Race Report: Redbull Timelaps 2021
Goodwood Motor Circuit 30th October – 31st October
Team Zoot Ohana!
Redbull Timelaps is an annual 25 hour endurance cycling event taking place at various indoor and outdoor venues across the UK. Due to covid restrictions, the ‘in real life’ event at Goodwood Motor Circuit was a much smaller affair than usual but nevertheless still enough cyclists to make it competitive and an exciting atmosphere.
Ahead of the event, Redbull’s team did a great job communicating with us all, supplying nutrition and training plans and most importantly ensuring we all understood the rules of the event. The main rule is only one rider from each team on track at one time and there could be no overlaps, so you had to have your rider stop their Strava tracking before the next rider started or it would be discounted. Simples!
I booked a mixed team relay at the circuit, thinking it would be an ideal opportunity to get some of the UK based Team Zooters together. That and having previously taken part in a Cyclothon at Brands Hatch remembered how much I enjoyed riding on a smooth motor circuit so it instantly appealed. I quickly had volunteers for a team pulled together and while there were others interested the event got sold out super-fast which meant sadly, we could only enter one team.
Since we have done a few endurance events before, Adrian and I did not do anything particularly specific to train, although we did add some longer turbo sessions into our weekly training schedule.
A couple of weeks before the event unfortunately, Antonio one of the original team had to bow out due to injury which opened the door for Greg to step in and we were back up to our team of four. But then in a cruel twist of fate, just days before we were due to start, our other female team member Becky injured herself far too badly to take part. However, the ohana that is Team Zoot Europe came to the rescue and as soon as I put a call out on our team’s facebook page for a volunteer we had an eager taker – hurrah for Katie!
The final full team pictured below (L-R) me, Katie, Greg and Adrian
Tactically, our plan was simple. Just to ride as many laps as we could for an hour and then rotate. This meant we had six shifts each except for one rider who would do seven. We also had the famous power hour at 02:00, where all laps ridden counted double - this hour coincides with the official end of BST and the clocks go back in the UK.
Greg was our starting rider, followed by Katie, me and then Adrian.
Weather forecast for the event looked a bit grim, but then again it is the end of October and it is the UK so none of us really expected it to be that nice, but then again none of us really anticipated it getting as bad as it did.
So anyway… we started the day in full sunshine. Event kicked off at 13:00 and Greg blasted out the first hour, followed by Katie, me and then Adrian. Goodwood circuit is 2.3 miles a lap. It is sheltered in some places and exposed in others, it’s very flat with a couple of rises and a chicane to keep you on your toes. The surface is smooth as can be which is a dream to ride on.
By the time the second rotation started for Greg around 17:00 the rain was starting to fall, and the wind was picking up, with the forecast showing there was considerably more on the way. Team spirits were high, probably due to the amount of sugar we had all eaten, but mostly we were all happy to be racing at an actual event! Everyone was pushing out the watts, getting the laps in and happily totting up the miles.
Before the event began, I wondered how I would while away the three hours in between my lap rotations. Well, that was easy. By the time you get off the bike, shower, change and eat something that is easily the first hour gone; add to this a bit of social media faffing, picture taking, chatting to everyone in earshot that is the second one; taking a nap and prepping to get back on and you quickly realise three hours off the bike goes way faster than the one when you are on it!
Riding in the dark on the track is a weird, but kind of cool experience. The track itself is in total darkness except the track corners are lit up. There was some music blasting from the marshals at various points around the track and Redbull had a massive, illuminated, inflatable arch over the lap marker with searchlights that you could see from the far side of the track.
Hanging onto a group of cyclists or better still inserting yourself in the fast pelaton (fyi that did not happen for me, there were some seriously, fast cyclists at this event) helps avoid your hour on the track becoming a lonely affair. I played a game of "can I catch the red back light of the cyclist in front of me" which had its appeal until at one point the light I was following was the motorbike safety marshal and that was just never going to happen!
Anyway, as the night went on so did the rain and the wind was certainly noticeably keeping us on our toes. Picking up to 50kph there were a few gusts and hairy ‘hanging on’ moments, even the inflatable Red Bull Arch collapsed and was taken down eventually due to the strength of the wind.
Around 05:00 it felt like it might be just teetering on the edge of safety as the rain absolutely battered us and the wind blew even harder. But we all kept going out regardless, coming in absolutely soaked, getting dry kit on and then going out to repeat it all again. The harder the weather came in, the more everyone just gritted their teeth, laughed a little hysterically and kept smiling so that tells you a story.
As daylight broke the weather did not really lighten off and while the sun came out for our final laps, the wind decided to play with us right up to the finish.
Overall we were really strong and consistent as a team throughout the event, but I can’t write this report without mentioning a few team rider highlights: Katie - an absolute legend on a bike, pushing crazy, ridiculous watts and putting in a truly savage 90 minute shift when the weather was at its worst, even coming in to the pit quickly and going back out to do an extra lap, while she waited for the next rider to get ready; Greg – who got on the bike like some crazed puppy let loose and belted out the power hour; Adrian - for turning up on his 25 year old Lightspeed road bike which he has not ridden in six years, and rather impressively, if not almost somewhat literally, managing to ride the backside off it. And me - well apart from forgetting to start my watch for one of my turns, I am chuffed with my performance too.
In total our combined cycling effort for the 25 hours came in at a massive 472.65 miles and in doing so we earned second place in the overall mixed team outdoor event and first place at the track. Not bad at all for a bunch of triathletes, who are generally more comfortable sitting on our time trial bikes than the road ones.
Kudos to everyone who took part, but particularly to the Redbull event team and all the marshals for creating such a well organised event, generally looking after us, supplying endless cups of teas, coffees, biscuits, cans of red bull (obvs), hot showers, clean toilets and general love and support.
Thanks for the memories!