So, how do you take the top step of the podium at the UK’s 24hr TT Championships? My journey started last year where I (Andy Jackson) won a Bronze medal in the UK 12hr National Championships achieving my ultimate goal to get an individual National medal. I’d won a gold and silver in the TTT a few years before but honestly didn’t think I could get an individual one.
Following that I went to the USA and won the UMCA titled ‘World 12 hr Championships’, which was great to win, but honestly the competition wasn’t as great as a quality UK field in a National Event, (*Aside from our very own Pete Hooper who was 2nd that day!). We (the UK) are so dis-proportionally good at time trialling we leave the rest of the world in a very long wake
I had just been made redundant (which was great!) and decided to head on to New Zealand and ride what had always been on my ‘bucket list’ the Lake Taupo Challenge. A ‘sportive’ we’d call it here, one lap (about 100m) round the lake. OR for the hardier soles do it 4x and to the ‘enduro’. Well I had to. It was great, i ultimately came home 2nd due to a number of mechanical’ on the day, but smashed the old course record by hours and it got me thinking…
Roll on ‘Champions Night’, the CTT (UK National Time Trials) awards dinner. There I had a good chat (in the gents of course!) with the 3 x National 24hr TT Champion, and as we now know the LEJOG record holder, Michael Broadwith. We talked all things and I recall joking with him I’d maybe come and give him a ‘race’.
So the season began and honestly my own season and planning was in a bit of disarray, with ensuring my clients were all ready for their own challenges I didn’t put much thought into mine. I was training hard and racing badly. But this was always in the back of my mind. There had been a few early season highlights , a great race at the epic Circuit of the Dales with a big course PB< the same at the Anfield 100 where i managed 3rd, then the National 100, another big PB for me and I was crowned Vets champion, so it started to come together.
The National 12hr Championships this year was a big disappointment. After last year I entered with much expectation – but honestly I talked myself out of the race looking at the competition. Something you should never do. My head wasn’t in it, and when my back started playing up I climbed off. That wasn’t like me and was the wake up call I needed.
Planning the UK 24hr TT Championships
Back to Anfield I got talking to old Team Swift team mate and multiple 24hr medallist Neil Skellern. Neil is one of the first people I met in TT’s, I recall sitting by him at champs night in awe of the amount of times he’d been! Neil is fairly local to the course and I thought I’d be cheeky and ask if he’d help, I could use his knowledge and his experience. It was great when he agreed and planning commenced.
Pete Hooper (mentioned above) who I also coach via Peaks Sports Consulting had entered as well. Pete has had an awesome season, with PB’s at almost all distances and club records across the board. We both discussed the mind blowing challenge of preparing for the 24hr TT Championships! I also had ever supportive (and suffering!) Helen Hall, my partner to help and support and our friend Cat Archer.
Pre race week was less than ideal, 3 days in a steaming hot London was horrible, followed by a mad run around preparing everything. There is so much!
What about this for a kit list:
- Race bike and wheels
- Road bike
- 2 sets spare wheels
- race kit
- spare kit
- night kit
- 2 helmets
- spare shoes
- Every manner of bike spares – included pedals – which I needed
- 50 OTE gels
- 30 OTE bars
- 48 sachets OTE Vanilla energy
- 4 Bachelors pot rice
- 6 home made egg wraps (gorgeous!)
- Phone number for a pizza delivery place – awesome at midnight!
- 20L water
- 6 cans of coke
- 6 cans red bull
- 6 bags sweets
- mars bars
- Home made cakes (awesome, thanks Cat!)
Now I like to plan… a 24 page presentation detailing every permeation was probably a bit much – but it made me feel like all bases were covered!
Off the start line – it all looks good then!
As race day came round, we were ready – loaded up and ready to go
We arrived with 2 hours to spare, plenty of time. Actually, no where near enough time! By the time I’d got my number, chatted with all the usual suspects who it’s great to see – and who make these events such a drawer, it was a bit of panic stations! 8 wheels to pump out, food bags to divvy up and strategy to be discussed. The late course change – i found out 15mins before I went off talking to Jasmijn Muller’s partner Chris Chadler – Bugger plans out the window! So the revised course was 6 x to Shrewsbury on rolling roads, then 10-15 laps on the Quina brook circuit, that has one bloody big hill in it. It was a pity, of course needs must with roadworks, but the original circuit on the Tern Hill / Espley section which I know well from the Anfield 100 would have been faster that is for sure. It was the same for us all, and TBH for helpers made it easier, we only needed 2 fixed points through the event, the Prees truck stop and somewhere on the Battlefield leg and the circuit.
In all my planning i’d researched Mike’s winning rides and settled on his last years splits as a schedule. It was always going to be interesting after his awesome efforts taking the LEJOG record to see how he’d recover just 5 weeks after. My strategy was go out HARD. I wanted people to know a race was on (also i know no other way!). I was up by mile 1, and pushed on, although it wasn’t ‘stupid’ hard, well within Zone 2 so manageable. I knew the keys to success would be:
- staying aero when everyone else sits up
- never giving in
- quality time checks
I went through my first check point 4mins up on my schedule, about 4.07 for 100m. The rolling roads of the first 100 i actually quite liked, they were fast and if you chose your effort careful you could save energy and stay fast. the team were awesome, no handing up mistakes, great communication. Game on. The 2nd 100 was going to be slower as included a stop for the night change and fitting of lights. This was around 9.30pm and I had about 10mins stopped getting ready, wolfing down some food then off again. All told I still managed to make about another 3mins on this. by 12hrs I clocked 276miles. Mind blowing TBH as that would (and is) a great pb for many!
