Pappy O’Daniel; “And furthermore, by way of endorsing my candidacy, the Soggy Bottom Boys are gonna lead us all in a rousing chorus of "You Are My Sunshine."
And well we might have, for the sun certainly shone in the days preceding, and for the event itself, delivering a perfect near dust-free track, with only a few boggy bits to remind us that only 2 weeks prior another mtb event “Capital Punishment”, which starts on the same trails, was cancelled due to the mega deluge which has hit inland Oz of late.
In last years edition the Soggies fortunes were a bit of a dogs breakfast and included a broken shoulder, a busted knee, bruised ribs, 2 cracked helmets, an eviscerated rear derailleur and 4 punctures – all before the heavens opened at the death, gleefully sloshing milk over a sea of powdered Milo to produce the inevitable.
Certainly most of us were expected a slop-fest, as attested by E's inquiring email;
Mikey was first on the scene to (yet again) establish camp and raise the “Taj”, with the rest of us dribbling in on the Friday eve or Saturday. This year the Soggy BBs comprised Mike, Ham, Craig and myself. The Soggier BBs comprised Ben (resplendent in full kit), Felix (now officially old enough to be doing these things), Alex (his first 24) and the dynamic duo of Giles and Sara. A gaggle of additional kids (Jeremy, Fraser, Moira and Eva) completed the picture. Another LeMans start had the event under way, with Ham and Ben suffering the inevitable fire-road dust and congestion of the opening loop. The first rotation went without a hitch, where Craig posted what would be our quickest collective split for the event of 57 min, easily besting my 59 min posted just prior. We concluded that Craig, still with issues after shoulder surgery, only knows two speeds; on and off.
Our splits confirmed impressions that the course was a few min slower than last years (officially 18.8 km). Although only a little longer, several of the previously fire-road bits were now replaced by wiggly single track. A pleasure to ride and in great nick!
Like last year, it wasn’t until the second rotation that the SBBs became a little unhinged. I was waiting for Mikey in transition when I got a phone call informing me that Mikey had carked it about 6 km from home. He was OK, but unable to get back to transition unassisted. Hence I should embark upon my lap, which I duly did, unaware of the true extent of his injuries. I finished my lap in the dark, handed over the Craig, and found Mikey in the Emergency tent, in good spirits but with a swollen upper shin. Whilst passing a slower rider the door had suddenly closed leading to an off which involved shin impacting bars, or some such ob-stacle. In no time a fat hematoma (BTW blogger spell check wants this word changed to potato - which might be more descriptive!) had ballooned just below the knee roll. By the time I saw him much of the swelling had waned, however it looked like his goose was cooked. After a hot shower and application of a compression bandage it was off to bed.
This left Ham, Craig and myself in a bit of an conundrum. Ride as a team of three through the night and for the rest of the event or catch some Zs and do some laps the next morn, as we did at the Scott24 last year? Rotating as a three through the night is hard graft, especially if the campsite is as bleak as ours had become. Fresh winds throughout the day had forced downing of the sail-like Taj, which allowed a heavy due to coat every thing in a layer of droplets. The oncoming night was clear but pretty damn cold. Without dry digs, let alone a mushroom heater, hitting the sack early was starting to look pretty alluring. Soft I know, but it’s not like we had ambitions of winning the thing.
With the order shortened we decided we’d do one more rotation then retire to the hay. Craig figured that while out for the last time in the eve he’d do a double, which would take us through to 1 am. I toyed with the idea of a following lap, but joined the collective slumber party at approx. 11:30. Took me ages to get warm before dozing off. I awoke a few times to muffled conversation and strobing torchlight, and eventually got up at 6 to ablute. I checked the lap board and was most impressed (actually more than that – more like shamed and inspired at the same time) to see that he-with-the-busted-leg had upped, done a lap, then headed off with brother Ben for another at 5:45! “We thought you was a toad!” Apparently the swelling had completely disappeared under the persuasive compression bandage. He even gave it another good whack on one of these laps to test it further.
I vowed to be ready for the next shift. Whilst prepping myself Craig rolls into camp having also just done a lap, unaware of Mikey’s Lazarus-like recovery. “I can never sleep properly at these things”. A sopping white-board had precluded clear communication. So we were a bit naughty there, unwittingly running two riders concurrently, which is why the official lap count will differ from ours. But we don’t care, we were having fun.
Having done a few of these now, something strange happens to single track at night, even on more exposed tracks like Stromlo. For some reason moisture seems to be drawn to the surface, the result being a tackiness that makes contact between hard-pack and tire even tackier – excellent for railing corners. The only caveat is to be wary of the odd exposed and lubed root. In short the course at night was a little heavier in places but overall riding beautifully. Some early am cloud cover also drifted in and raised the temp by a good few degrees.
I completed my dawn-shift lap and handed off to Ham. Craig decided that a tally of 5 was sufficient for him. If we kept the rotation going sans Craig, the rest of us would also clock 5 by race end. So, a cheeky 20 laps was accumulated, including 3.5 hours when no one was on track. My last lap proved to be my quickest (58 min), with improved handling skills compensating for general fatigue. For the record, fastest day lap was ~49 min, and quickest night ~52 min. Ham finished the race off for us as the 24 hr mark expired, and in brilliant sunshine as it had begun.
The SerBBs had an event-free but good run, with ambitions on returning with bigger muscles (Felix will start to fill out that impressive frame) and possibly new bikes for next year (Giles and Sara). Although technically a team of 5, Alex managed to squeeze in a few laps when he wasn't working for the man (Treasury was cracking the whip), and Giles and Sara acted as a dynamic duo using the same rig. As mentioned earlier, Ben did us all proud modeling for the first time the full glory of the SBB bottoms. A great look and attracted many comments, as did the jersey tops in general. It appears that the SBBs are becoming another small staple of the 24hr scene. Many a time we’d roll out of transition with calls of “go the soggies”. Might be time for another print run, and a few more bottoms in the order.
Ham putting finishing touches to his post-3peaks tapering
Even John Howard made an appearance