I thought I’d update you all and let you know what your donations got you at the weekend. Firstly I’ve got a few thank yous to do, though.
I have to thank everyone on here who donated- the generosity of the cycling and outdoor communities has been staggering. We’re very grateful for the support that has been shown during the last week. There are some industry types that have been helpful in donating and spreading the word. These are-
Orange bikes, Dirt magazine, MBR, Singletrack, Grough magazine, Uberbike components, Haglofs and Evans cycles.
Chris’s aunt sent me a message on Friday night and she wanted everyone to know that the donations have been “a great source of comfort and ongoing pleasure to his parents and all of us down here. I just want you to know it has helped us through the 1st week”.
Race day rolled around and Sam Morris from Bike Village has got us some stickers printed up for the bikes, so thanks to him for those. It certainly made our teams recognisable. Oli and I did the first laps- the run was very icy and I think Oli fell. Spike tyres are all well and good but they don’t do spiked SPDs yet!
Oli and Huw were settled around 3rd and 2nd for most of the first half of the race, while Pete and I started in the high teens. Huw and Oli were doing laps well under 40 minutes, while mine were all 41 minutes and Pete’s in the 50’s. The spikers came off around 2pm and mine weren’t back on til 4am.
During the night Huw’s chain snapped and knocked them back to 4th and from there there was no recovery- JMC, Team Aardvark and I-cycles were just too strong to reel the lost time back in. Meanwhile I chugged out a triple set of laps and Pete kept on doing doubles- there were perhaps only 10 minutes when neither of us were out on course and as a result we climbed from high teens, to 14th, to 11th. Come daylight, by some miracle, a 17 stone computer fixer and a guy who sits in a van for a living and hasn’t done a 24 hour race seriously for over 2 years, ended up sneaking into the top 10 in 9th position with an hour cushion either side.
There were some dark times in the night- I found myself having imaginary conversations with Chris, asking him if he was tired (he wasn’t), how he was doing (“I’m fine!”). I taped the picture of him wheelying and pointing to my top tube and looking down at that certainly made me mash the pedals harder.
Pete was the star of the show. Pete had never met Chris and roping him into such a big deal was perhaps a bit unfair. But he rode his heart out- he is by no means a bike racer but smashed it. He struggled in the night and so I did a triple lap with the intention of him doing a single afterwards but came back to find him refreshed and raring to go for a double. Pete was a real hero and rose to the occasion and then some.
Huw and Oli did well enough to have a big cushion behind them and so Huw finished his last lap (wearing a Chris Bell signature St Andrews skinsuit) just as I was ready to start mine. I found him in the transition area with tears in his eyes. He rode at a pace Chris would be proud of.
My last lap was awful and brilliant all at once. I set off with the just giving total at £19,900 odd. I cried all the way up the first climb before the techy flat singletrack at the top forced me to pull myself together. I smashed out the last lap as hard as I could. I came down the last set of steps and heard the cheers and burst out in tears again. A very, very emotional finish and lots of hugs saw us finish 9th and Huw and Oli finish 4th. At the end of the lap I phoned my wife and found the total had ticked to £20,001. Incredible.
Our support crew were invaluable- Roberta, Hillary, Dave, Al, Annie and Mike (plus my mum and dad) cooked, got us clothes, fixed our bikes, dried our kit, put the heater on, kept the time- everything, plus hundreds of hugs. We’d not have done as well without them.
Square Wheels were great too, giving us a mention at the briefing and at the end, as well as donating the proceeds from the tea and pot noodle table to the cause, so thanks to them for that.
I can only reiterate our gratitude here. Chris was a wonderful young man- polite, generous, enthusiastic and fun. I think he’d most like to remembered as a fast bastard, though, and racing for him was an honour. It was all made easier by all of your exceptional generosity, so thank you so much.