The seed was planted at our first foreign race of the year, T24 in Gits Belgium, during a conversation with some fellow competitors. The race hadn’t been good for me as I got sick and the weather had conspired against us, so I put the seed carefully away in the back of my mind.
3 weeks later, & with just 3 to go before the next race (Lakebike24 in the Netherlands), Roy and I were heading out on a long training ride from home to the coast. “How about doing Lakebike as soloists?” There, I had put the seed into the compost! “It is a fat bike class” I added, half expecting to be knocked off the trail into the nearest pile of nettles. Silence! Was that good or bad? I continued to justify my thoughts with “We could ride together like we do at weekends!” followed by “We could check with Annabelle – I’m sure she wouldn’t mind changing our entries”.
“Let me think about it” was the reply. The seed was starting to germinate!
“Go on. Lets’s do it!” The seed grew leaves!
As we normally compete as a pair in 24 hour races, which allows time to re-fuel during a race, I had to ensure that this time we were organised with a ‘grab quickly’ set-up. The weather forecast was for heavy rain during the race so we packed almost every item of cycle clothing we owned knowing that it wouldn’t be so easy to dry things out. I packed every umbrella I could find, but they weren’t going to be much use on the bikes. We were stepping into the unknown.
The course for Lakebike24 is in the woods in Best, on the outskirts of Eindhoven, and offers the riders a fun, flowing course with lots of berms and not a lot of climbing. And sand – which is perfect for racing on a fat bike. Our race plan was to treat the race like a long trail ride, and ride it together (which is how we do our training anyway). We would use each other’s strengths and also be there for encouragement during the tough times.
A full English breakfast helped to calm the nerves somewhat on race morning. The 1pm start ensured time for it to settle & for us to get hungry again.
We made a steady start, after all, 24 hours is a long time! We planned for our 1st break to be after 4 hours which, luckily for us, coincided with a huge thunderstorm which we caught the edge of. Enough rain fell to make sections of the course quite slippery & dampen down the sand in others. As we rested by the tent, riders passed showing evidence of muddy slips & slides.
Re-fuelled & rested, we headed back out onto the course for a few more laps. It was at this point that I realised that all was not well with my rear tyre – I was losing pressure making it harder going. Trying to ride with 2psi is no fun on a fat bike! I’ll never know if it was due to my ‘thorn-pulling’ exercise the previous weekend or if it would have happened anyway, I found myself having to go from tubeless to tubed in the early hours of the morning. Tiredness was beating concentration & safety so we decided to take a break. I don’t know if I managed any sleep, but Roy was soon snoring loudly.
We were back out on the course as the dawn started to break & we were racking up the laps. We went with the plan of 2 or 3 laps, short break, and continue. Our goal was to get over 200km & with each lap being 9+ km, when we reached 22 we knew that we had done just that. Time was running out to the 1pm finish so we had time to get another couple of laps in.
On checking the Garmin after the event, we had completed around 240km in the 24 hours & were both pretty chuffed. I was the 1st Female fat bike home which technically made me the Dutch Champion – but as I was born in England, I can’t claim the honour.
We finished the race in our usual understated way – beer in hand! I love the way these events finish with every team riding over the line together.
There were never any really dark moments but it was certainly not easy going. We had no expectations apart from wanting to get beyond the 200km. We had already decided that we were racing in the memory of Kevin Kopplin, a fellow Back of the Pack Racing member who sadly lost his life earlier this year. He had dug deep to complete the Arrowhead135 earlier this year when doubts had threatened to end his race. He was greeted on the finish line by the Founding Fathers with a cold beer (Minnesota, January & at nearly 11pm – of course it was going to be cold)!
Post Script: Warning – Graphic Content
During the dusk through to dawn hours, I became aware that the track was moving in front of me. At first I thought I was starting to hallucinate until Roy came up with the reason. Frogs!! They were coming out of the lake area we were riding through. It was impossible to avoid them and we were unable to avoid the inevitable frog/tyre interface.