Despite poor weather forecasts in the week, it wasn’t looking like too bad a day for a 12-hour race. I wasn’t feeling too nervous, and actually managed a few hour’s sleep the night before. I think I was finding hard to get excited about this race after doing so well at Roth the month before.
Rolling off the start, I was soon into a steady, quick pace and enjoying the early miles through the lanes before the A11. Off at no. 5, I’d caught and passed all those in front of me by the time I hit the A11. I had the road to myself until just after the first turn when no. 10 went by. The early stages of a 12 are tricky to pace. Am I working too hard? Not hard enough to get a decent result? I trundled along hoping I’d got it right. Andy Wilkinson passed me pretty quickly along here (and many times after), on his way to a new competition record.
The early circuits are on the southern/western section of the A11 here, and not my favourite bit of road. It’s a bit exposed and there was a slight southerly breeze making the leg down to Thetford harder work. I plugged away, stopping for my first change of bottles/camelbak and more food after 4:17 and about 94 miles. I dumped my armwarmers too. On the next lap we were sent to the eastern lap, which I prefer, although I was a bit cautious on my first circulation of it. I could see storm clouds gathering and at the end of my third lap of this circuit and the roads were wet at the far end. It was getting dark overhead, I stopped again for a second refill, just short of 8 hours ridden.
As well as another camelbak fill (I just put a new bladder in, I don’t need to refill the old one), I put my armwarmers on and stuffed some more bars and gels into my back pocket. This next lap was a real test, there was a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder and the heavens opened. The roads quickly flooded and I was soon soaked. The wind was very blustery and this lap was my slowest of all those on the A11. Turning to start my last A11 lap, I was pretty much on exactly the same schedule as in 2010, when the race was stopped at this point (an accident had closed the road). It was chucking it down and I was getting a bit cold and a bit fed up. Fortunately the storm had mostly passed by the time I got to the far end of this lap although there was a lot of spray.
I was turned off the A11 with a little more than 2 hours left to ride and I knew that it was going to be tight for me to break the competition record of 255.88 miles. If I’d been allowed to do one more eastern A11 lap I’d have been comfortably ahead of the record, but you’ve got to head to the finishing circuit when you’re told! (although it’s only 4 miles from the A11). I would rather I’d been comfortably ahead or a long way behind the record, but with it being so close, those last two hours were torture. I sprinted out of every corner and struggled up every incline. My time expired on an uphill section and I had a 4 minute flat out effort to get to the next timekeeper and collapse on the ground shortly after.
My bike computer had been reading 256.2 when my time expired, but you can never trust those, and by the time I’d trundled back around the finishing circuit to the HQ (typically, I’d finished about as far away from the HQ as possible) the provisional results were starting to come through. It looked like I’d missed Ralph Dadswell’s 1993 trike record by just 300 yards, which was hugely disappointing, but just one of those things, I guess. If we’d been racing head-to-head he’d have been just 30 seconds ahead at the end (and 19 years younger). At the age of 48 (same as me) Andy Wilkinson had set a new bike record, smashing the old mark by 12 miles to record 317.9 miles, very impressive.