www.dadswell.co.uk  Mostly cycling records, mostly on three wheels

THE 24HOUR CHAMPIONSHIP - 23/24 JUNE 1990               Back to Other Cycling

On Friday 22nd at midday, we drove from uptown Flackwell Heath to Welney, Cambridgeshire. We took two cars. My car was to be the main vehicle, with Mum+Dad's to be used for part of the night and as a reserve in case of emergency. The remainder of Friday was taken up with preparing the food (ie Rice & Banana sludge etc) and sorting out the race strategy. At 9pm, Tim arrived, to complete the team.


After a good night's sleep, we were ready to go. At 10.40am, the timekeeper said GO, and I was off. The first 4 miles were completed at over 25 mph. The next 4 were into a strong headwind, and I had run out of gears before 15 minutes were up. Not an impressive start, I thought. The first two hours included being caught by Pete Wells (for 5 minutes), and ended with a stretch into an extraordinary headwind. I calculated afterwards that this section was done at 17.5 mph, and when I 'turned' at the end, the speed for the next few miles was 27.5 mph. This was not the sort of day for clocking a huge mileage.

At this stage, we hadn't had any rain. By 80 miles, the clouds were looking menacing. The wind dropped a little, but from 90 miles to 200 miles there were a number of lengthy, heavy downpours. 100 miles took 4-45, 150 miles in 7-8. I changed from my low-profile to the road bike after about 125 miles. At about 150 miles I came very close to 'packing', as all my brain could tell me was that there were 17 hours to go, and it was pouring with rain, and I was climbing a rise into a stiff headwind, and I was cold, and could feel my hands going numb. But enough of my problems. At 160 miles I was disappointed to be caught for 10 mins by Phil Oxborough. This feeling was somewhat countered, however by the sight of Pete Wells only a short distance up the road - I was catching him back!

At 180 miles, I rode past Wells, who had stopped by his back-up car to enjoy a cup of coffee. I suspected that he was near the end of his ride. He carried on, though, and it wasn't until an excessively heavy downpour at around 195 miles that the news was through that he had abandoned. I realised afterwards that it was as soon as he abandoned, that the rain stopped. Indeed from 8pm to 6am there were no significant weather problems. I passed 200 miles in 9-45 (ie second 100 at 'evens'). At 9.30 pm I stopped for 5 mins to put on some extra clothing and to affix some lights.

At around 10pm, I switched on the lights. 12 hours passed, and I had covered 243 miles - still ahead of 'evens'. I was using two front lights, to make racing in the dark considerably safer. I had purchased a new front lamp with a halogen bulb, and this gave an excellent beam. Unfortunately, at 12.30am, the light packed up - with no prior warning! I got a replacement, but it was of the flashing (ie knackered) variety. Shortly, the other front lamp started misbehaving. I was down to two bright but erratic front lights, and was not happy. (Previously, I've used lights for riding home from pubs etc with no problems, so why were they all packing up, just when I needed them?) I probably stopped 5 or 6 times for 'engineering work' on my front lights.

Eventually, I used a WonderLight (which I had only brought along as a joke) as it was the only lamp which seemed capable of standing up to a rough road without its innards wilting. It's a pity that the same couldn't be said for the battery! It quickly became clear to me that the battery had been well used, and wasn't capable of much more than a yellowish glimmer. Hence I was doomed to riding along in darkness, switching the front light on only when I approached a marshalled point. (Note to our younger readers: this practice is not recommended, and should only be undertaken with a car behind you using its headlights).

From 3am, the skies became lighter, and at 4.30am I removed my lights. At this point I had a battle with John 'Bomber' Baines, who had seemingly caught me for 6 minutes. Fortunately, he had already missed 5 more miles than me, so I was actually ahead. Nevertheless, this stirred me up, and I tried quite hard for a few miles in my efforts to drop him again.

(grabbed straight from the photo album.  I particularly like the last shot, on the finishing circuit)

By 5.30am I was feeling quite fresh, and decided that the time had come to shed the night clothes. Once this was done, I realised that it was still rather cold - despite having applied Baby Oil to my legs! Fortunately, the weather was much better than Saturday - although there was a noticeable breeze building up. At 21-30, I reached the Finishing Circuit with 401 miles clocked up. I optimistically decided that I would finish at 'evens' to beat 450 miles.

Unfortunately, I was unable to communicate this idea to my legs, and my finishing 'sprint' amounted to maintaining the same speed for the last couple of hours. A pity, but that was enough to hang onto the silver medal, so only my pride suffered. (I had been working up to a spectacular finish for the previous 100 miles!) Eventually, the 24 hours were up, and I at least managed to get out of the saddle for the last 200 yards. The crowd (Mum & Tim) cheered me in and helped me off my bike. It was a tremendous relief to relax, although my knees felt liable to explode, and it was thus difficult to forget what I'd just been through.

The headquarters were at Ely Rugby Club. This was a fine idea, except for the fact that the HQ was actually on the first floor - and there wasn't a lift!  It took ages to climb the steps to see the result board.

When the ceremonies were over, we drove straight back to our hired house at Welney, which is about 10 miles north of Ely. We slept during the afternoon, woke for a few hours in the evening (to make some phonecalls), then had a decent night's sleep.

By Tuesday, most things seemed to be back to normal.

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