Two years ago Red Bull introduced the longest day cycling race in Windsor Park - 25hrs of riding in 24hrs. Sounds impossible, right? How do you ride for 25hrs in a 24hr day? Simple, you organise the race to be on the weekend the clocks go back! So, for the last two years on the last weekend of October, teams of 4 cyclists have relayed their way around a 7km circuit in Windsor Park trying to do as many laps possible in 25hrs.
I have been fortunate/mad enough to take part in both of these races and despite each time saying never again, I’m back for round 3, though this time it is a little bit different. This time, I won’t be sharing the 25hrs with three other teammates taking turns to race around the park, I will be among a few selected individuals taking the race on solo! My bum hurts just thinking about it…
Solo entries are accepted under the discretion of the race organisers, and all entries must have proven record of taking part in previous solo 24hr races/events. All entries must also have a support crew with them to assist in the pits and be point of contact for race organisers during the race. It may sound like a lot of rules and procedures in place, however they are very much needed for such an event.
With over 200 teams, there will be up to 200 cyclists on the 7km circuit at one time, throw in some sharp corners, fatigue, damp conditions (or even hail if you go by last year!) and then night time, you have yourself some very dangerous conditions to be riding in. If the entrant isn’t comfortable or experienced cycling or operating under such conditions, they are at increased risk of putting themselves or other riders in danger.
Enough of the T&Cs though, what about the day itself? What will it entail and how do you go about training for such an event?! From previous experience with 24hr endurance races, in particular, an indoor ZWIFT 24hr ride I did for charity last January, the most important tool in your bag is mindset. Endurance events like this require more mental strength than anything else. Our bodies are incredible things and, if you fuel it correctly, it will take you further and longer than you ever thought possible. You just have to be willing and mentally strong enough to hang on through those impossible moments when you think there is nothing left in your tank.
Obviously you do need to do a lot of physical training for an event like this - I would never suggest for you to jump off the sofa into a 25hr bike ride! On the physical side, I will be tackling this solo a lot differently than I did with a team. When you are riding relay, you know there will be good bouts of rest in-between your stints on the bike, meaning you will have ample time to rest, roll, properly eat, get a nap and even shower/change clothes regularly! With this, when I rode the Red Bull Time Laps in a team, I put a lot more intensity and rode at a higher threshold with short goals (I.e. 1hr/5laps focus).
However, solo riding means riding smart and thinking of the long game, while also mentally breaking down the race into bite-size & manageable portions. If you went out in the first 6hrs and rode it as though it was your usual Saturday ride with your mates, finishing with a beer and pizza, it would come back to bite you in the night. Yes, you may feel ok in the moment, you may even feel ok until the 12hr mark, but the repercussions of pushing your body too hard and too soon would bite you in the ass (literally and figuratively!) in the early hours of Sunday, right when you need the energy for the added lap-points given from the power hour at 2am.
When riding for an endurance event like this, it’s about being smart and having a lot of experience of your bodies abilities, knowing what you can do and for how long. Training will be all about time in the saddle, focusing on building up to some solid 10-12 hour rides, keeping in a zone 2/3 and trialling all your fuel options to see what works best and when. I would also do some shorter intense sessions, about 4-5hours but filled with hills to build strength endurance, the course is flat as a whole but I promise you Heartbreak Hill truly lives up to its name on the 20th+ time you go up it!
For the race itself, tactics are loosely formed as I’m still experimenting and gauging feedback from training, however, my goal would be to go for longer stints while I’m fresh and well-fuelled. Then, aim for 2.5 hour/10-12lap stints with a short 10min pit-stop to eat/refill water and any physio needed. Power Hour is a no-holds back wake-up call at 2am, and from then it’ll be back to the 2hr stints until the last few hours where it’ll be an ‘empty-the-tank’ mindset!
I would HIGHLY recommend getting involved in the Red Bull Time Laps with some friends; it’s an unforgettable event that brings together the incredible cycling community for a weekend in the beautiful Windsor Park. Sure, there are tough times, but cycling with and for your team brings out a part of you that you never thought was possible. There is no feeling quite like your last team member crossing the line at 12pm on Sunday, coming in for a massive team hug as you pop open some Prosecco. You don’t have to enter to race - enter for a personal challenge, raise money for charity or just for a weekend spent on your favourite two wheels - dreamy!
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