Round and round and round. Delirium: 24 hours in Busselton.

[Yes, this is posted well after the event. It sat in my drafts folder while I lacked all motivation to write.]

We had come down to Busselton for Quit Forest Rally April 2011 and saw on the wall at Fat Duck Cycles and Espresso a clipped out article from a local paper about Delirium, a 24 hour road race in Cowaramup. It had been held the previous week, and Jeremy was immediately captivated by the idea of it. Come April 21st 2012 Jeremy and I found ourselves at a 3.6km open road circuit in a new Cowaramup housing estate along with Colin Prior, the both of them heading off into this race on the basis of a one dollar bet between them.

Colin’s body broke down on him during D2, so Jeremy won the bet, hitting 447km. Jeremy and I didn’t camp at Cowaramup that year, just setting up the gazebo tent and a stretcher bed underneath it for me. Around 10pm I went to sleep for a couple of hours and when Jeremy realised he needed to sleep he came over, woke me and I drove us back to Busselton to Cathy’s house to shower and sleep, returning around 6am for the final push.

We had to miss D3 and D4, returning for D5 on the March 14th 2015. We’d learnt from D2; this time we had the Captiva and an air mattress in the back, so we could shorten the time off course by about 2 hours. But the weather gods were not kind to D5, and Cyclone Olwyn meant it rained almost solid for the first 21-22 hours of the 24 hour  event, only getting fine just as Jeremy was winding up trying to crack as close to 500 km as he could get. The first six hours of gale force winds we decided were probably going to limit him to about 450 km again. His final stop for assistance was aided by Cathy and Greg who had come to cheer him on for the last couple of hours. They grabbed Jeremy and his bike to stop him falling over while he was finally able to swap into a short-sleeved jersey at the same time that I shoved a peanut butter sandwich in his mouth. In Formula 1 terms it was an excellent pitstop. By the end of the race, he’d wound up the speed and effort, finishing D5 with 477km done.

2016 D6 the aim was 500km again. It was going to be held on a new closed course in Busselton, the housing estate in Cowaramup was becoming more and more built-up, so the risk of annoying the currently still quite tolerant locals was high. The new circuit was announced as a 2.02 km loop around Barnard Park, which was going to make the race more interesting – no great rises, no non-bicycle traffic, and four clear corners where the previous loop in Cowaramup had only two definite corners, the rest being gentle bends that were relatively easy to navigate even after 20+ hours of cycling.

Colin had competed at D4, 14 months after his big crash in Adelaide in January 2013, his still repairing shoulder seizing up on the Sunday morning and taking him out of the race. His D5 hadn’t gone so well either, with his only bike having a major mechanical fault, wrecking his race at around 2am. For D6 Colin had followed Jeremy’s idea and brought a second bike with him, the Contarini in case his beloved Baum had another issue. Jeremy had brought his faithful Cannondale and Fred, the Azzuri Forza to all the Delirium’s that he’d competed in, D6 being no exception.

The race started off in amazing conditions. Every Delirium we’d been in had been plagued by rain; D5 had been moved to March in an attempt to avoid April downpours, only to clash with a cyclone instead, so Brendan Morrison – the race director – just threw up his hands and went back to April showers for D6, but the Saturday actually felt a bit too warm and dry at one point. I was sure the winds would pick up later; every time we’d come to the Busselton foreshore in the afternoon and early evening the wind had been gusting. If you look closely at the lights in the developed area of the foreshore around the Equinox Cafe and the Busselton jetty you’ll see that they’re actually wind powered, so to have warm, still air was disconcerting to say the least.

Jeremy set out to get a good couple of hundred kilometres done straight off the bat. We’d set up Fred as his primary bike, complete with his Mavic Cosmic wheels. Once the event had started and Jeremy and Colin were riding laps I set about preparing his second bike – the Cannondale – ready for use; removing the saddle bag, setting up the lights front and back and making sure the tyres were at the right pressure. Once that was done I continued to set up our campsite and also started preparing some food for Jeremy to eat on the bike. All the while Jeremy and Colin were sailing past, round and round and round. Where we were situated was perfect for handovers; there was an exit to the left of us to take you off course and down the outside of the main straight past the tents, with our tent at the very start of the row. You could then continue on past three or four more tents, and back onto the course. Jeremy and Colin could just pull in and I could swap bottles and hand over food easily. A couple of times Jeremy and I attempted to do a traditional bottle pass while he was moving, but most of the time the traffic of other competitors meant that it just wasn’t safe and or feasible. Because Colin was based with us I worked as support crew for him as well; swapping bottles and handing over gels.

Once I felt the site was set up I got a bit of reading done, but not that much – Jeremy’s mum and dad had come to Busselton to support Jeremy and spectate so some of the time I was talking to them. Jeremy’s mum and dad went off at one point to do a bit of shopping in Busselton, and I went off to the Kent Street Bakery to get Jeremy and I some lunch. A few hours later when his parents had come back I went off in the car to buy some supplies that we hadn’t had time to pick up in Perth before the race as well as get some fuel. We were staying at Cathy’s place again, so I went there and dropped off some of the supplies then headed back to the foreshore.

