Sleepless In the Saddle 24 Hour mountain bike race

Sleepless in the Saddle, also known as “Sleepless” or “SITS” in mountain bike circles, is a 24 hour mountain bike race held in Catton Park, Staffordshire in August of each year.

Sleepless is kind of seen as a baby sister event to the mighty Mountain Mayhem 24 hour event held earlier in the year (it is organised by the same people), but in my opinion it has a whole different atmosphere and vibe to other events.

The time of year helps as it is towards the end of the summer, the vibe is low key and relaxed with time to reflect on previous events, cycling tans are in abundance – people are here to race, chill and kick back.

The whole event has a real festival feel to it with on site camping, trade stands and a 24 hour laid back vibe that is difficult to capture anywhere else. In 2011 the team at duffbag will be at Sleepless, both competing and with our own trade stand offering all kinds of bike bags including our extremely popular duffbag, which is a favorite amongst mountain bikers that want to keep the interior of their car, van or camper clean after the event – ESPECIALLY if it is raining and we experience the familiar Sleepless Mudfest!

The Team Columbia team - sponsored by duffbag just before the event

The course itself is undulating rather than hilly with only 100m of elevation available, although it can get cut up and rutted with braking bumps and lines forming on certain sections, oh and if it rains, it rains!

Our home for the weekend

As with any 24 hour event camping is the order of the day, the beauty of Sleepless is that with less people attending than some of the bigger events you can choose from a spot right in the action of the pit village or a more peaceful spot out on the outer field, whatever suits.

The race itself starts on Saturday afternoon, running through the night to finish 24 hours later on Sunday afternoon and riders can enter in the following categories:

  • Expert: Men and Women (4)
  • Enthusiast: Men and Women (4)
  • Mixed (5)
  • Veterans (sub-cat.) Pairs: Men, Women, Mixed (2)
  • Solo: Men and Women (1)

The idea is quite simple – the person or team that completes the most laps in the allotted time wins. Each team member has a transponder fitted to their bike or ankle (depending on the system used for timing), race control log the timings for each team and rider, clocking up the lap totals during the race. The running results are displayed on a large monitor in the food tent, so you can check your results as you refuel – neat!

The teams operate in a relay system, each member of the team passing over to the next as their lap(s) are completed, tactics are at play here with stronger riders resting between stints as other teams play their hands. Add into this night section illuminated by hi- power bar and helmet lights and you have a recipe for fun and tantrums…

With many hundreds of competitors starting at the same time, the race is started with a short run round a part of the circuit to the bikes in the controlled paddock area and then it is off and the racing can begin. Now when I say racing think London Marathon – there will be elite riders out to destroy the competition, whilst others are there for fun and just to get round, it is this mix that gives the event the atmosphere and vibe for which it is duly famous for.

As the racing settles down and night begins to fall, the lights come on and the whole place looks completely different, it is certainly quieter and if the weather is hot, noticeably cooler. If you are riding then a 3am stint is something that you won’t forget! I can remember circulating in the wee small hours of the night, nothing in front, nothing behind, you mind starts to wander – have I lost the track? Why am I awake at 3am in the middle of nowhere? Can I hear music? Is that the beast from the cover of that Iron Maiden album out there in the shadows? But as dawn breaks a kind of sanity returns and punches you through the fatigue of a long night session.

By dawn the race pattern is well and truly established and leaders are emerging amongst the top teams and the race is then down to a handful of winners and the talk around the timing screens is of heroic night time trips to the local A&E or ingenious fixes for broken derailleurs using gaffer tape and bamboo.

Inevitably the event draws to a close, friendships are made and hand shakes exchanged with promises of see you next year and medals proudly worn. podiums are climbed and prizes awarded.

The team at duffbag will be there in 2011, both as competitors and with our own trade stand, if you see us be sure to come over and say hi.

Sleepless in the Saddle – an event not to be missed

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