My nephew Jim did the Le Mans 24 hr cycling enduro race in France this year. He came 13th in the solo category. This is his report:
“Thanks for the congratulations. I just thought I’d fill you in a little on what it was like. Firstly we raced on the Moto gp circuit and not the 24 hour car race circuit as the car race circuit is run largely on public roads and safe to say there is not enough money or interest in ultra cycling to basically shut down le mans for a little bike race. Considering track we were on was used for moto gp I can attest to it being a glorious surface to ride on and ultra wide so for me there was never a close call of a possible accident, the only bad thing I guess about the circuit is that we had to repeat the same course every 4 and a bit kilometres but the monotony just adds to the challenge.
Anyway, to the race, they did acknowledge the tradition of the 24 hour car race. The various flags of the nations being represented were displayed by the “podium girls” running down the start finish straight inbetween us and our bikes on the other side of the track, which we would run to when the clock struck 3, like the traditional le mans start from many many years ago. I had the joy of hearing the Australian national anthem ringing through the PA at the start too, although it was only about 20 seconds worth.
With the race underway I had the plan to race it like the 12 hour events I did previously [Jim came second in the NSW 12 hr race]. I sat on 36km/h for the first 3 hours with the idea that a) I’d be benefiting from the draft the team riders would provide and b) hopefully I would be putting vast distance between me and all the solo riders who might be thinking yeah, slow and steady wins the race, and only after the race would I find out that c) I was matching pace with the guy who won who averaged some 36km/h to do so. But thanks to the climbing every lap and the relentless headwind we would endure when we weren’t going down the start finish/straight into the uphill I found the effort to maintain 36km/h too much and had to concede I might lose some distance to other riders by riding slower for a bit to try and recover. It might have worked if the wind had let up but even at 3am in the morning it had only dropped from 33km/h to 23km/h.
I found the going really tough between the 1am and 3am mark but with warmer clothes on and a bit of thinking, “I’m half way around the world, what the he’ll else am I going to do”, I continued to endure the laps and slowly I rose through the standings from my worst listing of 23rd. Each hour was similar to the last basically eat, drink, use the bathroom if I needed and hide from the wind where ever possible. The last couple of hours I wished I had enough gap over 14th that I could sit it out and just ride the last lap to cap it off but with only a couple of laps lead over 14th I had no choice but to continue. I slipped to 14th with an hour and a bit to go and was propelled to keep going because I didn’t want to slip any further and with 45 minutes to go I was back into 13th and with that being my highest ranking of the race I felt that was the minimum result I was going to accept.
With the end in sight I was reborn when I came out on track, so much so I tagged on the back of the leading teams bunch ( yes the teams 1st and 2nd overall did have a sprint for the win and they were separated by 1 one hundredth of a second) which saw me put in some hot laps. One of them was actually the fastest lap achieved by any solo rider and not too mention my final half an hour saw me close the gap to 12th from 3 laps to just 1 lap.
So for the record I’m not quite sure how much time I had off the bike but I know I only stopped for things I had too like warmer clothes, eat some hot chips or use the bathroom Oh and something I found out from the results is that the guy who finished 2nd in solo finished 4th at this years Race Across America, which if you know anything about the RAAM you could appreciate 24 hours straight on a bike can be seen just as a warm up for anyone who races the RAAM, let alone for anyone who actually gets a decent placing come the finish.”
Jim did 636 km in the 24 hour race, came 13 th out of 63 in the solo homme category. The winner did 862 km. The team winners Team Vulco (four man team) did 971 km and there was a dead heat, with the second team finishing with almost the same distance and time as Jim says. Jim had about 5hours off the bike, while the winner had only about 2 hours off. http://www.ris-timing.be/~circuit//24hvelomans/2012/index.htm