Jeremy managed his 200 kilometres in under six hours. The plan for dusk was to do a very quick swap of bikes; the Cannondale ready to go with the less intense lights on. Jeremy grabbed it and headed back out, while I set up the Forza for late night riding with his heavy-duty lights. Once that was done I called in an order to Al Forno, a great restaurant to the west of the Busselton CBD on the Bussell Highway – Jeremy wanted lasagne and hot chips and we’d decided that after 8pm would be perfect. I brought back the food, and Jeremy ate half the lasagne (honestly, one serve would have fed two people anyway) and all the hot chips – he’d smelt some earlier in the day and had a craving. He had a gingerbread man for dessert that I’d bought at the bakery earlier that day, and headed back out.

jeremy_and_colin_2245

From Jeremy’s Instagram: “Kelly here: Eleven hours and 45 minutes. They’ve only just worked out that this is really bloody stupid.”

Nearing 11pm both Colin and Jeremy were in the tent taking a break and both looked pretty shattered. Jeremy was still on schedule for his 500km, and Colin was currently leading the 50-59 category. It began to rain at about this point, and they headed out for another stint. The plan for Jeremy was to have a quick rinse off at the beach shower on the foreshore and go to sleep around midnight in the Captiva, getting up around 5am to start riding again. Because he was so far ahead of schedule he decided to drive to Cathy’s place and take advantage of a hot shower. I left the foreshore a bit before he did, pedalling back to Cathy’s on Jeremy’s mum’s shopper bike. I’d asked Jeremy’s dad to bring it down earlier in the day; I’d realised his parents were probably not going to be keen on copying my intended midnight finish and 5am start, and if Jeremy was going to sleep in the Captiva while I slept at the house, unless I borrowed his Mum and Dad’s car I was going to be strapped for transport back to the foreshore.

When I woke up I immediately checked the online tracker for what lap Jeremy and Colin were on. Colin had evidently lost his lead overnight but I thought that Jeremy was out on his bike already. I had a shower and then checked the tracker again – yep, Jeremy was increasing his lap count, but Colin was stationary. I quickly got changed, had my breakfast while I listened to the rain pouring down and then pedaled back to the foreshore. I got to the tent to see Colin sat in one camping chair with his feet on the other and a couple of blankets wrapped around him. I gently called his name several times, to no response, and tried a bit louder and a bit sharper. He stirred, and looked blearily at me, not really registering anything in his fog. It took him a couple of minutes to work out how to speak, and he explained that he’d taken quite ill in the night, and had decided to sit down for a while to see if he could manage to keep some fluids down.

The night before I’d prepaid the coffee man next door for a coffee for Jeremy, so he could have a strong hot coffee first thing if he wanted, so I went and ordered that and also got Colin a weak black tea. While I was waiting for the order I saw Colin, now standing, cannoning off the tent walls and wobbling around while he tried to set up his bike for the day. He was absolutely wrecked, but at that point he was still second in the 50-59 category, and determined not to lose his place. He kept the black tea down, and was slowly coming to a slightly higher function. Colin didn’t get a driver’s license until he was well over 40 years of age – his transport was almost solely by bicycle (technically also by submarine, as he was in the Australian Navy for over twenty years), so I thought as he pedaled off he’d actually probably be more stable on a bicycle than on his feet. Jeremy later said that he’d co-opted a few people to keep coming and checking on Colin, and was himself pulling in regularly to make sure that he could see the rise and fall of Colin’s chest while he slept.

The morning wore on and the rain poured down; everyone was just grimly determined, pedalling lap after lap. Colin wouldn’t take anything in except for plain water and kept checking to see where he was on the leader board. His lead seemed steady at about 3-4 laps for most of the morning. Jeremy had his head down just pedalling on and on. He was still on schedule for 500km, but he wasn’t going to get much beyond that.

We were coming up on 11am and Jeremy did it. About half an hour before the finish he made his target of five hundred kilometres. He’d slowly lost speed over the 24 hours and by this point wasn’t able to make the calculations of what speed to keep at in order to make his goal, so as he’d pass and ask what lap he was on, we’d keep telling him to just keep his speed over 20km/h. Sometimes there would be a lag between the online tracker and reality, and other times you’d want to say to Jeremy “you’re on lap 240”, because technically he was, but in 100 metres he’d be on lap 241, so it was easier to just say “Keep pedalling over 20km/h!”

I’d told Erik Mellegers, the event MC and owner of the Collie Crank’n Cycles bike shop that Jeremy’s goal was five hundred kilometres. I knew Jeremy would want a secondary verification, and Erik was reading distances off the official timing and recording system. As Jez crossed the line marking the end of the lap that took him over 500km, I gulped air and tried to stop crying with pride while Erik announced “Jeremy Savage! Five hundred plus kilometres!”

Jez threw his arm high in the air, and kept pedalling Fred, going around the corner, having finally met his goal, with another 30 or so minutes spare.

515.1 kilometres.

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