The best laid plans of mice and men

Born to Bike RT at the Mersey Roads 24 Hour July 2016:

In May everything seemed to be going to plan,  Jacqui Hobson was training hard, albeit more in an anti-gravity way due to limited time, but then like Lynne, she knew what was needed to get herself in good form for a 24hr, after all, this would be her fourth one. Lynne was into her normal training and racing routine of 25’s, 50’s, and 100’s; she also managed to fit in a Championship 12hr of 242m, coming third behind Crystal Spearman and Born to Bike’s Champion Katja Rietdorf winning with 258m on a tough, wet Welsh course. As always, the target for the Born to Bike womens squad in 2016 was to ride as many Championships as possible and also to win team awards.  Everything was going fine, Jasmijn was building up for her attempt at the Land’s End to John o’Groats record in 2017 by using 100’s, 12’s and the Mersey 24hr as part of the team; – that was until halfway through a reconnaissance ride over the End to End route when she picked up a stomach bug.  To continue her journey and in an effort to recover from the bug, Jasmijn took a train from Cumbria to north of Edinburgh; sitting for hours without exercise and possibly suffering from de-hydration created a DVT, from which she is still recovering.

That meant Plan B had to be activated; – where to find a third rider for the 24hr team? Lynne and I had often talked to other members of the squad about trying a 24hr, but they tended to back away quite quickly, except for one person; – Libby!  Perhaps the mistake we made was in trying to entice riders after they’d ridden a hard 50, or 100 on a bad day, with them imagining having to race like that for 24 hours. Libby’s eyes glazed over a little when we said about her having a little cat-nap occasionally during the 24hour if needed, plus the fact you could eat what you like, and didn’t have to continually drink carbo.  We also said the camaraderie with other riders and their support teams was amazing, plus the fact that once you get to the finishing circuit, everyone applauds and cheers you on. Then there’s the relief of lying on the grass afterwards, which has to experienced at least once in a lifetime; also the proud feeling of going up to receive a CTT Team award medal at the HQ with an invite for two people to the awards night in January at a posh hotel; – well that finally persuaded her.

Libby at speed
Libby cruising around the Mersey 24 Hour Course; her first of many races to come!

In all seriousness, Libby didn’t take too much convincing, but time was running out for getting stacks of miles in before the 24hr, and despite some longish rides with Lynne, Steve and John on a Welsh coast holiday that was it.  What was, or wasn’t done was irrelevant now, and as long as Libby had that goal of finishing, that was all that mattered. Her husband John was happy to look after her, and even more happy when we said that all he needed to do was wait at Prees in a tent and give her food every couple of hours or so. With a café and a chip-shop within tripping distance (over the guy ropes) and a night out to look forward to in January, he too was convinced. On the day, Bob Awcock came out to assist John before dashing home at midnight to ride a Vet’s 25 next morning. Bob showed a lot of interest in the race, so we may have another Born to Bike member riding next year with Dave Pemberton, and if we can find one more, then we have a men’s team as well.  Now who could that lucky person be? – – Whatever happened to J.C.?

As with all events of this nature, keeping a men’s or women’s team of three going without a back-up rider relies on fate or fortune; sickness, accident, mechanical failure, or total fatigue, it’s all in the hands of Lady Luck. Arctic Tacx RT swept the board with 1st,2nd and 4th place, but equally as important was their Team competition record, beating the previous figures by over 100 miles. Born to Bike ladies team didn’t break a record, but they did draw a lot of praise from supporters around the course, especially at the HQ when the medals were handed out. What struck me about the winner Mike Broadwith, was when he passed riders in the first few hours of the race, we heard him say -“have good ride!” Afterwards at the HQ, just before the awards, he sat outside sprawled across a seat and the first thing he asked me was “how is Lynne, I think we’ve both struggled today, and how are the other two, did your team finish?” At which point I congratulated him and said that everyone was fine thanks, and yes, all the team finished.

Jaqueline at Prees
Jacqui at Prees Roundabout well into the race

We couldn’t have claimed the ladies team award without the brave efforts of Jacqui, Libby, and Lynne.  We expect it of Lynne, after all she’s the one everyone looks up to when it comes to riding ‘24’s, but Libby and Jacqui, you were amazing, the way that you kept riding. During the day in normal racing kit it was difficult to tell who was coming towards us, was it Libby, Jacqui or Lynne, they all looked good, so during the night it was near on impossible!

Libby’s husband John had a tent/gazebo at Prees so he could see her on a regular basis, and I know she was partial to beans on toast at one stage; I also heard the word ice-cream mentioned, but whatever it was she eat it must have suited her as she always looked happy. Being on different sides of the course meant we didn’t see Jacqui very often but nevertheless she looked cheerful, unlike last year when she struggled to eat and had to rest on the grass verge, what a determination to finish on both occasions. Due to the field being spread out over a 20mile section of road, or on a 12m circuit, we often went four hours or more without seeing either of them, so it was such a relief on finding them, knowing we still had a team. Jacqui’s partner Andy, and her brother kept her going.

