24 Hours of Racing at Brands Hatch. Revolve24.
When you get an invite to a 24 hour race on closed roads at Brands Hatch, there is only one answer. Yes Please.
I was extremely lucky to get an invite from the brilliant guys at Road.cc to take part in the inaugural Revolve24 at Brands Hatch last year (2015). The Revolve24 is a 24 hour closed circuit race around Brands Hatch. The organisers have plans to develop the idea to use at other circuits and have ideas for various formats including a cyclo-cross version.
In 2016 they are planning a Festival of Cycling spanning the whole weekend, including an Omnium and a Sportive as well as the 6, 12 and 24 hour races, more details at the bottom of the page.
The whole idea of a cycle race on an iconic motor racing circuit like Brands Hatch wouldn’t have been possible some years ago, and definitely not on a sunny weekend at the end of summer. Since 2007 Motorsport Vision or MSV, the track’s owners, have committed to include a number of Quiet Days during weekends and Bank Holidays during the racing season. During this time only Quiet events are to be run. Enter the lovely quiet sport of cycling. This year’s race is on the 10th and 11th of September 2016.
I considered myself fairly prepared for a 24 hour race. After all, I’m a regular at the Dunwich Dynamo, which is a 200km ride through the night. How hard could it be on a closed loop of lovely smooth tarmac. Then somebody pointed out that the 3.9km circuit has 65 metres of climbing per lap, with a maximum gradient of 9.1% on Druid’s Hill and with the teams and soloists expected to complete around 200 laps during the 24 hours. That’s quite a lot of climbing. Turns out it was still possible to average 20+mph over a lap though!
The Revolve24 organisers have developed a race app in partnership with mapmytracks.com. As well as providing live timing during the race, this app helped decide grid positions. All riders were encouraged to upload their ride files in the app for several months before the event. A team’s grid position is decided on total distance ridden, total metres climbed and average speed of the team’s riders.
The race start was brilliant to watch. It was a Le Mans style start, with the racers lining up against one side of the track to sprint, or in most cases, kind of waddle to their bikes, which were being held by a team member on the other side of the track in their grid positions.
The entry categories were for either Soloists, or teams of 2, 4, 6 or 8 riders. Surprisingly, a team of four won the 2015 race with 213 laps. The leading soloist, Julian Rider, managed 175 laps! There were lots of tactics and minimal gains going on. I saw one team who didn’t settle for handing over the relay wrist band from rider to rider, but had one team member to take the band from rider to rider, then another team member holding the next rider, already clipped in and ready to be pushed off.
Whilst your team mates are racing there’s plenty to do. Get your bike ready, charge up the lights and Garmins, fill your bottles, eat, get your kit ready for the next stint, or maybe have a nap. You can wander up to the media centre and check out the lap times and current standings on the results screens in the warm with a nice cup of hot chocolate, or even have a massage. Some of the race packages include a massage, or you can add it on.
There’s free camping on site, with an option of paying for a pit lane parking space for cars, vans, or Winnebago. I intended to camp, but luckily I have an estate car so I ended up napping in the pit lane in my car. Some others were taking naps in the media centre, because it did get fairly cold at night. The media centre was fairly warm and had tea and biscuits.
Having our own pit garage was awesome; we had a table, camping chairs, warm up rollers, loads of extension leads to charge up lights and bike computers, and a big box of food. It looked thoroughly professional. I’d even thought to bring a heater, which came in very handy for the two soloists we helped to warm up through the night. I’m also glad I chose to take every bit of kit I owned because I was in summer kit during the day, but ended up wearing most of my winter kit on one of the night turns I did, it got quite cold. It went down to 6°C for at least part of the night according to my Garmin.
As well as the 24 hour race starting at 3pm on the Saturday, a 6 hour race began at 9am on the Sunday. This was carefully orchestrated, with the pit lane being closed briefly to start the race without causing obstruction to the 24 hour riders. It also meant that there were more options of riders to get a draft off for those of us that had ridden through the night when company was a bit hard to find.
When the big clock at the end of the finish straight ticked down to ’24’ there were several riders on the finish straight and they made an admirable job of a sprint finish. Revolve24 was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend in 2015, and looks like it will be even more spectacular in 2016, with a warning to anyone taking part. Take warm clothes and some means of heating your pit garage. Also be aware that while we were there as a nice distraction from the daily grind, it swiftly turned into a gruelling competition between us and another 6 person team for 3rd place in our category and 11th overall. You can’t avoid getting caught up in the enthusiasm and competitiveness!
Plans for 2016 include an additional race within a race. As well as the 24 hours and the 6 hours, there will be a 12 hour Dusk ’til Dawn event. It’s a welcome addition as through the night there became less riders to work with as more teams retired to their tents and vans. The 24 hour race is now a qualifying event for the Race Across America Soloists 2017 event, with RAAM team entries encouraged to come and practice too. The RAAM Solo qualifiers must ride without drafting though.
The 6, 12, and 24 hour races can also be used as part of qualifying for the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association World Cup. The Event is supported by British Cycling, which means all of the different races and categories comply with their regulations, insurance requirements and safety provision.
On the Saturday this year there will be much more happening before the 24 hour race starts. There will be a BC registered Omnium on the Saturday of the event for Category 2/3/4 riders limited to 60 teams of four competing in 3 events. The 3 events are;
10am Team Time Trial- 3 laps of the 3.8km GP circuit.
12pm Criterium- 24 minutes of racing plus 2 laps on the 1.19km Indy circuit.
3pm Team Relay for the first 4 hours of the 24 hour race on the 3.8km GP circuit.
There will also be a sportive, with an hour of closed road riding on Brands Hatch itself, followed by either 35 miles or 60 miles of challenging Kent countryside to keep you going, followed by a pasta lunch at the track to finish. All at a very reasonable £35. You’d be hard pushed to find another sportive with a closed road section at that price.
Clothing brand Ashmei will be providing prizes for the pole position contest. There will be more emphasis on the charity partners this year with prizes for the teams who raise the most money for a charity. Partner charities are Breast Cancer Care, Cystic Fibrosis and the RAF Association, and you can enter the race as part of their teams if you wish.
Rose Bikes will provide the men’s and women’s fastest lap prizes of an SL PRO 2000 each. TrueStart Coffee will be sponsoring a “Hero’s Cup” for Armed Forces and Emergency Services entrants. In 2015 The Royal Signals entered several teams in very striking hi-vis yellow kits.
Map My Tracks provide the prizes for the KOM and QOM competition on Druid’s Hill as well as being the technical partner for the race app and live stats. Muc-Off will also be providing prizes to category winners.
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