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Dusk 'til Dawn 2008

Sunday, October 4th 2009

Our team of four had done a great job at Sleepless In The Saddle, finishing in the top third. But Ian lives in the Lake District, and decided Norfolk was too far away to drive to for the three hours of cycling he'd get out of a 12 hour race. So, it would be Eldrik, Andrew and I trying to do a good job back at Thetford, scene of our first ever endurance race.

But then, a few weeks before the race, disaster struck. Eldrik came off his bike and landed heavily on his wrist. He thought it was just sprained, but two weeks later when it was still hurting, he got it checked properly and found that he'd fractured a bone. It required an operation to fix properly, and so Andrew and I were left to take on D2D as a pair. Eldrik would still come along but definitely would not be in a fit state to ride.

The weather forecast

Our two previous races in 2008 had been marred by rain. Not just a few drops, but wild lashing storms which had cause the Met Office to issue severe weather warnings. All summer we'd been clinging onto the hope that D2D would be dry. Surely we couldn't have three wet races in a season. Surely. But no, once again rain was forecast. And once again the forecast had a big red banner at the top saying Severe Weather Warning. We drove up to Norfolk under heavy skies.

The weather taunted us by briefly turning quite warm and sunny. In the early afternoon Andrew and I set out to pre-ride the course, and our lap would prove to be the highlight of the weekend as we rolled through 12 miles of swooping single track in a very relaxed way.

Rain again

But soon enough, the rain began to fall. Eldrik cracked open another beer. He was finding that the worse the weather got, the less he was disappointed about not riding. By 8pm it was miserable. Andrew took on the start, and put in two metronomic laps of an hour and a half each to put us around 60th out of 80 in our class. As I grabbed the baton off him, he didn't look like he'd enjoyed it much.

I headed out into the forest. I soon found that some of my gear combinations were slipping, which was not much of a problem on the fire roads but a huge problem in the bomb holes. The first one came up after a couple of miles, and as my gears clattered I put my wheel slightly off the line, and tumbled into the bottom of the pit. Then at the second one, I powered down into it, only to run out of gears right at the lip on the way out. I fell spectacularly backwards, taking another rider with me and landing on some nettles. "FOR FUCK'S SAKE!!", screamed the other rider, picking his bike up and riding on without another word. I followed, struggling to find gear combinations that worked.

I didn't have mud tires on, and already a lot of fire road was extremely slippery. I pushed on and made it back in 1h45, to find Eldrik waiting at the pits with a new bottle of water. I was going to go straight out for another, but I thought it would be prudent to stop to check out my gears and maybe fit mud tyres.

Giving up, shamelessly

I'd been tweaking the gear adjusters while I was out on course, but in vain. We found a mechanic with a couple of minutes to spare and asked him if he could take a look. He hauled the bike up onto the stand, fiddled about for a few minutes and said that should do it. I was very grateful, but sadly it didn't do it, and a brief test ride showed that the problem remained. The rain was lashing down, and quite frankly I just couldn't be bothered to try and sort the bike out. If it had been our first wet race of the year, I'd have been fixing and riding for sure, and even if it had been our second wet race I'd have probably tried to sort it out. But three race weekends with severe weather warnings? The prospect of a third lap of horror on a muddy course did not appeal.

I went back to the tent. Andrew was fast asleep. I woke him to see if he fancied putting in another lap, and as the rain battered down on our tents I was not surprised at all that he didn't. We do these races for fun, and there was no fun to be had here. Without any regrets at all, we gave up.

Maybe next year

In the morning it was still raining, and the riders who were still going looked weary and miserable. We packed up our soaking tents and headed back to London. We've done D2D three times now, and each time we've failed to fulfil our potential. I find 12 hour races oddly much more challenging than 24 hour races, and I'd probably prefer to stick to the 24s from now on. But this, this is unfinished business. I reckon we'll be back for one last go at it next year.

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