I was 5th last year so being so close really wanted to get on the podium this time. Especially pleased because I started from the back too. I was in such a flap getting stuff ready after a crap nights sleep with howling winds and driving rain rocking the van I forgot to check my tyre pressures. When I rolled down to the traditional Le Mans style start down the course a bit I knew they were too low so I borrowed a pump from a spectator but when I unscrewed it the valve core came out with it! Started again same happened managed to keep some air in enough to frantically ride back to the trade tents and start line through spectators making their way down and went to the Torq van asked for pliers ran off to get my track pump from the van panic panic as the whole race came through next to me! Then jumped on my bike at the back and straight into a hundred deep bottle neck going into the singletrack. So first lap I maxed out my heart rate all over the place barging past people where I could and caning the climbs in the big ring trying to get back towards the front. Not the best way to start a 12hr solo. I was so full of adrenaline it took a few laps to calm down but was really pleased that laps 10 – 20 I felt like I’d just started again. Got a real lift and felt totally focused and on it and I finished with my fastest lap. Felt much fresher at the finish than last year and roaring crowd as you go through for your last flying lap to beat the clock and then for the finish is worth it on its own – a real buzz. Loads of support all the time when you do solo.

Nice course. It’s all been re-laid at Ashton court so it’s like a trail centre with an all-weather hard packed, stony, rocky surface – reminded me of Llandegla. Twisty, up and down, tight corners through trees, berms, gulleys, table tops every few yards, chunks of rock dropped into the middle of the trail all made it hard work over 12hrs and physically hard as there was no real rest to be had except the climbs if that makes sense but the main climb stayed wet so was slippery and no traction. An unbelievable head wind on the exposed climb made sure that you never got the benefit of on the way back as you were under trees then.
I’m amazed how close these things are even after 12hrs with the first three of us finishing all on the same lap only 20 mins apart. I knew after last year that you can’t stop at all over the 12hrs just basically throw empty bottles out get new ones in, gels/bars in back pocket and back out. And don’t do that too often either so I think I only came in 4 times. Eat while you’re moving. I tried to ride it same pace as the 6hr solo and see if I could just extend it. so increase your pace by a little and sustain it could take a minute a lap off and world mean a win instead of 3rd.

Great to see Mark Paul down there in Bald Faced Stag mode in at the deep end in his first 12hr solo and was going well when I saw him. He completed 9hrs 40 and 11laps to finish 37th which with little or no experience of this kind of thing is good going. It can be a bit relentless.

Report by Simon Pemberton

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