Report: Bontrager Twentyfour12

Report: Bontrager Twentyfour12

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Report: Bontrager Twentyfour12

24th-25th July 2010, Newnham Park, Plymouth | Report, images and video: Joolze Dymond

Above: Hail to the Keith - Mr Bontrager walked the walked, talked the talk and sat in a chair.

Now in its fifth year and a serous destination race that riders flock to from all over the UK and beyond, to savour not only the classic challenging but also achievable terrain but also the festival like feel that this event has developed. There was plenty of activities taking place in the arena with fire eating, live music, massage, wood turning as well as the usual array of product booths each tempting you with new exciting products and perhaps a bargain or two along the way.

Above: Left: Daz Doorstep Challenge contender. Right: Singular rider gets carried away with his idea of a dirty weekend.

With three races packed into 24 hours there is always something for everyone and this year even the youngsters got a look in with a 12 minute race for the under 12s and a 24 min race for the under 14s, both of which went down a storm with competitors and proud parents alike! Meanwhile the 1400 competitors for the main race steadily gathered at the start line ready for the off at noon. As the flag dropped riders began a constant flow of brightly coloured lycra through the arena, off on a 1km loop to spread the riders, with the occasional crocodile spotted possibly looking for its first victim!

Above: Now that's what I call a feed station. Mine's a 99er!

Then it was off onto the course proper, a 13km circuit taking in all that makes Newnham Park such a special place for mountain biking! As riders emerged from the first section of singletrack they were suddenly faced with the new and improved ‘Clif Climb' a neat section of tarmac that steeply curved up, jam packed with chalked messages (well they would have been if the rain the previous night hadn't watered the section down a tad..) before joining a perimeter track that wove its way to the first of many fun sections.

As you reached the top, the sight that greeted you could not be more surreal... an ice cream van parked just before the singletrack doling out free ice cream for any rider. With cries of ‘Free ice cream, get it while it's hot' riders grinned as they pushed on, many stopped and savoured the view as well as the freebie, while many more grabbed a cone, taking a quick bite before they headed for the first proper berm!

Above: Rich Rothwell finds a bike under a liberal layer of mud.

A quick foray into the first bit of singletrack found the path littered with cones, luckily it was a warm day or we may have had a tricky ice section form! Next came a new section that dropped you down and threw you round to the left, before throwing you up to face a rocky little climb, followed by a quick skirmish around the top of the bomholes tantalising with fun to come as the course veered off into the infamous Bluebell Woods, returning after its foray into the surrounding terrain to take on the bomholes, which directed you the epic ‘Cottage Return' - a blazingly fun blast down hill section. The course weaved effortlessly in and around the tented village, using the myriad of bridge crossings to make the most of the valley. With previous day's weather being less than kind, the number of proposed river crossings had been reduced to one, though the way the weather developed during the race, it was a crossing that became a sought after section!

Above: Hi fives at the finish.

Yes, the weather once again played an all-important part in the race, as it does in any mountain bike race. Forecasts were closely followed and then thrown out the window as we realized we had no idea what was in store. With heavy rain overnight, thoughts were that perhaps, that was it, all done and dusted and as the morning progressed the day definately became brighter with the race getting underway with at least a glimpse of blue skies. Six hours in and it was a different story, with a light drizzle seemingly settling in for the duration. Conditions first got greasy, then got sloppy, but throughout all the grim conditions the course held up well and was completely ridable, the weather merely adding to the camaraderie.

Above: If one picture captures the mixed emotions of finishing an MTB enduro this is it...

Taking the weather in his stride eventual 12 hr solo male winner Matt Page was churning out lap times that would have not seen him out of place amongst the top teams, going on to rack up an amazing 16 laps, with Adrian Scott trying hard to limit the damage came home with the same number of laps but over an hour behind. Newly discovered enduro talent Rickie Cotter continued to dole out the pressure as she takes on challenge after challenge. With two 24 hr crowns to her name already and with her sights firmly set on the World 24hr Championships later in the year, she settled for a 12hr romp in the hills, taking advantage of a free ice cream along the way to final grab the win with 14 laps, whilst seasoned campaigner Lydia Gould fought hard to keep the WXC rider in her sights had settle for 2nd a lap adrift. The vets solo 12 hr race was a much closer affair, with the top three riders finishing with 15 laps apiece and 40 mins deciding the winner, that was Andy Hull who rode a strong race hunted all the way by Paul Howard and Gavin Rumbles, but he held on to take the win, while Howard and Rumbles fought hard for the remaining spots, with a narrow six minutess separating them.

Interview: Rickie Cotter and Matt Page

Team WXC were on a roll, with their four women dominating the open women's race with an impressive 15 laps. The men's Open race however was another close affair with quite a few teams keen to take the top step. However it was TORQ who held on fast to take the win with 20 laps and just 16 mins over Moda UK/Swinnertons.

