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collectiveriderblog/oneeightnine – 12 hour

Pip raced the National 12-hour Champs a month ago – Now that the results have finally been published here’s her take on what it takes to ride 268 miles in 12-hours…

12-hour time trial, call me mad, but it’s my favourite distance. Last year I decided to ride a 12 hour TT to see if I could beat our club women’s record. At this point, I didn’t know if I could even ride for 12 hours, let alone race it. A lovely sunny day on the Norfork course (B12/2) proved to me that I could ride at a solid pace relatively comfortably with only a few stops. This saw me ride 260.527 miles, beating the women’s record by over 40 miles and left me only 7 miles away from the men’s club record, which has been held by Peter Croft since 1982.


Peter came to our club dinner last Winter and took the time to congratulate me on almost beating his record, and to set the challenge to do exactly that in 2018. Peter Crofts was 11th in the 1967 BBAR with 1-57-03, 4-3-19 and 263.33, he also won the Southern Counties C.U. 12 in 1969 with 253.73 miles. Remember that at the time, riders were on standard road bikes with handbuilt wheels – tri-bars did not surface till 1991 and everything else we take for granted followed years later. Peter was still riding for Southborough and District Wheelers well into the late 90’s and set his best 12 hour on the O12 in the north midlands, with a distance of 267.742 miles.

Fast-forward to 2018 and the National 12 hour this year is on a fairly local course (H88/12) in Hampshire – the course is known to be fairly quick , helping Chris Boardman amongst others, set PB’s and National records. The course layout means that we race the full 20-mile circuit of the A31, for 2/3rds of the day, before moving on to a finishing circuit of just over 14 miles, still on the A31 where there are (in theory) marshals every mile along the way to record distances when we reach 12 hours – for example I was number 23 which meant I started at 07:23 and finished at 19:23 at which point the next marshal on the road would record my number and therefore work out my exact distance.

The road surfaces left something to be desired and the blustery conditions changed throughout the day – mentally it was quite tough going. I’d ridden the course previously although with 8 races cancelled, shortened or abandoned at the beginning of the year due to weather or road works I’d not spent as much time on preparation as I would have liked. That said I had managed to squeeze a 100 mile TT in earlier on in the season improving my PB to 4:16:13 and bettering Carole Gandy’s club record in the process. This helped me calculate what would be possible and along with some maths from Glen, my plan was to stick slightly ahead of 22.3 mph which would see me reach the 268mile mark I’d need to claim the outright club record. My actual target became 270 miles so we had a few miles to play with.

So after a 4 am start (3 for Glen to load everything up) we arrived at HQ at 6, when it promptly started raining and was fairly breezy. I knew from checking the weather that it was going to be a headwind travelling away from Farnborough which is the preferred direction as that side has more shelter. We found a spot near the start to set up and I lightly warmed up my legs before heading to the start. The initial tailwind made me nervous but I soon realised that I had to capitalise upon it and after 2 hours I was comfortably ahead of my schedule and lying in 4th place having covered 43.3 miles in 1:53:37.

The race really was on from the gun – The first time/mileage check at 2 hours put me only 25 seconds up on 5th place and just over 1:30 down on 3rd place. As the rain stopped the wind picked up and my average speed dropped – I was actually ready to give up at 60 miles, but I just managed to keep the average speed above the target and kept pushing as hard as I thought was wise. After 4 hours I swapped bikes for the first time – Glen had my second bike loaded up with food and drink so there was no need for me to slow down to take bottles This allowed me to keep concentration and lessened my overall stopping time from 11 minutes last year to only 2.5 this year.

After some blended rice pudding the wind eased for a bit and I made sure to dig deep. There was one hill in particular that was really hurting, but luckily it was an obvious place for helpers to hand up bottles and shout support – it was a massive boost to my morale every time the helpers clapped and cheered me, which they were doing regardless of which rider went past. At 144miles it was still very tight between 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th. Fourth place was only 1:30 up on me and 3rd place was just 6minutes away. The race can be won or lost on time spent stopping, resting, eating or even going to the loo so the short stops were really helping – after another 4 hours I changed bikes again.

For a while my shoulders hurt and I could have cried but I tucked in and pushed on. Now even the tailwind section felt like hard work and for a couple of laps my average speed dropped – I was fading and I needed something to pick me up after 200miles in 9 hours. Finally we were pushed on to the finishing course and my average speed started to pick back up slowly and I calculated that I needed to do more than 4 laps to hit my target – Glen then confirmed that I’d need to clock up 4.5 laps to break the magic 268.

With 2 hours to go I’d racked up 219miles which left me with 50 miles to go – just a normal sub-2-hour-50-mile-TT to go!

After 1 hour I had only knocked off 23 miles and now with only an hour left I really had to push hard. I always finish fast so now, as the time went past 7pm I was working as hard as I could – with 23 minutes to go I needed a final 8 miles so it was going to be fairly tight. Glen picked a midpoint on the course to shout encouragement from and I knew I had to make it to the northernmost part of the course to beat my target. 267 miles flashed by on the computer and I still had time – shortly after 269 miles I was flagged down by a marshal and Glen was there to pick me up – it was so close though so I still wasn’t sure if I’d done it.

Heading back to the HQ it was clear it was going to be a tight competition from 2nd through 6th place, however due to a technical hitch the results were delayed and it was announced that the final results would not be given on the evening – it actually ended up taking about ten days and then a further 2 weeks for them to be published! Not great for the winners who were unable to celebrate their hard work.

By Friday I was back out racing with a win at Brighton Mitre’s Hove Park Crit and then on Sunday with a new 50 mile PB. Eventually my National 12-hour result was confirmed as 4th place at 268.513 miles. 1700m elevation and less than a mile away from 3rd – I’m so pleased to take a top 5 in a national championship, beating past champions, but best of all I achieved the goal that Peter Crofts set me – to improve the women’s Southborough and District 12-hour record which now stands at a higher distance than the men’s.

Thanks to Glen for pushing me, supporting me, inspiring me, and getting my bikes ready to race. Cheers to Paul for the loan of the second bike. Thanks to the timekeepers and supporters who cheered us all on and to Robin Johnson for some of the historical bits in this blog – I also took the time to meet up with Peter Crofts since to discuss TT racing and Touring and I thank him for his time and support too.

Photos by Glen Whittington. 

Pip rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. She races  road bikes  and TT’s at local and national level. She receives personal support from the.æight.bicycle.cømpany.

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