Jam Cycling does Revolve24: How to survive a 24-hr relay
Revolve24 is held at Brands Hatch circuit; famous for motorcar racing, but for one weekend, it’s taken over by cyclists. Old, young, novice, pro (Jason Kenny – hi), team riders, soloists and any other label you can think of. The idea is simple, complete as many laps as you can in the space of 24 hours. As a soloist or pair, in fours and eights; female, male or mixed teams.
Jam Cycling didn’t want to just sponsor the event. Of course we wanted to ride it too! We were assigned Garage 8 and filled it with as many of our mates as we could. We fielded a female team of 4 (EatEatRideRepeat), a mixed team of 4 (Team Attacus) and 2 male teams of 4 (Team LWLL and Team Dirty Wknd), and were honoured to be joined by our good friend, Matt Falconer who was doing the 24-hr solo category (oof) and a new friend, Max Pilbrow – also doing the full 24hr as a soloist.
The event started at 15:30 with a Le Mans-style start, where the first riders stood on the opposite side of the track to their bikes and, on hearing the gun, ran to their bikes to start the race. All our teams got fantastic starts and, with that, the event was underway!
Between 15:30 on the Saturday 15th September until the same time the next day, all riders would take it in turns to head out onto the circuit, which was 2.38 miles (3.83 km) long with 116ft (35 m) of elevation that was spread across 4 climbs, with a peak gradient of 9%.
Our teams adopted a variety of strategies, with stints on the track ranging from 30 mins to 2 hours. Each strategy has its strengths and weaknesses; a shorter stint on track means you can sustain a harder effort for that shorter time, but your rest in between stints is also reduced. A longer effort out on the track means a potentially steadier lap, but with more consistency and rhythm, and a much longer recovery. The key to success, and something all our teams did very well, was adapting to the conditions and switching up their plans when things went off track (which…they always will).
We were really lucky with the weather, it was dry and sunny; however, there was a strong and gusty wind, which was slightly frightening down Paddock Hill and particularly draining along Cooper Straight. The trick with any endurance event is to control your effort, use a lower gearing and higher cadence if you can to avoid the build-up of lactic acid and muscle soreness. I had to remind myself of this on the numerous occasions that I was faced with that brutal headwind: gear down, pedal through it.
In the end, the most difficult part was the time between riding. My team (EatEatRideRepeat) started with 1-hr stints, so we had 3 hours to recover. I attempted to follow this routine each time I finished a stint:
Cleats off, trainers on
Warm down on the RevBox (5 mins easy spinning)
Eat and drink (as much as possible. This got more and more difficult with time. The fatigue from lack of sleep was making me queasy, so eating wasn’t a barrel of laughs)
Change out of kit (hang anything that may be worn again, so it has time to dry)
Wear as many comfy layers as possible
Try to sleep or at least chill out
That last point is most difficult. Your body is wired as a result of a potent combination of adrenaline, sugar and caffeine. Your heart rate will be high and, the more tired you get, the higher your heart rate will remain, making sleep even more challenging. It’s a pretty vicious cycle.
The stints in the night were a mix of exciting and frightening. I made sure I had a really strong light (1500 lumens), but otherwise the track was not lit. Although the field was nicely strung out, I feared an overtired cyclist veering into me. This almost happened once, but in his defence, I think he was caught by a gust of wind, but managed to straighten up just in time to avoid running me off the track. On my second night-time stint, I looked down to find my front light was on a red warning (and being a new light, I didn’t know if this meant my light would leave me in the next few minutes or in the next hour) and my back light was…gone. Luckily, I was wearing a Métier gilet with integrated lights, which meant the marshals didn’t pull me of the track. Phew. I didn’t fancy legging it round the remaining half of the course to exchange lights. Lesson: Make sure your lights are fully charged for every stint.
A definite highlight was coming across friends during a stint i.e. someone you can trust to share the workload. I had 4 glorious laps on the wheels of Chris Hall, Matt Falconer and another 24-hr soloist, Leo. Chris sliced through the wind like butter and we all glided along serenely in his wake…for a short while. But, all good things must end. In this case, both Chris and I had done our stints, so we were rolling off. I knew next time I went on, I’d probably be alone and it’d feel that much harder!
Rolling off the course and along the pit lane, it was always a relief to have finished and every time, I was greeted by at least one, if not more, friendly faces. Ready to help with the transition (exchanging a slap band) and grabbing any warm layers or snacks that might be needed. If you do an event like this, having a few crew members that are there to help with the small things whilst you’re tired/flustered/panicking is awesome. We were lucky enough to have Jimmi and Emily from Attacus, who were there supporting everyone. Legends.
Garage 8 did amazingly well. Despite a bad mechanical in Team Attacus (a busted rear derailleur), a few flats for EatEatRideRepeat, numerous dropped chains all round and one front mech. giving up the ghost in Team LWLL with a few hours to go, all our teams finished in the top 25 out of 151 teams and soloists:
Team Dirty Wkend (2nd in category; 3rd overall)
Team LWLL (5th in category; 12th overall)
Team EatEatRideRepeat (1st in category; 16th overall)
Team Attacus (3rd in category; 21st overall)
Matt Falconer (19th in category; 87th overall)
Max Pilbrow (48th in category; 125th overall)
It’s hard to put my finger on what’s enjoyable about staying awake for 24 hours doing intermittent crit races… but despite the sore muscles, tired eyes and low-level queasy feeling that’s been with me since Sunday (it’s now Tuesday), my brain’s already wondering when I might do it again. I think it must be the company. The camaraderie. That awesome feeling of achieving something that not everyone can do. It’s the nonsensical conversations at 3:41 am and eating a brownie for breakfast, banana bread for second breakfast and pizza for lunch no.1. It’s descending into the darkness or finding a friendly wheel when you’re starting to feel tired or shouting “ONE LAP LEFT!” into the pitch black, and knowing someone is listening, ready and raring to go. It’s putting your body through the mill over and over again, and being incredibly surprised that it keeps going.
So, whilst I might not be raring to go and do it again any time soon, I know that when it comes around again next year, I’ll be signing up. This time with a lap count to beat!
For the full results and more information, click here.
Many thanks to Attacus for the awesome photos!