I loved the night riding, quiet, serene and great fun. Everything even (very) familiar roads as they were now becoming change. Dodging badgers and bats only added to it! Come day light i was still feeling really good and looking forward to moving on. The revised circuit has a hill on the A49 which is not a load in itself, but multiple repeats makes it a grind.. When riding like this you have much to think about – I worked out I’d climbed it 26 times and would end up with over 15k feet of climbing in the event! The Quina Brook circuit was great though, some fast narrow lanes, a great right , left right, left of sweeping bends, that I worked out a good line on and you could push at full pace which was great fun.
The camaraderie in the race, and at the road side was fab, the party at Prees and the great shouts of encouragement – thanks everyone it was amazing! A few stick out, Helen, Mike Broadwith’s partner was great, without fail every time I went past clapping and shouting. As were the guys with the caravan at the bottom the BIG hill. Doug Hart’s parents and wife, Doug himself did a great ride with 492+ miles for a HUGE PB and club record. I saw Steve Abraham taking video on the roundabout, and Richard Haigh, a stalwart of the YCF was encouraging with some great shouts as to how fast (fastest on the circuit) I was lapping on the finish circuit.
As morning dawned I was 2 full laps up of the circuit up on everyone else (about 20+ miles) and I’d passed everyone. Now was time to consolidate and make sure I finished. 24 hrs is a LONG time and so much can happen that you need to stay sharp.
Both Hoppo and Jasmijn Muller had nasty tumbles, get well both, that just show what a challenge the event can be on the body (from all angles)
So the day cracked on, the body starts to rebel. Everything hurts. I probably used a tub of Chamois cream, my feet were KILLING. I realised my tight overshoes were not the thing for a 24hr TT Championships. I had terrible cystitis, which i realised was from all the acidic drinks. A quick thinking Helen ran to the service station for some cranberry juice and a move onto water and that was sorted. 8am brought a sausage sandwich – that was perfect to wake me up, and (another) Red Bull!
I must apologise to the Marshall on the Quina brook circuit, at 9.15am I was sent on ANOTHER lap (about the 15th in total) when i was convinced I was heading to the finish circuit. I uttered the odd choice expletive! Sorry!
So by about 10am we were all heading down the fast decent back to Wrexham, that was actually super quick and great fun. By now i was now calculating what I could do. 540m looked realistic – If i could hold just over 22mph on the finish circuit. It soon became clear I was being optimistic! I hadn’t really had much of a bad patch, but things started to creep in. The first finish circuit lap was naggingly slow, and the climb to the roundabout horrible. by now it was 535, maybe stay above 530?!
Helen , Cat and Neil were awesome here, literally forcing me to eat – which I needed, At this stage in an ultra event you feel the energy draining with every pedal stroke. The power drops, the speed slows. Each gel literally bumped the speed up massively. It was hard but it had to be done.
With around 10mins to go, coming to the HQ, I spied an Arctic Tacx kit in front of me, it was multiple past winner Mike Broadwith. It was great to ride together past the HQ and have a bit of a chat. So that was that!
Not quite so smart looking at the end!
its only when you stop, you realise how much you hurt. I literally fell off the bike and just lay down. I was absolutely no help loading up and could barely talk let alone fill the car! After Helen, Cat and Neil (thankyou!) had loaded up we said good byes and HUGE thanks to Neil & Cat and headed in to the HQ. For those not accustomed to such an event the results are not straightforward and can take a while. Simply on the finishing circuit are 3 (broadly) evenly spaced time keepers, you ride past your allotted finish time (for me 2.23pm as I started Saturday 2.23pm) and stop at the next time keeper. They then work out your average speed for that section to work out your total distance. SO it takes a while!
After about an hour the official results were in . For me 1st with 530.6miles (provisional). Very satisfying, especially when it puts me 3rd in the all time list, behind Mike (who has done 3 x 530+ rides) and record holder Andy Wilkinson and a good 10miles to the next best time. http://www.24hourfellowship.org.uk/
To be presented with the below that has been running since 1937 was a huge honour, and to share the podium with such an illustrious pair as Nick (Icarus Velo) Clark and Mike Broadwith was great.
As always the organisation of such an event is huge, thanks to Mersey Roads for organising and all the un paid helpers who make it possible for nutters like me to do this.
You can see the state of me!
Finally huge congrats to all other winners, Crystal Spearman winning the ladies and Team winners Artic TAcx (mens) and Born to Bike (womens).
Will I be back? Don’t ask me now! Although Borrego Springs 24hr is a thought, well I’ve won the 6 & 12hr! I think adding the 24 would be a HUGE ask!
Finally – the next person who asks me when / If I am doing LEJOG is for it ! Not a chance!