24-25 Aug 19
At the beginning of the season and on the back of the success at last years’ event, the gauntlet was laid and the challenge was set! All riders in the team will enter the “Solo” 24 hr Marathon class at the 2019 Dawn to Dusk Enduro (D2D). As the season went by, the riders entered a variety of events to mentally and physically prepare for this mammoth task. The reality, the bike prep for the event didn’t really start until only a couple of weeks before. The teams WhatsApp was filled with questions about which lights to use, who’s eating what etc etc, the questions kept coming. Despite this we all found ourselves at Walters Arena on Fri evening with only 24 hrs to go till the start of this truly epic event.
The format for the race is simple, the 24 hr race (there are also 12 hr and 6 hr races) starts on Saturday evening at 1900; aim, ride as many laps as possible until 1900 hrs Sunday evening. The team consisted of Lt Josh Terry, WO2 Rob Bungy Williams, Sgt Ben Chameley, LCpl Mike Blewy Blewett and Mne Matt Bird who all entered the Clubman class while Mne Ollie Harcombe entered the Expert class (Ollie won the Clubman class last year, on his first attempt). Despite being in different classes and racing for class honours, the lads were also competing for team honours to discover who will be the RN D2D Champion.
The race got underway with everyone making a confident start and settling quickly into their rhythm. During the night the course is around 7 miles long; the teams’ tactic, complete as many night laps as possible only stopping when required to do so, because at 0600 hrs the next morning the lap extends to around 15 miles long. After only 1.5 hrs into the race when the daylight started to fade, each rider came into the pits to attach their lights for the night. So far so good, each rider was enjoying the challenge. Due to the magnitude of the event, the team could not compete without a pit crew supporting so many riders for 24 hrs. WO1 Bill Callister RM and LH Aidan Richardson were joined in the paddock by CPO Rob Couzens and AB Nick Flemming from the Off-Road Team and their families, PO Craig Beesley from the Kart Team, Mikes wife, Ben’s dad and Mrs, who all offered to come help. The Pit Crews tasks were simple, check, maintain the bikes and support the riders with kit, food, water, rest and advice as required. Enduro is a true team sport / effort. With lights attached, bikes checked, a little food and water taken onboard, the guys continued putting in the laps.
At around 2130 hrs we were informed by the ambulance staff that Mike Blewett had fallen off and needed to go to hospital due to a punctured artery in his forearm and a suspected shoulder injury. Unfortunately, this would mean that Mike was out of this year’s D2D having completed 5 laps.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team were still out circulating through the darkness with only a head torch and headlight to show them their way. 4 hrs in and the team had settled into their positions within their class and the race overall. Ollie was leading the team effort in 15thoverall (3rdin class), just pipping Josh who sat in 16thposition overall (4thin his class). Ben had settled into 46th(15thin class) followed by Bungy in 56th(18thin class) and then Birdy in 77th(28thin class). Throughout the night the boys came into the pits one after another like a conveyor belt, bikes checked and fixed if required, riders fed and watered and off they go again.
All was going well, the night shift turned into the grave yard shift and the boys kept going. 6.5 hrs in, equivalent to more than 2 back to back 3 hr races which they normally race, things had changed in the RN D2D Championship. Despite both riders dropping down in the overall standings, remembering our boys were racing solo and competing against 2 and 3 man teams in the same race, Josh was now ahead of Ollie in the overall with both riders up 1 place in their classes. Both Ben and Bungy had dropped a couple of places in class but remained in the same order, while Birdy had dug deep and moved up 8 places in class and the overall.
When the sun started to rise and the darkness slowly broke into daylight, the team decision not to sleep until day light was coming to an end. The day course opened at 0600 hrs and they had 1 hr to ride and learn the new circuit before the 12 hr race started. With the prospect of being out on track, having ridden for 12 hrs straight and only stopping for short periods to sort admin, with no sleep and up against a field of fresh riders the tactic was in at 7 and get some sleep! The grave yard pit crew also got some sleep while the riders slept, whilst the night shift and families set about sorting the bikes and riders for the next 12 hr stint.
