K24, 23&24/06/2017 – 738km, first place

Having lived in Brno from 2011 to 2016 K24 feels a bit like a home race. In 2013 I did not manage to register but in 2014 I came second behind Svaťa Božák with 710km. 2017 was a bit different:

Svata this year was riding to the finish line in his Race across America the very same time we did in K24 – only that his race had started 10 days earlier. So when I decided to participate in another 24 hour cycling event my choice was K24. The event is a bit special – or do you know another 24 hour race where the youngest participant is only 4 years old? Or a 14 year old does 2 laps (56km) on a skateboard? So K24 is not only about competition, it is about challenging yourself. At the end of the event everyone is announced and gets a certificate and it’s always amazing for me what people of all age groups and with all sorts of equipment are capable of. I could never do 56km on a skateboard and would struggle to do 500+ on an old mountain bike. Of course there also are always a few fast guys and in the last years 700+ kilometres were needed to finish in the top 3. There are no teams participating in K24, there is no 6,8 or 12hour race, it’s all about how far you can go within 24 hours. The event is organized by the parish of the village, precisely SHM Újezd u Brna, since 2000 and for me it is one of those events you can find quite often in the Czech Republic – without an economic background, organized and supported by volunteers and with a strong backing in the local community. In fact many of the participants are from surrounding villages. Also quite typical: The starting package includes klobasa and (non-alcoholic) pivo. The circuit is 28km long and flat, the small roads are rather shabby (at least for spoiled Austrian cyclists) but the most dangerous spots are marked. Unfortunately traffic seems to get heavier every year, even on these sideroads and I think it confirms my impression that Brno is a booming region. Every time you pass the finish line in Újezd you have to shout your bib number and the time is marked in a chart that serves as list of results.

My aim for 2017 was to go for 700km again, maybe do even better than in 2014 but in a 24hour competition a lot depends on the circumstances like nutrition, weather, other participants and so on, so I did not set my expectations too high. I was glad that Christoph of my club RC Unrad came along and also participated in the event. The race started 4 pm on Friday and the first laps were really fast and windy – in spite of doing only around 235W average I felt not really comfortable. A couple of riders were pushing really hard, way above 350W for me in the pack and that – together with the heat – made eating rather difficult. In the first group was also Richard Richo Meleg, a very experienced ultracyclist from Slovakia and probably the best cyclist in the field. I was glad he was there because I knew it could make it easier for me to reach my aim of 700k and I also like to have a chat with those guys who consider 24 hours a „short“ race.

After four laps the pace eased off a bit and a group of 4 persons remained. After another lap suddenly Richo and I were riding alone. We worked together well and a couple of other participants joined us for a while when overlapping. However I still did not feel really comfortable and could not eat well, so after 9 laps I decided to drop out and take a short break of about 5 minutes. From midnight on I went alone at my own rhythm and things were finally going really well. My stomach was fine, I could eat and on the track I only surpassed people without anyone being able to keep my pace. I knew Richo was ahead but that was fine for me – I calculated that I could take more than an hour for a lap and still would do 25 laps (710km), maybe even 26. During the night I did lap times of 53 to 56 minutes without any support. I really felt like in a flow the whole night, I did not even listen to music or an audiobook like I usually do.
When Christoph who had been sleeping for a couple of hours joined me at 5 in the morning we were told that Richo was only about 5 minutes ahead. We tried to close the gap, but in vain. Only after four or five laps I saw Richo’s Bianchi jersey ahead of me and bridged over. We then worked together well and it looked like if maybe even 27 laps could be possible. However after 10am it started to get windy and the temperature rose quickly to above 30 degrees. That really slowed us down and we agreed to aim for 26 laps, taking it easy the last couple of hours and go to the finish line together.
We were then informed that another competitor was not far behind us and when this competitor suddenly turned up from behind we were not sure whether he was a lap back or not so we agreed to go with him. Richo obviously had problems with the heat and decided to take a break at the finish line, I still felt fine and went on. Suddenly I was in the lead alone with two and a half hours left – I continued at a regular pace in the agonizing heat and did two more laps, finishing first with my personal best of 738km after 23 hour 41 minutes. Richo arrived only 15 minutes later and came second. The third placed competitor reached 710km. Christoph who was not riding during the night and supported me very well on the second day also did a very respectable 370km.

Looking at the stats it was pretty much as I had expected beforehand (due to problems with the power bank of my Garmin device about 50k are missing but the values should still be quite accurate) – average heart rate of 133 and average power of 181W (NP: 202W). I am very glad with my performance but alone I could not have done 738km. Thanks everyone for putting their nose in the wind, especially Richo, Christoph and the guy with the green Cannondale and long hair (sorry, did not get your name), thanks also to the organizers Pavel Blazek and team.

Of course I especially want to thank my support team – Petr and Matej who did a great job always handing over bottles, gels and my favorite Ensure Plus. To my father who was already at the finish line at 4am to help along and also for taking us safely to Ujezd and back home again. To Christoph for his support on and off the track and for kicking my ass once in a while. And of course to my girlfriend Maria, thanks for being there and for your understanding of my favorite hobby!