After riding my first solo night race at SiS (Schlaflos im Sattel) in 2009, I was in the hunt for something bigger and better. I'd been talking to Isaac during the SSEC race in Dresden, and listened with interest to his experiences of endurance solo racing. SiS was already on the cards and it gave some good training for the Oetztaller Radmarathon in late August. Looking back, SiS was physically and mentally very tough. Riding through the night, suffering from cramp after four hours, and struggling with motivation, finishing the race at dawn I was very emotional. As far as motivational support at the race, it was about the best I could have hoped for. Cheryl my wonderful girlfriend was always on hand to give me my drink bottles and buy me a braatwurst. Ed was shouting abuse every time he spotted me, and shoved a caffeine laced gel down my throat when the sleep monster came knocking. Without this support, the lapping of this course would have been too tough for me. My training in the lead up to this race neglected night riding and sleep deprivation. I understand this is a contentious issue, but knowing how to deal with it is very important. Descending at 40kph on a technical section requires a lot of concentration, often sorely lacking at 3 a.m.
Riding SiS solo opened my mind to the enjoyment and satisfaction of riding at night and over longer distances. It was time to find the challenge on the next rung. The 24h of Finale Ligure quickly came into scope after talking to the Italian and German contingent. Stories of the sunrise over the Ligurian sea making the butterflies flutter, and very quickly I had registered for my 2010 obsession. A fellow BWR-e team member was enlisted to help with training, and after a cold and wet winter, a few sickness periods, and the arrival of spring, it was time to head for Italy. My condition has never been better this early in the season, so I was confident of attaining my main goal of finishing the race. In hindsight, "finishing" is too vague a goal. I can finish by sleeping 8h during the night and then doing the last lap at full speed. This however had nothing to do with my definition, firmly believing racing a 24h race is all about non-stop riding. So, my goal, ride the race, no sleeping. With the outlook to a 2011 ride down the Continental Divide, it was time to get used to pedaling for a long time.
I arrived at Terre Rosse, venue for the 24h of FL on Wednesday after a long train journey. This gave me some time to recce the course and also acclimatise to the improved weather. Rain had just passed, but the course was already dry and dusty, so I prepared to chow down on the red and white stuff for 24h. The weather was constantly improving, less cloud, more sun, temperatures on the rise. By Friday they were predicting 30C on race day, not the kind of conditions I ride often, let alone during my toughest race. Not to fret, the strategy, as outlined by my coach Justin, was to take it "easy" until sunrise, then start burning my matches. The hottest part of the day should be disposed of without too much fuss.
The rest of the post is in progress, I promise it'll be done by the weekend with lots of pictures.