Interview: Keith Bontrager

In the mixed 12 hr marathon specialist Sally Bigham heading up an impressive Ergon team quickly took control of the race racking up 18 laps to give them the win 1 lap over Torq Development. In what was possibly the closest race of the 12, Bigfoot Duo of Rachel Evans & Tim Purvey valiantly held off the Cornwall Freeriders pairing of Hazel and Matt Wakefield, each team clocking up 16 laps and just a gnat's whisker of minutes deciding the eventual outcome. Female pairs duo Kirsty Eastwood and Katie Collins brought home the second podium finish for AQR while Andrew and Nic Boyd took the win in the men's pairs with 18 laps.

Interview: Mixed Pairs and Mixed Open teams

As midnight loomed, it was soon time for those racing the daytime 12hr, to hand over the baton so to speak to the Torchbearers, those hardy souls who opted to start their races at the stroke of midnight, dragging themselves from warm dry tents into the wet darkness and beyond, joining those brave souls tackling the full 24 hours. Out in the woods, Shred had a surprise of their own, the ice cream van now long gone replaced instead by their version of spooky woods just to keep the riders on their toes!

Interview: Craig Bowles and Tim Flooks

As the night wore on, so did the rain, a constant drizzle looking to be a constant companion, then around 12 hours after it first began it stopped, to be replaced by a humidly hot day that saw the sloppy, slidey mud start to be replaced by a thicker harder working variety that tried desperately to cling to every working part on man and machine.

It was now that the infamous river crossing came into its own with riders opted to take the wet line in hope of shedding some of the mud. As the race sped on, the sight of riders and machine searching out the river to wash both themselves and their bikes become a common sight!

For the Torchbearer men's pairs the race was on with the top three teams all racking up 14 laps in probably the worst of conditions, with the Lumicycle pairing of John and Stuart Prentice edging out the Zippy Mule pairing of Chris Reeves and Sam Roberts.

Interview: Team Ergon - Mixed Team contenders

Rob Lee took full control of the solo race taking the win with a mud swamped 13 laps. As the clocked inched ever closer to midday the end was in sight for many but for some the race intensified as they raced through the arena with seconds to spare eager to send out team mates on that final lap in the hope of climbing higher on position. With four teams on 34 laps, Scottish team Glencroft Rabble came out on top in the men's open with just 16 minutes separating them from runners up Mammoth Lifestyle/Born to Bike/ Raleigh Avanti, while in the women's open race Four4th Lights had it slightly easier scoring 25 laps over 24 laps by the Lazi Lasses. Team Certini were looking forward to a mighty battle with the Ergon team, but with the marathon world champs on the cards Ergon opted to ride the 12hr instead, leaving Certini to pick up their second win of the title a clear three laps ahead of nearest rivals

Event sponsor Keith Bontrager was in the thick of the race both rain and shine as he took part in the Just for Fun section, however his team certainly were in it for fun leaving The Stinky Pinkies to race for the podium with a creditable 29 laps. The Growing Old Disgracefully pairing of Judy and Roy McNeil certainly lived up to their name in the mixed pairs, with Judy taking full on advantage for a brief pit stop to grab an ice cream, leaving the actually racing to ‘youngsters' Anne Dickins & Ant Jordan, who carried on racing even though they had considerable amount of cushioning for the win. It was another close shave in the men's pairs with James Poole and Stephen Tebbett being chased furiously by the Kent Police, duo of Philip and Scott Webb for possible crimes against crocodiles....

I'm sure I heard the, ‘you'll never take me alive copper' during the night as their race unfolded! Tebbet and Poole took an arresting win with 29 laps just one lap ahead of the Webbs! Finally the hardest men and women of the event, the 24 hour soloists, who are out there battling not only the elements, tiredness, hallucinations but also their demons. For the women it was UK Solo 24 hour Vet lady Champion Sally Daw who calmly took control of her race grinding out a race winning 19 laps. While in the men's race it was a case of third time unlucky for Rob Dean, who with a strong start was looking good to take the bull by the horns, however a mechanical just seven laps in saw his chances scuppered and he reluctantly called it a day, leaving World Solo Masters Champion Rich Rothwell slog it out with relative newcomer Craig Bowles.

Rothwell went through the wars in the night, not able to get his rhythm, while Bowles on borrowed bikes kept plugging away. Come the morning Rothwell got his act together, but the damage had been done with Bowles taking his first 24 hr solo win with 26 laps under his belt and just 26 mins ahead of Rothwell.

It was a perfect race with less than perfect weather but made up for by all the brilliant competitors who just got on with it! Many thanks to Quaver Catering for supplying bacon butties at three in the morning and Exposure lights for charging batteries, supplying in-depth knowledge and all round banter throughout the night. Thanks in fact to everyone who came and made the event what it was. Special thanks though to all the hardworking crew at InEvent & Sip Events who brought you this epic of a race, special mention yet again goes to Dick, who as always does sterling work with the toilet paper...

See you next year for number 6!

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