Matt Page – 24hrs of Exposure: UK & European Solo Championships

On May 7/8th over 200 competitors from all over Europe and a few from even further afield made the journey to Newcastleton in Scotland to take part in the 24hrs of Exposure, with also incorporated the UK and European Solo Championships. The race was held over an 11 mile lap with a scary 450m climbing per lap and it was 100% off-road.

As the defending UK Champion the pressure was certainly on me to perform, but it wasn’t until I was on the start line that the nerves really set in. I decided to take up the pace from the very beginning and surprised many with the speed at the front. The fast pace strung the field out and the only people to join me were 4 UK riders, all experienced 24hr solo racers.

The group was still together going into lap 2, but I suffered a puncture on the rocky trails which lost me 4-5 minutes. I stayed calm, realising that I had plenty of time left and over the next few hours I made my way back to the front group, which had become a group of 3. After bridging the gap, roughly 4 hours into the race I decided to attack right away and this proved to be a real turning point. The increase in pace split the group up and I gained a gap big enough to be out of sight of the others. I maintained a small lead into the night when my main competitor, Anthony White joined me.

The weather until the darkness set in had been mixed, with a few rain showers which made the course a little slippery but still fine to ride – at least for the UK riders who are used to these conditions. Overseas riders were really struggling with the wet but grippy trails and didn’t really feature in the race. As darkness really set in, so did the rain. Heavy, torrential rain caused many to withdraw yet I stayed strong and revelled in the wet and muddy conditions gaining a gap on Anthony White and slowly started to extend it.

The night lingered for longer than usual and I was really lifted when the first signs of dawn appeared around 4.30am. I had been able to extend my lead by 5-10 minutes per lap; every lap and despite still being on the bike and riding non-stop for almost 18 hours I was still feeling good with plenty of energy left and no signs of tiredness or easing up.

My pit crew had been working frantically all race, the muddy conditions meant that I was switching between bikes every lap to prevent any potential mechanical problems. Each lap I would hand them a muddy bike to be presented with an immaculate, shining new bike to get aboard. The physical and mental benefits were fantastic.

The final few hours of the race were fine physically, but torture mentally. Constant calculations running around my head, trying to work out how many laps I would have to do and always hoping it would be the smaller number! With a 45 minute lead I knew that barring disaster all I had to do was keep a steady pace and hold my nerve!

Thankfully no disaster occurred and I crossed the line to complete the race with a total of 20 laps of the tough course to win both the UK & European Championships. The result obviously means a huge amount to me and it is even sweeter because I had such a good race and felt strong throughout, which is a first for me in a 24hr solo race. My pit crew and my kit played a huge part in the victory and although it is called a solo race, in reality I have a big team around me giving me the best support possible.

I would love to say that I will now be resting and recuperating, but I have a really busy season still to come. The remainder of May will involve a mixture of MTB races, road races & sportives but most of them will be used to gauge my recovery. June is a busy month with the Wiggle Dragon Ride, Mountain Mayhem and two races in the BMBS XC Series in the Elite category. July is an exciting month where I will be mostly racing in the French & Italian Alps in a series of events that will be new to me. First up is Mega Avalanche, the first time I will be doing any kind of downhill racing! The following day I will be riding the Etape du Tour (Act 1). I doubt there will be many other people trying this bizarre double! I then have a week of altitude training before undertaking a brutal 8-day stage-race in Italy called Ironbike. That will take me to August and from there on is currently not set in stone, except for August 27th when I managed to find time for the small matter of getting married!!

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