A couple of weeks ago I got asked by a friend of a friend to race with him the 24 hour Race in Duisburg. He was talking so enthusiastically about the atmosphere at Europe's biggest 24 hour race that it was hard to say no. On Friday morning in the early hour of 2 am the van was all packed for the 6 hour drive north to Duisburg.
We arived in Duisburg to a big queue of cars all waiting to get onto the grounds to secure the best tent site. Mid-morning we were all set up in our tent with comfy beds, electricity, a cooker and a fridge (generously donated by Philipp's fire brigade and our tent neighbours).
We spent the rest of the day exploring the area and practising the course. The course went through an old steel factory which has been reclaimed and developed into a recreational park. It now includes walkways, streams, a diving pool, a rock climbing wall and even a skate park.
Race start was on Saturday at 12 am. The start gate was open from 11 am and with 2600 riders lining up it was key to have a good position within our start block. Philipp took my bike and reserved us a spot at the front tape. I earned a few grumpy looks by the guys around me when I climbed the fence to swop places with Philipp.
As expected the first few laps were relatively hectic but the crowds soon spread out nicely over the 8 km lap. Our race plan was to ride 2 hours (5 to 6 laps) each at a time. This way I would get some solid training hours in and have enough recovery time in between. The first two hours were like a cross country race. Luckily I ended up with a solo rider which I could draft on the long flat sections and have a chat with on the hills.
During my next turn I paid for my fast start and hit the wall. I was thankful to see this sign after another 2 hours of riding. It was clear that I had to adjust my race pace to be able to make it through the 24 hours.
From then on I got into a good routine that seemed to work well for me. As soon I finsihed, I'd have a beetroot recovery smoothie followed by a dip in our 'private pool to ice my legs. By the time I got changed into fresh kit, had some food and put my legs up for 20 minutes, it was almost time to head out again.
When I rode the course first, I wished there would have been more singletrack. After a few hours of racing I knew why it had to be so wide. The sheer amount of people on the course definitely warranted the gravel road sections. Even then I got caught in traffic jam a handful of times, sometimes being stuck in a complete lock down due to some serious accidents.
Riding through the night was the most fun part. At first I was a little worried about the sleepmonsters but I enjoyed riding in the moonlight and through the colorful lit up buildings. The fans along the course made sure we didn't fall asleep, blasting AC/DC up the hill and handing out beer.
We were in a solid 3rd place with not much chance of catching 2nd and a solid gap to 4th. The rising sun provided some welcomed warmth and created some new motivation to defend our 3rd place until the end.
With 4 hours to go we changed our strategy to swopping every hour (3 laps). This allowed us to keep the pace up and distant ourselves further from 4th place.
Philipp rode one more lap just before the 12 am cut-off. He worked hard (and ignored all our radio requests asking where he was on the course) to tag me one last time at 11.56 am. I took my time and soaked up the atmosphere one last time before crossing the finish line in 3rd after riding 37 laps in 14 hours.