Longest Day, Longest Ride

It’s 16:00, I’m in the bushes with my camera, and I’m still stuffed from breakfast. Guess that’s what bacon, scrambled eggs and chilli con carne does for you. No idea what #80 Dave Rielly had for breakfast, but it must have been good as he’s just zoomed past me wearing a sleeveless lumberjack shirt, sparkly blue helmet, and denim hot pants. Anywhere else this might be considered eccentric at best, but here he’s cheered on by spectators and competitors alike, never missing a beat from the Hits of the 70s boom-box strapped to the frame of his Raleigh Chopper.

It can only be the Longest Day, Longest Ride, or LDLR as it’s affectionately known in mountain biking circles here on the Isle of Man. Open to everyone, the format of this 24 hour charity endurance event is simple: clock up as many laps as you can, on your own or in teams. Yes, you heard that right: on your own. It’s the 2018 British Solo 24 Hour Championship after all, and this year there are 111 entrants (including 7 single-speed) who will battle it out with the Conrhenny woodland course, superbly organised as always by our very own Loaghtan Loaded bike club. Slightly lower down the madness scale are 12 teams of 2, followed by 28 teams of between 3 and 5 riders.

I’ve not been to one of these before, but the spirit of teamwork and general camaraderie in the paddocks is the same as we’ve experienced while track racing and during enduros; one big family getting on with what they love. But what makes Isle of Man events special is that the closeness is turned up a notch. Everyone seems to know each other here, from spectators cheering each passing rider on by name to competing team members popping off to the burger van while their colleagues slog it out. Although there are pockets of tremendous focus, everyone is happy to stop and chat, offering advice and encouragement. Do I fancy having a go next year? Sure, just find me 23 others and we may have a team …

Update 12:25 Sunday 17 June: Most riders are now back from their final lap, and I’ll post the full results as soon as I can. All I can confirm for now is that #80 Dave Rielly managed 82 miles on his Chopper. Like the commentator said, if there’s a clinical psychologist in the audience …

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