It’s been a while since I’ve shared a solely personal experience of an event on the blog, but for Red Bull Timelaps, it had to be done. Timelaps is a endurance cycling event which takes place over the weekend that the clocks go back in the U.K – this means what would be a 24 hour event, becomes a 25 hour event. I’ve had my eye on taking part since it launched in 2017. That October I only heard about it a couple weeks before it happened and then 2018, I was deep in my studies so couldn’t afford the time to train and take part.
But from the point I deliberated it in 2018, I knew that I would have to sign up in 2019 to celebrate the end of my studies. It was the only event on my mind and now, it’s been and it’s gone. Here is the lowdown on my experience of Red Bull Timelaps 2019:
Preparing For The 25 Hours
Now I’d love to say I went into this event at my peak fitness but I didn’t. My goal was to take part, soak up the experience and walk away feeling accomplished. As other than riding London to Paris, this is the only endurance event I have ever done. And more than likely, one of very few endurance events I will ever do. I just wasn’t built for it, I think.
Anyway, I went into this event pretty clued up after being put in touch with Holly Seear whose team made it to the podium for the last two years. I’ll be writing another post sharing lots of practical tips should you decide to take part yourself… for now, this is just about my adventure!
Meet My Red Bull Timelaps Team
Left to Right: Me, Tess, Emma and Courtney
Team 11… also known as Team ‘Worst Pace Scenario’. Thank you Google for the team name inspiration!
Making it to the start line was actually a miracle. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we had to replace two epic team members in the run up to the event. The way the event works, you’re unable to turn up with less than your four team members so a huge Thank You to Emma and Courtney who stepped in, quite late in the day, to take on the challenge.
The Week Before Timelaps
This was the point where things started getting real! It took a heck of a lot of planning and packing to get the logistics of travel and kit sorted out. I felt like I packed up my entire flat to make sure I had everything I could possibly need for the weekend. This mostly consisted of food and warm clothing! Thinking a kit list might be a separate post of it’s own too!
All week, I kept one eye on the predicted weather for the weekend. Part of me was hoping that like a few years ago, we would get some unseasonably warm weather for the weekend. But alas, in typical Great British form, we were served up rain and high winds with a dash of sunshine for the final morning.
The weather forecast helped me choose which bike to ride though. I decided on the Liv Avail 2020 Advanced Pro 1. The main reason was due to the tyres on the bike (700×32, tubeless) – which in Liv’s own words are suitable for tackling the roads less travelled! The bike also features endurance geometry for all-day riding so having it available for this event meant it was a no brainer!
Timelaps Team Tactics
After talking to Holly and anyone else that would listen, we went into the event with a plan of riding a couple of laps each to figure out how long it would take us individually before dividing the time up into sections for us each to tackle.
Just before the event began, we had the opportunity to ride the course as a team for one lap. It was great to get to see the course while not under race conditions to be honest, because once the clock struck midday everyone seemed to be out there for themselves only!
Before we started the race, I had thought I would like to do the first lap for the team but the sighting lap made it clear who was strongest in the team. I asked Courtney if she would be happy to be the first rider which then allowed us to decide on a plan for the first few hours at least.
Rider Order: Courtney > Emma > Tess > Elle
We chose to ride one hour each for the first four hours to ensure we all got to ride in daylight. Then the same again for four more hours to get us to 8pm. On hindsight, one hour was slightly too short, especially for myself, who was averaging around 18 minutes per lap. It meant that when Emma came in 15 minutes late on her second stint, Tess was then 15 mins late, leaving me just 45 minutes for my stint in order to keep us on track with time.
We then moved to 1.5 hour stints to allow us more wiggle room (i.e slower laps), to allow time to rest / sleep and to get the timings spot on for Courtney who was taking on our Power Hour, which I will come back to shortly. After my rides at 3pm and then 7pm (ish) I planned to get some sleep between 830pm and my 1230am ride. But damn, sleep was not on the cards with the sound of plane engines, people chatting in the campsite and riders shouting on the course. Having has a 5am alarm on the Saturday to get to the event, I kinda needed some rest but hey.
I set my alarm for 1145pm to give myself some time to “wake up” and make it back to our pit ready to get going when Tess came back in. On my first lap, as I was coming to the end, a rider shouted something at me. It took me a few moments to figure out he said I had no back light! Luckily I was close to the end of the lap and had an Eddystone Clip On LED Light on my overshoe so I rode as hard and as fast as I could to get back to the pits and sort it out.
When I got there, everyone was sleeping so I had to forage around my teams bikes to find a light I could borrow and get out for another lap before my time was up! Although this round was 1.5 hours, I needed to be back in order for Courtney to be ready to get on the course ready for the 2am Power hour laps which with the light situation left me enough time for just two laps.
