12 hours – that’s longer than a day’s work, longer than you sleep for, longer than you’d want to sit still in one place, but the same amount of time that Pip (and plenty others including her SDW club-mate Kieran Fitzpatrick) chose to race a TT bike for – a bike which is entirely focused upon speed and aerodynamics: comfort is not even an afterthought…
So the idea is that TT racers start at 6am, separated by one minute gaps as in a normal TT from the tiny Norfolk village of Hingham. From here (on the B12/2 course) the riders set out for a 55 mile start circuit, taking in some beautifully quiet country straights with only the other racers and support vehicles to break the morning stillness. The silence is broken at about the 40 minute mark as the riders, one by one, move onto the A11 heading North for another 10 miles to the “top turn around”, before heading all the way down South for 20 miles to the “bottom turn” near Thetford. Once the riders have ridden back up to where they joined the dual carriageway they will have completed the start loop.
Most of the riders have a support vehicle – it’s up to each team how to make use of this to help the riders feed and hydrate as well as being prepared for any bike issues. You’re not allowed to follow the riders for any substantial amount of time and you’re only permitted to pass the riders once every 10 miles. Pip and I decided to pick a couple of decent lay-bys on our recon of the route on the Saturday to feed from and settled on driving between the ones that we knew had both a good run in where Pip didn’t have to worry about gravel, etc and then also a good exit with a big enough hard shoulder to get up to speed on.
Once the riders were done with the start loop they moved onto a 20 mile circuit of the lower half of the course and I took up my position halfway along at the five/fifteen mile mark, which gave me a great chance to start scribbling down lap times – crucial to keep Pip’s morale up even if she was doing all the same maths on her GPS anyway!
So far all of this had been raced on her Scott Plasma 3 TT bike, which I built up using Reynolds wheels, a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain, a Four4th Scorpion Light and a Deda bar. The bike has been used to set the Club 10-mile and 30-mile records, 2 Open Course records and has won 8 Open TT races under Pip within the last 18 months. By the third time around this “No.1” circuit Pip was on 117.5 miles which she’d covered in 5 hours and 7 minutes.
From 11:00 (11:20 in Pip’s case) the riders were directed onto the “No.2” (quite apt after the local Norfolk muck spreading and broken surface) Circuit, which took place on the 20 mile northern half of the loop. I moved up to a lay by we’d spotted the day before, for a half-way-(ish)-point bike change after Pip had completed the first lap of the northern loop. Pip had covered 137 miles at 12:30 (6 hours and 21 minutes) and we were just over the halfway point!
We’d been kindly lent a bike which I’d built for a friend of mine – the Trek Speed Concept features a full on custom Mercedes Black and Lambo Orange paint job by another friend of mine. Onto this frame is hung a beautiful set of Lightweight wheels, Ceramic Speed bearings and a SRAM eTap groupset. The bike is stunning but the most important thing for Pip was to make everything feel fresh – the new bike cured any twinges and got her head back in the game. Of course everything was hurting but it’s amazing what a fresh bike, clean chain and new saddle can do for your morale!
Kieran was flying too and was relishing the windy conditions that the northern course was being treated to! He’d initially lost a little time to Pip but had now eked out a couple of minutes of advantage – both were looking super composed. The traffic on the southern loop had been a problem and now all the riders were going faster on the northern loop, but by the middle of the afternoon riders were tired and drivers were becoming an issue again. I moved up to a different lay-by and was surprised at just how dangerous the traffic was being – Moving up the course and over the flyover at the northern-turn-around I followed Pip and one other rider who was correctly positioned to the right whilst an BMW tried it’s best to overtake the pair just yards from the roundabout on the grass (which sounds insane, but actually happened – and that was just in the 2 minutes that I could see – imagine what was happening for the rest of the day)!
Unfortunately the finishing course wasn’t yet ready so Pip ended up having to do five circuits of the Northern loop before a 15:30 cut-off. Therefore she finished her 5th circuit after 9 hours and 54 minutes of racing having covered 215 miles. In 1962 Pam Wells set the SDW Club Ladies 12-hour record at 218.505 miles, so 55 years later at approximately 219 miles on the way to the “Finishing Circuit” I was waiting for Pip in yet another lay-by to give her a celebratory (but very sweaty) kiss and a bottle of flat coke! With just under 2 hours to go she was rewriting the history books!
All the riders thankfully meandered their way away from the A11 and to the finishing circuit – an 11 mile out-and-back between Watton and the HQ at Hingham Green, which began at 16:40 (mile 225) for Pip. The trek over had been slightly slower than the A11, but now on the smooth tarmac Pip had the end in sight and the bit between her teeth, once again raising her average speed to over 22mph. At 17:43 (11 hours and 34 minutes) Pip was starting her last circuit and had clocked 250 miles.
When it came time for the final push you could see the suffering but also the determination in her eyes – it was no holds barred attacking – full gas. Riders are clocked at each mile marker on the finish circuit and so at 12 hours (18:09 for Pip) they must ride on to the next marker so that an exact distance can be worked out. After 12 hours she’d completed an amazing 260 miles, improving the Club Ladies record by over 40 miles (almost a mile a year)! In fact Pip and Kieran (263 miles) ended up not far off the Club Men’s record of 267 miles on their first attempt (he said, hinting at what could be done in the future)!
I really enjoyed supporting Pip and preparing all the bikes and keeping an eye out for all the other riders too. We’ve got to say a massive thank-you to Paul for the loan of the 2nd bike. Also to Del at Four4th Lights for not only making the best lights out there, but for also going the extra mile to deliver them at a moment’s notice. Reynolds has looked after us with wheels and they continue to work faultlessly. Cheers to all the young and old guys in various clubs for their time and advice to both Pip and me which really made the whole thing a lot easier to plan and execute. And thankyou to all the CC Breckland organisers, marshals, other riders and helpers who clapped, cheered and smiled at everyone on their way through 12 hours of TT racing!… oh, and well done to Pip – smashed it out of the park!
Photos and video by Glen Whittington.
Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races mountain bikes, road bikes, TT and ‘cross at local and national level. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen , VeeTireCo, Four4th Lights and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany.
Pip rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. She races road bikes and TT at local and national level. She receives personal support from the.æight.bicycle.cømpany.
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