Sunday, 26 July 2009

Morvélo at TwentyFour12 - The Hurt Business!

Big smiles after a great weekend
When the Morvélo team was first spoken about last October, before Morvélo existed and when it was just a team, this was the event Oli and I had in our minds. the aim: To go out and race as hard as we could. No excuses, hold nothing back, no what ifs, just ride as fast as we could to a man and leave knowing we couldn't have tried any faster (once we could walk again!). Fast forward nine months and there we were, the Morvélo team at TwentyFour12, and what a great weekend; a fantastic result, happy podium smiles and all out expectations exceeded.

The plan for the weekend was simple, arrive, race hard and go home happy. However, we were pitting with Ian Leitch, who was competing in the solo 24hr so would be giving him some support, which would, inevitably, result in some bike mechanics for me!

Lining up, Oli's in there somewhere
No sooner had we arrived on Friday afternoon than I was setting up Ian's tubeless tyres for him, add in a drivetrain swap for Morvélo soloist Julie Greengrass and assorted tool and mechanicing help for Lea, Frazer & Oli (the boss) and suddenly it was no longer Friday afternoon with plenty of time to spare, instead Oli was grabbing his bike and wandering off to the start line and I was next up. Best take a look at my bike as an hour later I'd be off!

Oli, on his first lap presumably!
I headed out early just in case, good job too, a few riders started to drift in, who I assumed to be the XC specialists who would have super fast one-lap speed and then suddenly Oli appeared. Crikey. I turned out he had come through in 2nd place in the Open teams and we were entered in the Masters category, which we were now leading.

I took my lead from my directeur sportif and headed out with the burners on, one lung burning leg crippling lap later and I thought I'd passed the Trek rider that was leading. It turned out I had, we were in the overall lead. WOOP! Lea and Frazer were on next and they too stuck in some crazy laps, and we held our original second position against riders we hadn't considered trying to race up to this point. But now we were in the race and we wanted to stay there.

Ian Leitch - Always Fast
Meanwhile we had been egging Ian on in the Solo 24. He was up against a fast and determined Ant White and the two of them were riding out in front. It wasn't to be Ian's day however, fresh from an injury comeback that just hadn't given him enough time to get up nto speed and, after just 5 laps, he was forced to retire and was rightly disappointed.

While this had been going on we'd been looking more closely at the times, there were just a few minutes separating the top three teams: The Gary Fisher 29ers, the Trek 69ers (both seriously fast cross country squads) and Morvélo (some blokes from Brighton!). What was more worrying was that we noticed they both had 5 riders. Yes, that's right, we'd missed the fact that, on the entry, the team category was for teams of 5 riders, not 4 like every other race and we were in the dogfight of our riding lives a man down. Oops. A few hours later, Ian came up with a plan: He'd do some laps for us, I mean, he was part of our Tuesday night group and a friend, so why not? A quick check with race supremo Martyn Salt, an update of the computer and we were game on! The team cheer as our team mates went past us had now become "Hurt Business" Ian's race intensity that he brought only amplified this. By this time we had started to tire, night was drawing in and we were now staring down the barrel of 3rd place but with an extra set of legs and the extra little bit of rest this afforded us, we weren't giving up.
Night time In Plymouth
The night laps flew by and by morning we were back up to 2nd, but it was close, still 5minutes separated 1st to 3rd. And then; disaster. Frazer got a puncture on his lap, no harm done, we were still in touch and then I got back from my lap to the worst scenario one can encounter in a team race: No-one there. It's either wait or give up immediately, choose not to loose the time and head straight out, I chose this. By this point I had no water and no gels left. I had also been chasing Shaggy of the 69ers the previous lap who I had in sight the whole lap and was determined not to let get away. This was one of the hardest race laps I've ever done and I might have been a bit miffed with my team mates when I got back to the pits for the second time! Lea and Frazer soon undid any time I had lost though:
Frazer, taking the shortest route, no chicken run for him!
Another cycle of laps later and the early laps when we were four were taking their toll. Oli stuck in a fantastic lap and as he handed the baton to me his leg cramped, he shifted his weight to the other leg, which also cramped immediately and it was crawling on his knees he handed me the baton. He was spent, a proper captain's effort, he had done what we set out to do and left it ALL out on the course.
Oli: Shortest route the only option and did some of the team's fastest laps on his singlespeed.
Always a fierce competitor and always a great team member
Frazer in full race grimace!

I handed the baton over to be told that this would also be Lea and Frazer's last laps too, they too were suffering from the early pace and the efforts made to maintain the required lap times to keep us in the podium hunt. It was down to Ian and me to finish off the last 4 laps. Time to dig deep.

Ian's started his first lap in 3rd place and handed to me in 2nd. I managed to resist going too hard and, importantly, looking behind me and pushed on, maintaining the place. it was looking good. Ian went out again and his lead was now a couple of minutes, but I would not know what our lead was when he came back in and I would be up against fresh legs for my 4th lap of the team's last 9 due to our double lap error. Safely through still in 2nd, Ian handed me the baton and I was away, head down and determined to give it everything, but would it be enough? I fought cramps up the climbs, at managed not to look behind me. As I reached the top of the final steep climb I snuck a glance behind me, there was no-one. Suddenly this made my legs feel as good as new and I pushed on through the final firetrack and woods section like a man possessed and burst onto the final descent, knowing that I couldn't be caught, my team mates below me waiting anxiously to see who would emerge from the trees first.
Finishing the last lap and boy was I happy!
By the time I go to the arena the grimace was gone and replaced by a huge grin from ear to ear, we'd done it! 2nd place in open teams and a win in the masters category that we'd set out to compete in initially. Big team hugs all round!

Despite the rain we couldn't have been happier to be on the podium, surrounded by "big name" teams. Morvélo had arrived and we had a great time getting there :-)
Morvélo - 10 cramping legs but 5 HUGE grins

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