Gorrick 12 Hour: Torq In Your Sleep

Things were very close at the top of the leader board as we headed into penultimate round of the UK Endurance Series, the Gorrick 12 hour: Torq In Your Sleep. I held a very slim lead but was hopeful of extending it. Also, being a Torq-sponsored event it would be rather nice if a Bikefood-sponsored rider could get a good result, take them on on their own territory as it were.

Although the weather had been atrocious in the build-up to the event (not just the previous week but the previous five months) it was actually fairly sunny for the event itself.

We began at midday, a lap of the arena behind the quadbike to spread us out before we entered the course proper. There was the usual jostling for position behind the quad and then the start of the race was signalled by the sound of the engine being given full beans as it entered the final straight before jumping out of the way.

We all piled into the first singletrack section. Ritchie Rothwell got one corner a bit wrong, I had nowhere else to go and had no option but to ride straight into him, no harm done though and we were soon on our way again.

A big thank-you to Kevin Sheldrake for the picture
This is the first long race I have done where I have been a soloist racing not only against other solo riders but also teams and pairs racing as a relay. They all just shot off into the distance, no need to pace themselves, and it wasn’t until the end of the first lap that I found out I was actually in third place, despite the gaggle of racers in front of me. That will do nicely. Just got to keep this up for the next eleven and a half hours…

It was very close at the front. For most of the third and fourth laps Rothwell, Aussie rider Scott Swaling and myself were riding line astern, swapping second, third and fourth places amongst ourselves, great fun. Rothwell made his move on the fifth lap and started to open a gap, Swaling and I had another couple of laps together, never more than about 20 seconds apart.

At about the 6 hour stage I decided that I had to do something about him, he was starting to look he like was struggling a little, he still had the speed in the twisty bits but I was getting away on the straights. I dug in and hit the next two laps hard, trying to break him. He hung on for as long as he could but just couldn’t keep up, the next time I saw him was at about the nine hour mark, as I came passed the pits he was just sat there looking drained.

However, while this may have worked as a method of getting rid of Swaling it had done my own legs no good at all and I was starting to fall back down the field, dropping as low as 8th at one point where I began having a good fight with Graham McConaghy. The team riders were all hurtling passed at what by this time seemed an incredible speed to me, my tired legs no match for their fresh ones, they were all very encouraging to the solo riders as they came passed though.

I slowed down a little as the darkness fell but my second wind had arrived by then and this compensated to some extent, my lap times not suffering too much. I cleared the start/finish line with 12 minutes to spare before the midnight cut-off and so was able to go out for that last crucial lap, McConaghy just failed to make it round in time and so he finished one lap behind me. The final lap seemed to take forever, but I crossed the line again at 12hr50m to take 6th place and a load of valuable points.

Chris caught hold of me as I crossed the line, I vaguely remember him putting some sort of coat around me, taking me back to the van and putting me a in a bed. Although absolutely shattered, to the point where both walking and talking had been quite a challenge, I just lay there for ages staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep due to the strange mixture of adrenaline and caffeine running through my system.

Tim Dunford had taken the win despite an early mechanical problem with Rothwell also finishing ahead of me. Ben Thomas and George Budd failed to score so Dunford and Rothwell were emerging as my main threats in the series, although McConaghy could still spoil the party. In fact with four of us still capable of winning and seven still able to get onto the podium the final race was shaping up to be quite exciting.

Screenshot from the Endurance Series website. It's close at the top!
Click to make bigger

I would like to say a huge thank-you to Chris Bowles, who resumed his role as pit-crew and all round nice-guy, a role he had filled so well at the World Champs in Italy, and also to Kat MacKenzie for all their help before, during and after the race. I must also say a big well-done to Matt Sephton, my other pit crew from the worlds who took a fantastic 9th place.

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