Lynne as ever, gave it everything she’d got, knowing that to maintain a lead over the second placed rider requires a lot of work, especially when some riders have no previous performances at 24hrs, and on the day it is difficult to gauge what they are doing, or where they are, what they are capable of, have they done the full course etc.  Steve and I checked and calculated meticulously for the first 100m, to make sure she was in the lead from the next woman by at least 30mins, but once the Quina Brook circuits were entered after 7pm until darkness, it was difficult to be sure. Lynne’s estimated 100m was 4hrs-52mins, and provisional 12hrs was 237m.

Lynne at Prees
Lynne on her way to her 7th National 24 hour title

The temperature at the start was 27C and at midnight it was still 21C, only dropping to 16C during the wee small hours till dawn. Most riders opted to wear shorts all night, and we didn’t get the normal chilly air between dawn and 8am so there was nothing to take away the ‘hotfoot’ Lynne had suffered from the 100mile point. She loosened the velcro straps; she tried wearing loose shoes, and old shoes, but whatever she did made no difference at all. Even dousing her feet with a cold wet sponge didn’t cure it, but then it is the inability to spread your foot out and flex your toes (as when walking) that keeps the hot-foot sensation going. It is pressure across, and on the cuneiform bones that causes it.

Liz met up with us at 5.30am to give Steve a break, she brought hot coffee, fresh toast, lots of enthusiasm, and we shoved as much kit as we could manage in our little white van. Steve parked up on the Quina Brook circuit to have a sleep while Liz and I looked after Lynne. Throughout the race she’d had three short comfort stops, those in the hours of darkness were also for checking and changing light batteries and Garmins. She was sick in the night, which is a regular occurrence for her, often as she’s riding along. Once night time was over, we knew they would all have renewed courage; see more people they knew in daylight, and as long as they could survive a few more Quina Brook circuits till 10am, they would be almost home and dry as the saying goes. The breeze picked up on the open spaces of the main road, which helped push their tired bodies to the finishing circuit. Liz and I saw all four of them on that road towards Chester, and they still looked good; determined to finish. Once they reached the finishing circuit we breathed a sigh of relief. Steve was stationed on another part of the circuit, and Liz and I stayed put.  On finishing, Lynne was credited with 418m, Jacqui 345m and Libby 305m. These mileages are only provisional, so they may change on the final result sheet.

Dave Pemberton had a good race, his sister, Anne came out to help him until well into the night. He ate and drank well and always looked in control; – that was until he reached the finishing circuit and crashed, probably on some gravel. He suffered painful bruising and skin abrasions to his arm and leg, nevertheless he still carried on for a mileage of 331.4m. It must have taken a lot of courage to continue, I know what it’s like to ride when your skin is ‘smarting’ and your muscles are stiffening up with every pedal stroke. I don’t know how much time he lost, or what his mileage would have been without the fall, but his performance couldn’t have been used as part of a ‘mixed’ team, as it has in the past, due to recent CTT rulings.

Dave Pemberton  at TK 6 - 3
A solid and brave ride from Dave after going ‘cross country’ (not through choice) on the finishing circuit

We heard during the event that Hayley Simmonds had broken Comp Record with 1-42-20 in the Shaftesbury 50m, and that Born to Bike’s Chris Melia rode 1-52 in the same event, -both amazing rides. Then I recalled 2009 when Lynne had a short break from riding 24hr events in order to concentrate on the BBAR, she came out to the 24hr late on Saturday tea-time and said she’d ridden 1hr-51m in the Shaftesbury 50, so nothing changes, does it; I’m also pretty sure she came 2nd in the BBAR that same year! She asked how Marina was doing, and as she stood there watching the riders go past on the Quina Brook circuit in 2009, I saw the look on her face that said ‘I’d rather be riding this 24hr than dashing all around the country trying to find courses for fast BBAR rides.’

National Team Champions - 24 hr v2
All smiles on the finishing circuit

I’m sure 24hour riders are a breed apart, and whatever your ability is, once you’ve ridden one, the need to ride another comes back every year, like a homing instinct. For me it is the ultimate in time-trialling, and the Mersey Roads event is the one to ride, or watch. Like Libby, why not give it a try next year; we can all give you sound advice to allay any doubts you may have. If riding doesn’t appeal to you, why not come up to Shropshire/Cheshire to encourage the team, or be part of a support crew?

This was Lynne’s 22nd 24hr, her 7th Championship win, her 15th Merseyside Ladies win, and the Turner Cup.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this report, why not join the 24Hour Fellowship for an even more detailed account, plus many more articles and stories about long distance time-trials and RRA road records.

                                             John Taylor  President of Born to Bike-Bridgtown Cycles.


* All photgraphs in this report are courtesy of Martin Purser



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