On a hot sunny day back in August 2017, Rob Grunfeld and I both competed in our first 12 Hour TT on the relatively flat and quick ECCA 12 Hour Course (it includes long stretches of the A11 – quick though a bit scary). Having learned from that experience, we both vowed to have a crack at the same event in 2018, so we registered many months back.
Between November 17 and April 18, health problems meant I couldn’t get on a bike. However a combination of better health, great weather and some brilliant cycling (Flanders through to the Pyrenees) means I’ve got myself much fitter. So a few weeks back I was really looking forward to the ECCA 12 (starts south of Cambridge) and Rob and I had day support set up. The ECCA 12 is one of just 4 12 hour events on the CTT calendar, so it was a big downer when we found it was cancelled due to major roadworks. Eagle Eyed Rob spotted that there was a couple of days left to register for the 12 Hour ran by all the Cheshire and Mersey cycling associations – with a course set between a triangle of Wrexham, Stoke and Shrewsbury. The WCTTCA 12 Hour!
With a 5.30am registration on an industrial estate on the edge of Wrexham (more below), we had to get there the night before – so we lost out support for the day. Rob drove us up to Wrexham in his converted van, with him staying in the van overnight and me in a room in a pub. Thankfully the organisers provided on course support, moving our kit/drinks/food to various spots on the course.
We drove a bit of the course the night before – which was a bit of a shocker: hilly, very windy and lots of narrow winding roads. I was starting to worry even more with gusts of up to 30mph forecast for the day of the event plus heavy rain.
So – the day itself. After a 4.30am breakfast, we drove to the registration/HQ at a working men’s club next to a plastics moulding factory. Plenty of competitors had stayed in camper vans (and even tents!) overnight in the car park. To add to the hard core feeling, someone had forgotten the keys to open up the club, so registration was done in a changing room in a shower block. People could not have been more welcoming though, and lots of scouse humour to welcome all the entrants from around the country.
It was still very windy at the start and with fairly light rain (which persisted for a few hours). My set off time was 6.14am, and Rob off at 6.44am.
As to the course itself, the first couple of hours really were rolling as you went south from Wrexham – I did a 1,000ft of climbing in the first hour. We then had a series of loops on a flat section of A road (terrible surface, wet, and strong cross winds). About 4 hours in we then went on a link road to the main “loop” of about 22 miles, which you did a number of times (depending on pace) before being sent on again. I really liked the loop – not too hilly, lovely views etc, running through places like Welshampton. The only challenge was that a lot of it was like the small roads we do our club runs on – few straights, lots of potholes etc. It’s not what you think about for a TT, but it was fun because you had a lot of support roadside. Even the Sun came out.
At about 8 hours in you got sent on the long link road to the finishing circuit on the edge of Wrexham. This link was a long, hilly A road, straight into a very strong breeze – the toughest bit for me. The finishing circuit/loop was 10 miles around the industrial estate!
The whole course was brilliantly signed and marshalled – can’t praise the large numbers of helpers enough. Great humour as well. At some point my kit had not appeared where it should have been, but I was showered with offers of food and drink. Aside from 4 or 5 riders (including Rob and I) everyone else had a lot of support on the course – some teams seemed to have a fleet of helpers.
In terms of performance, I had a great day. This is a slow course, and on average people do 15-20 miles less than the ECCA. There were 70 entrants, with 60 actually braving the weather from the start. Rob completed 234 miles to finish 29th and I completed 220 miles to finish 34th. We both smashed our age targets (mine was 192 and Rob’s 203). My average moving time (I had 20 mins of stops, which I need to reduce further – but does require support) was just over 30kph.
It’s amazing what the body and mind can do – I rarely get to a moving average of 30kph with others on a club run of 60 miles. I genuinely surprised myself.
Obviously you have to be fit to do an event like this, and good on endurance – you also need to get a TT bike set so you are not in total discomfort (and the neck gets a real bashing). Also important are fuelling strategy and mindset. I got my nutrition right for this – no cramp, and felt pretty good at the end. Consumed a mix of salty snacks, gels, neat water, milk and carb/protein High 5 stuff. People overload on sugar and get upset stomachs (roadside puking in evidence). My Garmin says I got through 10,000 calories.
As to mindset, you have to cope with the lows – and break things down the whole time. You have bad stretches, so you just have to accept that the pace drops and don’t stress. You just have to ride to a very settled level of effort that you can maintain.
Massive credit to Rob that he then drove us both back home – so it was 1am before crashing on to a bed. Huge thanks Rob, and you were great company as well as being a great cyclist.
My long term goal has been to do the National 24 Hour TT, which I plan to do next year. It’s on the Wirral, and will need support (including the moral bit). I’m hoping both Rob and I get to do it, but making the start line is an achievement in itself. How about some other takers?! Hopefully the ECCA 12 be back on, where I will target 240miles, with an objective of doing 400 miles on the 24. Will keep me motivated over winter 


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