Each rider had different amounts of sleep and understandably found it hard to get themselves going again once up. As the sun climbed higher into the sky, so did the temperature, making for an uncomfortable day for both riders and pit crew alike. Before Ollie could continue in the race, he had a mechanical issue with his front brakes. His brake had been binding and almost wore through an entire brake disc. Lucky for him he had a spare wheel and the pit crew jumped into action, swapping the brake disc and re-installing his front wheel. By 10 o’clock, just 15 hrs in and equivalent to 5 x 3 hr races back to back, there was another change in the standings. Ollie was now back ahead of Josh and still sitting 2ndin class, with Josh still 3rdin his class. However, there was now a few people in between them on the overall leader board. Bungy was closing in on Ben as both riders were now 16thand 17thin class respectively, with Birdy also making outstanding progress on them sitting back in 21stin class. Only an hour later, despite the standings not changing, Josh had closed the gap with Ollie and sat behind him in the overall.
Early afternoon, 18 hrs in with 6 hrs still to go, the sun and heat were relentless. The dust was gipping and the team were really now having to dig deep but not surprisingly spirits and morale were still very high. Bungy came into the pit with a mechanical issue we could not sort in the pits without a spare. This didn’t mean that he was out of the race, it just meant that he couldn’t put anymore laps in and could be caught by the slower riders behind him who were still circulating. Around the same time, Ben also came into the pits for a normal pitstop to be notified by the pit crew he was riding with a flat front tyre. A quick repair, some food and water and he was back out riding again.
Mid-afternoon, Team manager Bill received a call from Blewy with an update on his condition. We say update, it was more a request “get my transponder back, I’m coming to finish the race”? One key point with the D2D, to class as a finisher you must cross the finish line and take the chequered flag; Blewy was determined to finish. As was bungy who would have to push his bike over the mine to finish. While heading back to the team awning Bill decided to go to the timing tent to check on team standings. Whilst there it became clear that Josh was being hunted by William Bowman, the rider sitting in 4thplace in class behind him. A little push to get Josh going again, also meant this now put him back in the lead of the RN D2D championship ahead of Ollie. Despite his mechanical, Bungy was still right behind Ben and Birdy was now only 2 places back on them both.
With less than an hour left on the clock, the sun was beginning to set, the temperature was dropping, the race was drawing to a close. The lads were starting to make some silly mistakes and had a couple of spills, with 23 plus hrs on a bike, exhausted, the boys stopped and were waiting for the chequered flag. The D2D is a race like no other, it is tough on both man and machine, physically and mentally. Equivalent to eight 3 hr hare and hounds enduro races back to back, the effort required was enormous. Everyman out did themselves and exceeded everyone’s expectations. Final standings in the RN D2D Championship, Lt Josh Terry finished 1st, completing 43 laps and finishing 5th in the clubman class. Mne Ollie Harcombe finished 2nd, completing 42 laps and finished 2ndin the expert class. Sgt Ben Chameley finished 3rdand remained 15thin the clubman class having completed 29 laps overall. WO2 Rob Bungy Williams finished 4th, despite completing 25 laps, unfortunately dropped to 18thplace in the clubman class due to the mechanical. Mne Matthew Bird finished 5thhaving completed 20 laps finishing 19thin the clubman class. LCpl Mike Blewett did take the chequered flag, crossing the finishing line with arm in sling and was classed as a finisher. Finishing in 6thin the RN D2D Champs and 25thin the clubman class having completed 6 laps.
The Dawn to Dusk 24 hr Enduro proved once again to be a monumental challenge to both man and machine. It brought the RNRMMSA together, with other teams coming along to help one another as service men and women do #oneteam. So, onto next year’s event, many lessons were learnt during this adventure and already team preparations are underway for D2D 2020!
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