Coming from Melbourne, the worst part about the 24 hour Solo National Champs is most definitely the drive up the Hume Hwy to Canberra. It is long, and boring and there aren’t many nice places to stop at all…unless you like submarines…in which case Holbrook is probably a really great place to stop.
With tourist attractions like this, Holbrook has become a popular destination.
Apart from that (and the thriving cosmopolitan city of Albury) it’s mainly just bad roadhouses and McDonald’s for six hours. And as a vegetarian, the only positive thing about going in to a McDonald’s is that you get to use the phrase ‘Hold the sausage’ when ordering your breakfast McMuffin. But unfortunately this pun can be lost on some McDonald’s service staff, particularly when they are only 16 years old, and may result in confused looks, blank stares or sexual harassment charges.
Hold the sausage? No thanks. Even a strict vegetarian would surely be tempted by this.
The upside of this is that you get the worst part of the weekend out of the way early, before the race even starts. Then all you have to do is ride your bike for 24 hours, eat loads of gels, get beaten by Jason English, get flashed at by Brett Bellchambers and then try and motivate yourself for another long drive home.
While there are a number of other 24 hour races on the calendar, the Solo Nationals is unique in that it is open to solo riders only and not teams. A solo 24 hour is completely different to a team race because you don’t get to consider things like showering, changing clothes, setting alarms or lap strategies. At some team races you can even enter as a Team of 10 which means that, if you play your cards right, you might be able to get through the entire race without actually having to ride.
This year I managed to sneak on to the ‘proper’ podium for the first time. A few years back, I managed a 4th place (you can read more about that here) which, in mountain biking events, officially gets you on to the podium, but in reality just gets you on to the dirt next to the podium.
My only explanation for this is that mountain bikers like to reward mediocrity and I’m certain that this kind of thing would never happen on a road race podium…but who really cares when this kind of thing is happening on road race podiums:
Peter Sagan enjoying the fruits of his labour at the Tour of Flanders..I believe it is a peach.
While there were no podium girls available to grope at the 24 hour Nationals I’m not complaining because as you can see in the photo below, the rather fetching bearded gentleman on my left wearing the ladies jeans was clearly ripe for a fondling…fortunately for me, none of it was captured on camera and I was spared the controversy afforded to Peter Sagan on the same weekend at the Tour of Flanders.
“Get your hands up Bellchambers, you’re ruining the photo…but hey, nice jeans.”
Obviously though, before you can start planning who you are going to grope on the podium, you need to get on to the podium first and the key to this is most definitely a good support crew. It is vital for any attempt at a 24 hour solo race to find a reliable crew with the ability to go without sleep, keep you motivated, stay reasonably sober* and also understand race tactics.
*During a 24 hour race, when judging the sobriety of your support crew it’s best to start from a reference point of blind drunk.
Once you’ve got this part nailed, then all that’s really left is to ride…and keep riding…for 24 hours. It can also be helpful to have an arch-nemesis, which for me, is single-speeder Brett Bellchambers. We’ve had some great battles over 24 hours in the past and I’ve now come to learn that when daybreak arrives and Brett starts swigging from the 2 litre milk bottle, he transforms in to a one-geared demon capable of unlapping himself and climbing the results sheet to chase that podium spot…so he can show off his wife’s jeans.
Single-speeders cannot usually afford proper sports nutrition because they spend so much money on boutique parts to keep their drivetrains running silently…and pretentiously.
My support crew did a fantastic job during the race. Melinda Jackson (Maj) stayed awake and kept things ticking along smoothly for the full race while Kelly Linden and Rosie from Mount Beauty kept the calorie intake and music playlist at a very high level. Maddy from Albury had to leave early, but managed to get in some quality planking nonetheless. Sean “The Man” Hurley helped out with mechanical support and a special thank you to Cam Winn for helping out when not on duty with the iRide Rocky Mountain team. As always, the very well stocked Fitzroy Revolution race trailer was on hand to provide everything necessary including some impressively high fuel-consumption on the Hume. Thanks to GEAX for the tyres, which were great – 24 hours and no flats (well, one small puncture but it sealed itself before I even realised).
Without access to any cute cat videos, Rosie tried her best to entertain me in the pits.
After all that excitement it was nice to head over to Mount Beauty for a night before getting back on the road to once again sample the delights of the Hume Highway…and a few more opportunities to ‘hold the sausage’.