24 hours. Brunswick Velodrome. One man and his bike. A distance target that most of us would never even contemplate. 900km… almost endless laps through day and night. This is the story of how it unfolded.
Words – Glen O’Rourke Images – Andrew Clifforth
Drew Ginn is a 3 time gold Olympic medallist, a member of the awesome foursome, a power house and an all round great guy. He loves a challenge. This is my account of his most recent challenge.
The challenge was to break the 24 hour World Record track distance record. The current record is held by Marko Baloh and stands at 890.045km. Drew’s also was raising money for Tour de Cure in honour of his Mum who died of cancer when he was 12 years old. The venue for the attempt was Brunswick Velodrome, Melbourne. It has been around since 1956, and is a little knocked around, but much loved by the local cycling community.
At the beginning I had that feeling that we were about to be part of something truly amazing. Nervous energy, a laugh here and there, excitement, the odd cry of encouragement.
The count down started. A sense of calm descended. It was eerily quiet with just a dozen or so people looking on.
Go out easy that was the plan. Easy meant 37 kmph for the first 6 hours. This plan soon changed, from the get go Drew averaged 41kmph. He looked great, aero and relaxed and picked a nice line around the track. It was almost effortless.
I gave him the signal to back it off a little. It felt wrong to be telling him to slow down because it was clear he was feeling fast and fresh. There was a long journey ahead though.
One hour in and he had a technical issue. Drew looked too low, his seat post was slipping and he shouted for an alan key, he stopped briefly and sorted it. The bolt made a loud creak, sounding a little over the recommended torque but it did the job. Then he was off again.
We kept reminding Drew to eat and drink on a regular basis, on the menu were chicken and avocado sandwiches, soup, hale energy bars, milk, chocolate milk.
As time passed people came to cheer Drew on. His form was good and the k’s were ticking past. As hour 6 arrived the pace had settled to 37-38 Kmph.
The first cracks came when Drew called out that he felt bloated and started refusing food. He still looked incredibly good and we reminded him to keep a tight line and stay aero. The velodromes surface was rough and the banking inconsistent and was starting to wear him down.
At 10:30pm the pace dropped below 35kmph for the first time. We urged him to try and lift a little -the pace came back up and then dipped again. He kept going although he was struggling with his fuel intake.
THE DARKEST HOURS
Nothing was working and we are about to enter the darkest hours. Drew complained that his neck was sore, and that his arms and hands didn’t work.
At 1am he had covered 404kms. He was falling behind schedule. The wind had dropped and the moon was casting extra light on the track. Another form of light came from some party goers dressed as Batman and Wonder Woman calling by to check on his progress. They stayed and cheered him on. Things were getting a bit surreal.
Lighting was provided by the team at Full Beam Australia
At the thirteenth hour I have never seen Drew in such pain. He looked 10 years older. His shorts were salt encrusted, arms hung loose, speech delayed and frankly his neck and shoulders looked screwed. He put on a fresh jersey, refuelled and extraordinarily reset and looked good again.
THE EARLY HOURS
Amazingly Drew kept a steady rhythm and the hours kept passing. By 4am he said he felt like he was falling asleep. We got more coffee into him and cheered him on. The pace lifted for a short time. But he looked broken and was drifting up the track, extraordinarily though he was still riding at 32 kmph.
THE FIRST LIGHT
From dawn the crowds started to gather. Many had set up rides to start or finish at the velodrome as social media was awash with images of this incredible feat. People have since told me that they couldn’t sleep and through the night kept needing to check their live feed.
THE FINAL PUSH
As we entered the final stages, it was time to dig deep and he knew it. To add to the drama of the last 2 hours a dog ran across the track looking lost and scared.
With 45 minutes to go and the end in sight he started to force the pace. There were 250 people, maybe more, cheering him on. The bell rang for the final lap he lifted for the final time, and then it was over.
As we helped him off his bike he told us that it was the hardest thing he had ever done in his life.
He covered 836.366 kms / 519.694 miles or 2,608 laps of the velodrome, he now holds the Australian record, although just a little short of the world record.
I have had my own taste of 24 hour riding as a Rapha Brevet team member. This though was another level again. Drew was out there against the clock, his fitness and his mind. It was incredibly impressive and inspirational experience to have had the great fortune to be involved in.
The event brought some amazing people together, new friendships formed and the cancer community benefited from the enormous generosity of everyone who contributed to this great cause. At the last count Drew ride has raised a hugely impressive $40K for Tour De Cure