900km in 24 hours

Three years ago I finished one of my biggest projects and certainly the one I cherish the most - 900PLUS, in which the goal was to ride more than 900km in 24 hours. Here is my recap from that day (October 8th-9th, 2010):

It is done! It was a huge relief. We were so confident about surpassing the magic barrier of 900km in 24 hours, that some were beginning to take it for granted. I myself was more than aware of the difficulty of task at hand, even if everything goes smoothly on a day. Add one or two unplanned complications in 24h and everything can go sour.

 

 

My wish of making it 900PLUS kilometers in 24 hours goes back to year 2008, when I had a dream ride and set the World record in 24h TT for outdoor tracks, on what were less than perfect conditions (very strong wind during day, cold during night). My result was 890km, which was so, so close to 900km.  Later I did much thinking about that, what could I improve, what could I change to make 10 kilometers more and make impossible possible? The 900km mark kind of became my obsession. As it is very hard to find the financial support for RAAM every year, I decided to take a break from RAAM in 2010 and concentrate on THE record. Last winter I devoted quote a lot of my time to finding a suitable velodrome, as only indoor I could expect the ideal conditions (the fastest surface, ideal »weather«, temperature, no wind, etc.). After receiving abnormally high prices for some Europe's velodromes, I got the contact with Montichiari Velodrome through my sponsors Vittoria. This velodrome is the closest to Slovenia and at the same time, they were the only ones with the price suitable to our budget.

Let's leave the history behind, on Thursday October 7th, 2010, we were at the gate of Montichiari Velodrome. During the year I simply didn't have the time to go see it and maybe try it out for a few laps, an hour or two. I haven't been on the velodrome for 8 years prior to this date, since my 12h Indoor Track record in Novo mesto in 2002. I had pretty bad feeling, especially as also my last month's training wasn't exactly what it was supposed to be. After an extremely good Summer, good results in races and even trying out the attitude training at Rogla resort, I skipped quite a few longer training rides in September due to bad weather. To make bad things worse, there was a weekend of Jure Robic's tragic death, which almost took my will to go on with the training (and the records). After a few days of hardly making it through, I convinced myself, that it would be Jure's wish for me to go on and set the record, in which he really believed even more than I did myself. In our last phone conversation, just a few hours before the accident, he kept telling me that I have it (900km) in my legs and head and heart and that he will be there with his son and partner to support me. Thinking back it became clear to me that he would want me to go for it and decided in myself that I will dedicate the record to Jure, of course, if I should be successful.

All of that kept buzzing in my head as I changed my clothes and prepared to take the first laps on the track. It was even steeper than I remembered from Novo mesto 2002 and the first few laps I circled at the top of the track, not having the nerve to ride higher up. When I took a plunge up, my heart was just about short of exploding, I was so scared the right pedal would touch the floor. Even at 40km/h! After a few heart stopping laps, I loosened up and begun enjoying the ride, following more or less ideal line at the bottom of the track (the black line). My legs were far from feeling good, as I didn't have time to sit on my bike for the last four days (due to work commitments), but in time they were working like there were supposed to. I had trouble circling the track with the speed of 36-37km/h, the speed 43km/h was a bit too much when I tried it. Testing out the track was over in a little more than 1 hour, as we still had to go to dinner and than to sleep as early as we could as tomorrow there would be no sleep for us. We found a nearby pizzeria, where we ate, talked a little more about the last details of the ride and then turned in to sleep.

The night was too short, but what can you do, we got up at 7AM, had breakfast (the last solid food for me until the end of the ride, Saturday around 14PM) and headed to velodrome. The crew were busy preparing the last details (setting up the sponsor signs, setting up the Livestream broadcast), as I did the last interviews, photo shooting, making a video with Jurgen, prepared my music on i-Pod, changed to racing clothing and nervously awaited the start.

At 10AM sharp on Friday October 8th, 2010, they let me off (the hook) from the start. Yes, it was the day of Irma's birthday and I told her that this is probably going to be the most memorable birthday she will ever have ;) Anyway, my thanks go to Irma for letting me do such a crazy thing on her birthday, thanks honey! I started as planned, very fast, the first 2 hours the average speed was 42,5km/h. My plan was to make some head start from the beginning, as I was aware I will have to stop a few times for peeing this time (in 2008 I was 24 hours on the bike, riding). In 2008, my average speed was over 40km/h for the first 4 hours, so this time my goal was to prolong this time to 6-7 hours, if possible. It was, I did it for the whole 9 hours! So, my average speed after 9 hours was still 40km/h (even with one pit-stop for peeing) and the result of this were two World Records, that I didn't claim I will do before the ride, but I knew they were possible to beat – 200 miles and 12h.

It may sound easy, but even in the first 12 hours, there were crisis, they just weren't visible from the outside.  Even after 5-6 hours, I began asking myself what did I get myself into, what if I can't keep this up, the lap was just sooooooo short, I already had huge pain in my arms (!) and I had my moments when I asked myself what will happen if I now stop my ride. In the hardest moments what has helped me was thinking about my old friend Jure and our last conversation. The thought that I would let down my friend, who is surely keeping his wings over me, gave me the strength to go on.

