Sunday, 26 August 2007

Kona Sleepless in the saddle

Catton Park August 14/15th, not actually racing this one, but there as my mates helper on his attempt to turn in a top ten position.
Helpers, or 'Pit Bitches' as they're known in the trade are there to provide help with food and water, minor mechanics and race times and positions.
Unusually in this game we call 24 hour solo's, the weekend weather looked spot on for chalking up a good placing. Dry, hardpacked, sunny and warm, perhaps a little too warm though. However, Nick-No-Balance's ethnic origins, and the fact he has very little surface area would all go towards helping him.
The race started at 2pm with the mandatory run to spread the field. For the next six hours all I really had to do was keep my rider watered and fed.
Straight away my experience in this sport told me that there would be many riders that would 'crash and burn'. Riders were going hell for leather, taking advantage of the dry fast conditions. I told Nick not to worry about his position until about a good seven or eight hours in, and to keep it steady and concentrate on the long term. Of course I did'nt need to tell him any of this, he knew what to do. Sure enough right on schedule riders started pulling out, tired and dehydrated. Now we could look at the standings, they were'nt bad.
The next casualties would come in after midnight. Riding tired in the dark can really make you think twice about what you are doing. And seeing youre tent and sleeping bag each lap can weaken many a mans resolve.
The dark and rain took more riders out. Nick was now within reach of his target. Even the previous years winner was no longer in the running. Nick had also by now ditched the full suspension Trance for the Kona Unit singlespeed, and soon realized why it was the weapon of choice for so many soloists.
During a short'ish break from helping, Nick had gone into 11th overnight with Rod Mason in 10th. Nick had been shaddowing Rod all the race, though it was very unlikely he could pass him. During the final hours some confusion set in, the bike Nick was running had no computer and the pit timing computers were running a few laps behind. We knew Rod had ridden to 9th, so was Nick 10th?
On the final lap I went on course to shout some last words of encouragement, it was then that I heard over the race PA that Nick was 10th. As soon as he passed me I ran to the finishing straight. He seemed to be taking for ever, then he appeared. As he wheeled down the course to give big Pat Adams the obligitory high five, the PA again annouced Nick in 10th. He had done it.
We were both very happy, but at a loss as what to do next after 24 hours of racing and mooching about. Nick after some time decided to wait until we had the official results before announcing it to the world. Unfortuneately this proved to be a wise move. What had happened overnight we don't know, but Nick was still 11th.
That is still an outstanding result, though he found it hard to swallow. We both came away from the Sits with many lessons learnt, Nick knew what he could do, and I had seen what not to do.
Needless to say we will both be back next year, though I might have a pop myself if my riding and 12 hour races go well.

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