traction and have to stop, so you get off your bike. Then you are barely able to stand because it is so slick. Your feet slip out from under you when you try to take a step and you crumple to the ground helplessly, just like Bambi when she was learning to walk. Then it happens again. There was no way around it - you couldn't make any progress on that part of the course without crawling. It's not bike racing, and it sucked.
It isn't the first time I have seen races affected severely by weather. I still have clear recollections of a rider actually crying along the side of a course in West Virginia during a particularly muddy 24 hour session there.
Luckily, the weather turned better that afternoon and the clay dried up enough to be race worthy soon after that. Equally luckily was the fact that English racers end up with a fairly good sense of humor about the weather, so the race went on and ended on a positive note. I don't recall any reports of tears, either. Hardy Brits… It was a valuable lesson though, and came as close to a disaster as I'd ever want to be again. The mistakes we made the first year were honest ones, though possibly naïve. But no shortcuts were taken. We were using the venue for the first time, and we didn't get to ride it in the rain beforehand.
To read the complete diary entry, click here.