The 6-12-24 Hour World TT Championships: An Experiential Report
I had known of the 6,12, and 24 Hour World Time Trial championships for a couple of years but never really thought about doing it. One day out of curiosity I perused their website on the particulars and my interest was piqued. The real kicker was that it is held in Borrego Springs, just down the hill from where I live. It is one of my favorite places to ride on the road with light traffic and no stop lights.
One problem that needed solving was my lack of a proper time trial bike; the only one I owned was my trusty, old titanium 29er mountain bike. I researched some specifics regarding a proper bicycle to ride for a race of this length and concluded that an aero position and fast rolling tires were the two major factors that I needed to consider. So I modified the 29er with aero bars, a reverse setback seatpost and some fast tires that would be comfortable and roll well on the fairly rough 18-mile loop course. I started out with some highly regarded 25 c tires but ended up with 44 c wide tires because they were just as fast but more comfortable and stable, and flat proof; I ran them tubeless.
I made the trek to Borrego several times a week in the late afternoon to prepare for the race and started bumping up my time on the bike. I started out at three hours and increased my time so that my last ride was 12 hours and I didn’t finish until 3 in the morning. During training, my major issues on the bike were keeping my bottom, feet and neck somewhat comfortable. The most challenging issue to tackle was my feet. I was using clip less pedals, but developed a hot spot and sore feet after just 4 to 6 hours. I changed to more of a touring clipless shoe that helped but still gave me issues. I finally threw flat pedals on the bike and knew on my that ride that they were the answer to keeping my feet comfortable. Additionally, I spent well over 95 percent of the time training in aero bars so my neck got quite a workout.
My wife Shirley took care of crewing for me along with our good friends Alan and Elaine. They were critical to my success, they fed me, ran errands for me, and kept me hydrated and going. All I had to do was to ride my bike while they did all the hard work.
Now, just because they let me enter doesn’t mean it isn’t a serious event, riders from all over the globe entered this year including 4 World record holders. I definitely felt as if I had brought a knife to a gunfight. I started in the fourth of five waves and watched as most riders disappeared into the darkness. A little after two laps in, the leader of the race whooshed passed me, followed by 3 more riders chasing a guy flying along on a recumbent.
I tried to keep my spirits up by reminding myself that this was a 24-hour event, and that doing something stupid like pushing myself too hard at the beginning was not going to end well. Riding with others was a lot different than my lonely, but enjoyable, training rides. I only had one moment where I felt like I was drifting off to sleep. It was when the road looked as if it had suddenly morphed into a huge cliff drop-off that I was jolted back to awareness. I had been avoiding taking in caffeine but after that, I got on the phone to Shirley and demanded coffee.
“I tried to keep my spirits up by reminding myself that this was a 24-hour event, and that doing something stupid like pushing myself too hard at the beginning was not going to end well.”
Dawn arrived and the nighttime temperature was cool enough for two layers. After 10 AM it really started heating up with highs in the low 90’s throughout the afternoon. The heat, sun and effort started taking their toll on just about everyone. I noticed the leaders weren’t passing me with as much vigor as they had earlier in the race. Many had come from much colder climates and their bodies weren’t prepared for the heat. I kept plugging away, kept my heart rate down, and came into the pits every lap towards the end for a quick break and to take in some cold fluids.
At the end of my last lap I was to move into doing the shorter 4.7-mile loop but decided that I had enough and was satisfied to sit out the last hour of the race and visit with some friends who had come down to cheer me on. I was able to get in 18 laps or 324 miles for 4th out of 8 in my division. All in all it was an amazing experience, and a well put together event. I hope to be back next year but it will be the 6-hour race on a tandem with Shirley!
Christoph Strasser, the 24-hour world record holder, put in 550 miles just short of setting a new world record. He was upset because the conditions for a record were there but the heat took the opportunity away. However he won overall and set a new course record. Second place went to Jason Perez on a recumbent with 510 miles. Seanna Hogan won the women’s division with 433 miles. Jasmijn Muller from England was on pace to break the women’s world record but had to drop after 19 hours due to the heat. In the 12 hour race Dede Griesbauer won the overall and it appears she may have set a world record in the process.