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Cycling Round and Round

Over the weekend of the 14th and 15th September, Brands Hatch was host to a cycling festival, Revolve24. Robin Selley, cyclist and personal injury lawyer attended and took part in the 24-hour event as part of a four-man relay team.

Starting with Time Trials and Junior racing, the racing was fast and furious (for some) from 7.30am on the Saturday morning of Revolve24. The event also plays host to some endurance events, with 24, 12 and 6 hour events over the weekend, for teams, pairs and soloists. The 24-hour event is one of only two UK events for qualifying for Race Across America (RAAM), a self-supported ultra cycling event. But that was not the reason why I was there. I should have taken part back in 2017 but had to drop out at short notice, leaving my three team mates to do the event a man down. They had not let me forget this so the team were back again this year with a full complement of riders. 

Our motley crew met when taking on a London to Paris challenge event a few years before and still ride together, despite being dotted around the country. As a group we still ride our bikes and have continued taking part in sportives, commuting to work and riding just for fun. Just two weeks before Revolve24, I was in the Scottish borders riding the “Tour o the Borders” sportive along with five others from the London to Paris event. It turns out that the hills in Scotland are good training for Brands Hatch. 

Sportives are more at my “level”. They can be tough as I am not the quickest, being built for comfort these days and not speed. A challenge for many but with varying distances available, I am happy to give most of them a go.

Onto Revolve24. I have done an endurance challenge like this before, cycling from London to Paris but with that it was in two blocks either side of the channel, with a bit of recovery on the overnight ferry.  But cycling around Brands Hatch is a different challenge altogether. The 3.9km Grand Prix circuit has an elevation gain per lap of 65m with climbs at 10% (according to my Garmin). Our team of four - “Team Macmillan” - had decided to ride in 45 minute segments, as a relay race so one of us was always on the track. Our pit stops were slicker than Tom Pidcock’s in a Cyclo Cross race, well for the first hour at least, before the initial enthusiasm started to wain and the effect of riding up and over the iconic Druids hairpin starts to bite. Downhill to the sweeping Graham Hill Bend, back behind the pitlane and on to Pilgrim's Drop, Hawthorn Hill and Hawthorn Bend through the woodland before emerging back on to the main straight and past the pits. 

Given our race strategy, as a team we didn’t have that long before we had to head back out on to the track. The pitlane and track were much quieter overnight and some took the opportunity to get some sleep (not me). When out on the track overnight it became quite an eerie place to be, through the woods, the sound of carbon bikes whirring past, the lights passing through the darkness. 

All of this alongside some professional teams looking to set the most number of laps in the event, teams with different strategies, riding longer stints overnight to allow other team members to sleep (which in my book was massively overrated). 
The soloists, who some of us looked on with incredulity and admiration, as they would disappear for hours, I’d pass them on the track, be passed by them on the track like ships in the night, some words of encouragement exchanged, a wheel given here and there. They would appear in the pit at various times, some completely on their own and others with support crew, feeding them, motivating, planning race tactics and so on.

Our plan was quite simple, keep riding as much as possible and cover as many laps as we could, whilst raising a few pennies for a good cause as well. Sounds easy and this looked easy for some of the riders on track, well-oiled machines against our team who cumulatively have a few miles on the clock. That’s part of the beauty of event in that riders of different abilities can take part at the same time.

The 12-hour riders had joined us through the night, riding from 7pm to 7am. Sunday morning brought us back into the light. I was on the track for the sunrise and the vitamin D gave an immediate lift to all in our garage. All riders pushed on throughout the day, being joined by the 6-hour riders who started at 9am, full of fresh legs. The racing intensified throughout the day with all team and solo events being hotly contested until the last. 

New record numbers of laps were set by the professional teams whilst our team managed to ride 177 laps of the Grand Prix circuit, covering a combined distance of just over 430 miles. In the process of doing that we had also covered more elevation than the height of Mt Everest and raised some much needed funds for charity. A good and hard weekend of riding done, then straight home to eat all the contents of my fridge. 

Back to the daily commute on a Brompton now though, without having to worry about getting up and over Druids and trying to decide on which sportive to tackle next. It turns out there is a 24 hour cycling event around Le Mans - oh go on then, I’d better put that one in the diary. 

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