The Power Hour
At 2am, the clocks rolled back to 1am. This was the extra hour in which there was a shorter course available for riders to take on, with each lap counting for double. It needed to be timed right though as you had to ride just over 1km to get there and if you got there early you had to complete the long loop (15 more mins) and lose time.
So I got back in time to see Courtney off just before 2am to get to the power hour course. Courtney managed to smash out 4 laps and juuuuust missed the cut off for a 5th! For a lap to count, you had to start and finish within the hour.
The Twilight Hours…
My next stint after the power hour was scheduled to be 5am. I planned on getting some sleep after finishing at 2am. I cooked myself some bacon and devoured two bacon sandwiches ready to head to the tent at 230am. At this point, Emma was in the pits ready to take over at 2am however we didn’t account for the time it would take Courtney to get back. This meant Emma started her next laps a bit late. The girls then decided they would rather do one hour swaps which meant I would have to be up and ready to ride at 430am instead of 5am. So off I went to bed and again I could not sleep to save my life.
I decided that I would try and make it back for 430am but if I couldn’t, 5am would have to do. I set my alarm… and tried to rest. Eventually, I was like, erm, I feel like I’ve been here ages. When I checked it was 419am and no alarm had gone off… because I set it for Saturday, not Sunday! So I jumped up, got ready and made it to the pits for 430am.
Unfortunately, Tess had been sleeping and missed the messages about just doing an hour so stayed out till 5am. This left me with 30 minutes to ride so I ditched it. I was so tired I could barely walk so I figured this was a sign to get back to bed… which I did, and it felt glorious. The next time I was awake it was bright daylight, ready to ride at 8am. Another hour stint on the bike and the event would be over for me!
My final laps were my favourite. Dunno if it was the sleep or just knowing this was the end that got me my fastest laps (albeit just a little faster), including managing to hang onto a couple of wheels on some of the ascents which made them a little bit easier. I even managed to overtake a couple of people for the first time all weekend! What made my day though was when Sarah (@tri4cake on insta) came up to me in the event marquee and gave me a big hug and a thank you for helping her get up the final hill! I didn’t even know she was hanging onto me for it and honestly, that was the most friendly interaction I had outside of my own team and our next door neighbours!
The Final Few Hours
The final few hours were made up of sunshine, bacon in american style pancakes, more tea, more coffee, more cake, a few photos and collecting our medals before we packed down our entire weekend rig to head off into Sunday and begin to relive what actually went down…
Team 11 Timelaps Totals
- Total Distance: 473km
- Laps: 70
- Power Hour Laps: 4
- Total Laps: 78
- Fastest Lap: 14:32
- Punctures: 2
Non Race Highlights
In between all these tactics and laps there was quite a bit else going on! It’s taking some brain power to recall it all but the weekend was made by our pit-door neighbours – the army cycling team – who helped us out with all sorts (and vice versa – we lent them our track pump lol); by the food we consumed (I took belated birthday cake, pancakes, bacon, maple syrup); the communal warm tent where the rugby was on, Kind bars were on tap, and the smell of wet feet was strong; and by Dryrobe being on site and taking my money (best investment ever!).
I’m sure I’ve missed out a ton of the entire event but hey, I think I’ve digitally chewed your ears off enough for now! If you have any specific questions, leave them in the comments or hit me up on social and I will make sure to answer. All that’s left now are for a few thank yous…
Red Bull Timelaps Thank You’s
I’m not sure where to start here, but also am worried about forgetting anyone! In no particular order, Thank You to:
- Giant Loughton for sorting me out a gazebo, making sure I had decent lights, listening to me chatting about this event, laughing at me, questioning me on team tactics… and more!
- Liv Cycling (for who I am an Ambassador) for tools and the loan of the Avail 2020 Advanced Pro 1
- Osprey for the Seral 7 hydration waist pack
- 1000 Mile for my compression socks
- Ultimate Performance for the Eddystone Clip On LED Light which actually saved me from being taken off the course when my rear bike light failed.
- Salomon for the Primo Warm Seamless Tee base layer which got worn 99% of the time because my original (and only) base layer got soaked through on my first stint.
- Feed. for stocking us up nutrition wise.
The only question left to be asked is would I do it again?! …As it stands, it’s a hell yeah from me! I feel like I have to do it again! Having the opportunity to go back with experience of the event, experience of racing and bike fitness would make for a more competitive event even if just against this years results.
Want To Read More About This Ace Race?
Catch up on my teammate Tess’s blog here (with 25 lessons she took from the event), and visit the Red Bull website for more on Red Bull Timelaps.
Will I be seeing you at Red Bull Timelaps in 2020? Did you take part this year?!