|I learned about the Le Mans 24 hour inline skate event
through my German skater friends from TNS-Frankfurt.
It's a 24 hour relay race (estafete) on the Bugatti racing circuit of Le Mans in France.
Teams up to ten skaters compete about who can skate the longest distance.
This year www.inline-skate.nl
announced the suggestion to form a Dutch team. Several friends of mine set up Team ROW (=
Rollen/Rotterdam op Wielen). ROW is know from a small group of skate fanatics skating the
streets of Rotterdam on Wednesdays. At first I wanted to skip the event, but later I
thought this would be an opportunity for a real challenge: skating the 24 hours solo!
In a team you would be skating two to three hours during the event. So I had my
one-man "Team Nikkel". :-)
In the morning thousands of skaters woke up in a couple of
hundred tents on the circuits camp site. Till 10:00 there was the paperwork to be arranged
before we took of on a massive group skate downtown Le Mans. It wasn't until 4:00 pm
before the race started. So I had to stay awake almost two full days.
The start of the race is unparalleled of any other inline
skate event I know of. Just like the 24 hour Le Mans car race in the early days, we had to
run to our "vehicle". Quickly strap on our skates and start racing. The pole
position was decided upon by 300m sprints. Immediately after the start in the pit lane you
face the hill with the Dunlop bridge on top. I like skating uphill, so this was in my
advantage to overtake others. The down hill is pretty spectacular: a nice long curve,
sitting as low as you can, to gain enough speed to roll onto the next hill. The first
hour, I witnessed a lot of crashes. Inexperienced skaters were keeping the medical staff
busy. Some even decided to walk down!
Not many participants were skating single file, so not enough
opportunity to draft. Most skaters did race one lap full speed and then got replaced by a
team mate. So I shouldn't be tempted to go after them, since I had to distribute my power
over 24 hours. Most took of fast and then dropped dead on the strong wind. At that point i
took over and had them drafting. The really trained teams were simply to fast. they kept a
skater 24 hours on the track doing 40km/h! At the relay in the pit lane I stayed on the
outside, because some skaters bumped into each other.
|The first six hours I didn't stop
at all. Then after a toilet stop, another three and a half hours. At about 1:00 am my knee
started to cause troubles. At that moment I was in second position of the six solo skaters
and still high up in the overall rankings. My muscles, my fitness, my back, everything was
fine, except for the pain in my knee. I simply had to pause. If you sit down: sleep will
win, so I slept 45 minutes and had my knee looked after by the massage team. Once on the
track again, my knee was very painful. At night the cold and the monotone quietness at the
back of the circuit, made it heavy. In the pit lane my energy renewed by the music they
|| Its me 2nd place (right) (c) feijes.com
My knee forced me to take another few stops and because of
that I couldn't beat the number-one solo skater anymore. The last km I joined two other
solo skaters Bernard and Brigitte to cross the finish together. A nice feeling, thousands
on the side of teh track cheering. A wonderful experience. I skated 325km in effectively
14 hours (I lost 10 hours in total due to rest). 70 laps across the Dunlop hill. My
goal was to skate at least 400 to 450 km, so I have to give it another try next year. :-)
Team ROW was 161st with 134 laps. The best team did 198 laps: more than 900km!
of my 24 hour solo skate 7min.53 (40MB) highly
Mans 2004 pictures at feijes.com
TNS-Forum with a lot of links
Unbreakable Le Mans