Looking on the bright side, the nutrition plan with WINFORCE worked to perfection, as smoothly as can be. Every hour Denis gave me one bottle of Carbo Basic Plus with two gels Ultra Energy Complex taped on it, all at traveling speed of 38-39km/h. Simply perfect, no loosing of seconds there. The procedure: bottle in the cage, turn, gels untapped, you put one in the pocket, turn, you open the other, put it in the mouth, turn, throw down the part of bag and squeeze the gel into your mouth, turn, throw away the remaining part of the bag, all this happened inside two laps at the traveling speed of more than 38km/h. In the next half hour the next gel was down and in the next half hour you repeat the session with another bottle. I was really proud of myself and the crew to have this at the perfect level. To tell you the truth, I was quite worried about this crucial part of the task only a day before the start.

During the night the crew kept me in the good mood writing jokes at the big screen bellow the roof of the velodrome. Unfortunately, we had to make one longer break for number 2, besides the stops for peeing and the advantage on my 2008 times dropped a bit. To make things worse, I had a flat tire on the front wheel. The funny feeling on the bike in one turn, like something is moving underneath me, changed to my horror in the next turn, where I almost fell down, because my from tire was almost flat. Luckily, the clincher, even half empty, stayed on the rim and I managed to hold myself up. Otherwise we wouldn't be talking records today… Well, only about the first two, the two most important would remain a dream, because that could have been some heavy crash! I stopped by the spare bike with a flat, jumped on AR1 and rode on, while the crew »jumped« on the TT bike and tried to change the tire as fast they could. They were very quick and in a few laps I was back on my B2 bike, but to my surprise, the speedometer didn't work. That was the only thing that made me angry in those 27 or so hours, because I specifically demanded they only give me back the TT bike, when the speedometer works again! It felt like riding blindfolded. It was a time when the crisis was expected anyhow, but this only made things worse. The lap times were plunging from 27 to bellow 24 seconds and then back up, I just couldn’t hold a steady tempo anymore. The crew became a bit nervous, not mw though (yet!), as I was still calculating the needed speed for the remaining hours, and it seemed to be OK even with some slower laps. It was clear to me that all I needed by then was to keep the speed above 35km/h and I could reach for the desired mark – 900km in 24 hours.

The time from 15th to 20th hour is when I expected the biggest crisis and i didn't even dream that it would be possible for me to keep the speed above 37km/h the hole 24 hours. That would be wishful thinking. So, I just kept grinding the miles at the pace that my legs could handle at the time without the speedometer until there was another pit-stop for peeing. At that time they gave me back my front wheel and the speedometer worked again, and so did my legs! The traveling speed rose above 37km/h again and the worrying times were over as I was on the track for the 900PLUS achievement again. The advantage over the 2008 record ride grew as much that I could afford one last stop for peeing 2 hours before the end. After that it was full gas to the finish, the last 10 or 15 minutes I even enjoyed myself in the traveling speed of a little below 40km/h.

In 24h I rode a little more then 3615 laps or some meters more than 903,75km. After a few laps of saying hello to a few but very loud fans, I stopped at the place of start/finish for the deserved break. Two crew members grabbed my feet for foot massage, 2 others my legs and one massaged my neck. Those were my minutes of glory, taking the congratulations from everyone there for the mission accomplished – the magic barrier of 900km was (is ) mine!

As my advantage on the 1000km record was significant, I decided to carry on riding my road bike AR1, thinking it would be easier to ride on it because I had some painful bruises on my arms from the triathlon bar and also I felt the position would be more comfortable. After some 30 minutes that turned out to be a mistake, as the position just didn't feel right and in one turn the rear tire just sled from the track and I almost crashed again (after the puncture some hours before). As I needed a break for No.2 again (?), I decided for another longer break, during which the crew prepared my TT bike one more time. I carried on with it, still with a more relaxed tempo and the speed between 32 – 34km/h. The pain in my arms and the sleepiness made the last hours seem to last forever. They were also the reason for me not to ride in the TT position anymore, holding the bars on the “horns” rather then on the triathlon bar ends. Everything seemed in slow motion to me, but it would be just dumb to stop before the 1000km, as I had such an advantage on the previous record, that even with two long breaks and leisurely riding, I still beat the old record by more than 1h 40 minutes.

All is well that ends well, at the end all the difficulties were forgotten, the champagne was on ice and ready, so we made a toast with all the fans that were there, cheering for me. I thank one more time to all who took the time and came to encourage me, the special thanks goes to Rok & David who turned almost crew members and really put in a lot of effort in helping us out. I thank the officials Sara, Mira and Matjaz for their professionalism. And the crew was as phenomenal as ever - Irma, Ana, Borut, Denis, Anders, Jure, Miha, Dušan, Lovro and Jurgen, I thank you for your help from the bottom of my heart. I can only hope you will find time for me again in June 2011, when a new challenge awaits for us in USA…

 

This is (was) for Jure,  R.I.P.

 

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