Gravity 12 hour is one of those races, I’m sure you know the type, that without fail end up in your race calendar, waiting for you to rock up and turn it on.
Ryan and I thought the best way to race this year would be in Male Pairs and to do so on Single Speeds. We disagreed on the correct gear ratio to run, in hindsight Ryan picked better with ~1.8 where as my 2.0 was just too big given the conditions. “What conditions?” you ask. Well the recent months rain has led to a few springs popping up around the course, leaving some sections wet, challenging and quite varied from lap to lap.
The thing that never got old was the “Gravity Drop”, a section of off camber trail that twists and turns as it tracks down the side of a ridge. Bravery was rewarded with speed, speed was rewarded with adrenalin, adrenalin was rewarded with a grin that explains why we’re compelled to keep going back to this race.
We got off to a reasonable start, 5th in category, 15th overall but with 11 hours and 20 minutes to go, it was not the time to get cocky, so we didn’t. We got down to a religious schedule of lap on lap off racing. Head out, hurt on the climbs, recover where you can, tag in your partner for their lap, then try to get some food and drink in. Hour by hour the laps ticked over, by half way into the race we’d crept up into 4th in pairs and 13th overall, we were tired, but it seems that so were all the other racers, regardless of category.
At 7 hours our thoughts on whether SS was a good option was varied. As Ryan said: “People can bitch about singlespeeds not being fast all they want, we proved that you can go pretty fast and be very consistant, and besides that, I washed my bike once at the 6h mark, lubed the chain 3 times and fitted lights to it for the night laps. Other than that only bottles were changed. You have to love the simplicty of the bike, especially in those conditions.” He had a point, around us people were scrubbing drivetrains every lap, where as we had extra time to rest, less time stressing, more time to work out where to go faster.
So we kept at it, riding round the 14km course as best we could, around the 9 hour mark as the sun started to dip below the horizon we slipped into 3rd place, this spurred us on, with the end of the race in sight (funny how 4 hours to go seems short) we started to push harder, 4th was only a few minutes behind and we wanted to cement our podium step. Seemingly only a couple of laps later we’d moved into 2nd and 11th overall.
Legs smashed by countless previous laps were given sugar and caffeine then cajoled into more speed. With each lap through the inky darkness, the previous 11 hours were making sense. They are the time you use to learn the fastest route, the best way around the course, so that come nightfall when no one can see you, you can unleash everything left in your battered body for one last-ditch effort for the line.
Covered in mud from crashes of laps I finished my last effort with only 10 minutes left in the race. At the end of the previous lap 3rd was 15 minutes behind us, which meant we should have had it in the bag, but there are no certainties in racing, so Ryan headed out to bring everything home. We were right, we didn’t need the lap to finish 2nd, but I suspect Ryan needed that lap.
The final lap of an enduro is one of goodbyes, some of them said with fondness, some with relief, some with anger. “Goodbye awesome descent, you rock!”, “Steep switch back climb, you’re a bastard but I respect what you stand for”, “Dear mud puddle that grew surprisingly deep between lap 6 and 7 and flipped me over the bars, If i never see you again, it will be too soon”.
Goodbye Gravity 12 hour, we’ll see you next year.