Hunt OpenDev rider Jonathan Calow reports from the Revolve24 24hour road race around the iconic Brands Hatch motor racing circuit:
“I don’t think we’ll be taking it that seriously Jonathan” said Josh back at the end of August after I’d agreed to be part of the Hunt Bike Wheels / Bike Channel team to ride the Revolve24 24hour endurance race at Brands Hatch. I wasn’t so sure that this would be the case, as joining Josh, Hannah and myself from Hunt on the Bike Channel team were former Southampton University riders Henry Nixon, George Crammond and Tom Key, all quality racers with an appetite for riding fast.
We all arrived at the circuit on the Saturday lunchtime from all over the country, having never actually all met each other before the race; just a few light-hearted emails in the week leading up to the big day and a distinct lack of organisation. Josh and Henry were dashing around filming for the Bike Channel show, and Hannah and George had yet to arrive, so Tom and I headed out for a couple of orientation laps an hour or so before the start. I knew that the circuit was a bit up and down, and these initial laps confirmed that - short but sharp power climb up to Druids followed by a fast descent into the off-camber Graham Hill corner, then more climbing, rolling up and down through the woods into a fast run onto the pit straight and back over the line. We’d have to be on it all the time to keep the pace up, and those fast descents would require concentration, particularly in the wet, dark conditions which we would have to ride through.
Josh rode the first stint for us, as Bike Channel wanted to film the start and the opening laps. Josh put in a great effort and rode in the front group before handing over to Tom. We lost contact with the front of the race during our first round of stints, during which the weather was pretty wet and windy, but settled into 3rd place behind Baum Cycles and USE. In the spirit of not taking things too seriously, and to the amusement of our garage neighbours Isobar Compression, we managed to squeeze in a couple of recovery beers and a barbecue before night fell. This is the only time ever that a Michelin-starred chef has told me that my barbecue smelled good - cheers Alan Murchison! I managed to bag a couple of hours sleep between my 3rd and 4th stints on an airbed in the back of my car. Not particularly restful, but I didn’t fancy the idea of no sleep at all, followed by a lengthy drive home after lots of high-intensity riding. At some point in the early hours of the morning, we overtook USE and found ourselves in second place overall. We had harboured an ambition to catch and pass them since the evening before; seeing some of the younger members of their squad riding exuberantly on their earlier stints had made us think that our older legs’ endurance would triumph in the end.
My 4th stint was the most beautiful of them all - dry track, cool, still air, clear sky and the dawn trying to break over the trees lining the circuit. I actually found it quite emotional, particularly coming back in, handing over to George and finding out that we were in second place overall. The great thing about sharing garages was that there was always someone else around to provide encouragement at the start and finish of stints, and to chat to inbetween, invariably about something bike-related, unsurprisingly. The way in which our team of mis-fits gelled was amazing - one of the best groups of people I’ve ever had the privilege to ride with and with many memories which I’ll treasure for a long long time. By now in the race, we had settled nicely into 2nd place and put three laps into USE in 3rd place. Behind us there was a nice battle going on for 4th between our garage buddies Isobar Compression and team GIRO 4. Baum Cycles, the leaders, were working with us as we had both accepted that there was no way we were going to catch them.
We all knew that Jason Kenny was an ambassador for the event, and was even riding the event this year on a team including his dad. I sidled down to his garage and managed to grab a chat and a cheeky photo with him. What a down-to-earth, humble guy he is - time for a chat with anyone and everyone and just mucking in and getting on with it in his team. Shortly after Jason had set off on his next stint, Tom in our team decided that he was going to try and improve on his (overall) fastest lap time; skinsuit on and tyres pumped up, off he went. On his hot lap he caught Kenny and one of the Baum Cycles riders, who jumped on his wheel. This then turned into Kenny’s lead-out train for his assault on the King of the Hill segment up to Druids, which he inevitably blitzed by almost 2 seconds over the previous fastest rider, going unchallenged until the end of the race.
My fifth stint was tremendously enjoyable, as Baum Cycles rider Jasper Verduyn sat up and waited for me on our changeover and we then pushed on together for 6 laps before we both came in and handed over. This included my fastest lap of 6:16 and was the first stint where I’d really had anyone else to ride with, having spend my previous four stints passing other riders solo and not being able to share the workload. I then had the privilege of riding the final stint in the glorious sunshine and bringing us home over the line in 2nd place overall, and first team of 6. Our garage neighbours Isobar Compression had managed to sprint past GIRO 4 to take 4th, meaning that our shared garage now contained the 2nd, 3rd and 4th placed teams overall - a real concentration of quality cyclists. The stats would show that our team put in a serious effort - 530miles in 24hours, covering 218 laps of the circuit at an average speed of 22.2 mph, with 46,500ft of climbing along the way. Needless to say, we were buzzing from our achievement despite the fatigue and hugely proud of the team effort.
I’m definitely going to be back next year to give it a more organised attempt - who knows what could happen then!
Thanks and special mentions to:
Hannah Ricketts - your enthusiasm, speed on the bike, not being the token girl on the team, and G+T!
Josh Ibbett - your speed, presenting skills and acceptance of the need to take things seriously!
George Crammond - your awesome W/kg, sense of humour and barefoot push-starts in the pitlane!
Tom Key - your speed, inspiring Jason Kenny and winning more prizes than anyone else!
Henry Nixon - your avoidance of riding many laps, TV production skills and looking good in a “Media” bib!
Hunt Bike Wheels - for providing us with awesome wheels to ride which didn’t miss a beat, and great kit to wear.
Dom Mason for creating my stunning Definition aluminium disc bike which I rode - stupidly fast and comfortable at the same time.
Huw and Vicky Bunn - for putting on a superb event - here’s to many more!