Red Bull Timelaps, the world's longest one-day cycling race, is back in October… and if it’s your first time taking on this 25 hour Halloween epic then you don’t have to be quite so afraid, because the road.cc team are here with some handy advice to see you through the day and night!
Why 25 hours? That’s because it’s the weekend the clocks go back, so the lucky Timelaps participants get to ride for an extra hour... as if 24 wasn’t enough! As it happens this also makes it the only 25-hour bike race on the planet, even more reason Timelaps should go on your bike racing bucket list.
road.cc staffers have completed the Timelaps as a team before, and while it can obviously be pretty exhausting at times, we can also vouch for it being a whole load of fun too!
For 2019 the event is once again at Windsor Park on the Berkshire/Surrey border, and will start on the 26th October. There are a total of 250 teams competing, each with four team members, and the aim is to complete as many laps of the 6.6km closed loop as you can in the 25 hours. Team members ride one at a time, and enter the pit stop for a teammate to take over when it's decided a fresh pair of legs are needed. There's also a 'Power Hour' at 2am in which teams have the chance to score extra points, as the course is shortened during this time.
New and quite terrifying for 2019 is the solo category, if you really want to push yourself to the limit! This will be open to riders who have prior experience of competing in solo 24-hour races, with entry at the race organiser’s discretion. Solo riders must also bring a support crew member to assist in the pits and to be the point of contact for race organisers, so if you fancy it make sure you line up a trusty volunteer to help you conquer the challenge.
So how to tackle such an arduous event? Fear not, as we've pulled together the collective wisdom of everyone at road.cc who has completed Timelaps to come up with ten tips to ensure success...
You can't win Timelaps in the first hour of course, but it can definitely be lost there... so don’t go out too hard! There’s a lot of riders in quite a small space for the first few laps, so, take it easy and make sure you have plenty of room. Unless you’re good enough to stay at the front the whole time of course...
The best performance advantage you can get is being towed along by others, it is a race after all! So find a group, sit in and conserve your energy as much as you can, like they do in the pro peloton. In a group of more than four people it’s pretty easy to hide and get plenty of wind-cheating and energy-saving advantages.
At the very least you’ll need some kind of shelter and some chairs to sit in when it's not your turn to ride, but the comfier you are, the more fun it’ll be through the night. If the weather turns a cheap gazebo with no sides isn’t going to be a fun place to be, so consider investing in a decent tent! A cushion or travel pillow are a good idea, as is a good sleeping bag to make sure you get a short but quality snooze when you need it.
A small but simple way to ensure you get quality rest in between stints, some earplugs could save your race and block out most of the noise when you need a kip.
There is food on site (and as much Red Bull as you can drink of course), but there are a lot of mouths to feed and sometimes you will just want to grab whatever is closest to you, so we'd advise taking as much food and drink to your pit as you can carry. The more you can be self-sufficient in your pit the easier you'll find the day/night, and the easier you’ll find things. Bring a camping stove and a kettle, and cook stuff that’s warming and easy to knock up fast.
It's important you're eating at the right times, and making sure you fuel right after your turn is a good way to limit your energy losses. There will be times when you just want to lie down and never get up again, but if you eat first you’ll have time for your food to digest.
Extra jerseys, shorts, waterproofs, jackets, spare socks... it's definitely advisable to take more clothing than you think you’ll need. We reckon a fresh pair of shorts when you’re cold and tired is worth a few seconds a lap!
At 2am the Power Hour begins, whereby the course is shortened for 60 minutes only and laps count for 2. It goes without saying that you want to make sure the member of your team who is capable of smashing out the most laps during the Power Hour is well rested leading up to it, with reliable kit, a working bike and fully charged lights. If your light conks out you have to ride a whole lap to get back to the pits, and you'll lose a load of time, so teams going for the win need to make sure their Power Hour participant is fully prepared and ready to go when it comes around at 2am!
While we're on the subject, do make sure you have a decent set of lights for your night time stints. road.cc's Stu recommends using a bright front beam, as if you find yourself alone there is limited ambient light to help you out. A good quality rear light is also important of course, but perhaps don't go too crazy on the lumens here... you don't want to dazzle your fellow competitors!
Little comforts are key in a gruelling event like Timelaps, so having someone who isn't competing to drop you off so you don't have to worry about parking, navigating etc is always preferable. That also means when you get picked up you can have a well-deserved snooze straight away!
Hopefully if you've entered already you will find these tips handy, and if we've inspired you to sign up then even better! Just head over to redbull.co.uk/Timelaps for all the info and to get your entry in. See you at Windsor Park!
This article features paid promotion on behalf of Red Bull UK
Arriving at road.cc in 2017 via 220 Triathlon Magazine, Jack dipped his toe in most jobs on the site and over at eBikeTips before being named the new editor of road.cc in 2020, much to his surprise. His cycling life began during his students days, when he cobbled together a few hundred quid off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story) and bought his first road bike - a Trek 1.1 that was quickly relegated to winter steed, before it was sadly pinched a few years later. Creatively replacing it with a Trek 1.2, Jack mostly rides this bike around local cycle paths nowadays, but when he wants to get the racer out and be competitive his preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking - the latter being another long story.