Skating the 24 hours of Le Mans, France 3-4 July 2004
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 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 played. IMG23155k.jpg (19798 bytes) Its me 2nd place (right) (c)

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!

Video of my 24 hour solo skate 7min.53 (40MB) highly compressed.

Le Mans 2004 pictures at
TNS-Frankfurt pictures
TNS-Forum with a lot of links
Unbreakable Le Mans pictures

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Building base camp ROW.
The camp site is close to the track.
Wout preparing BBQ food.
Bart and Martine
The 750km-Düsseldorf-to-Le_Mans skate group arrives.
TNS Frankfurt building their base camp.
Including a kitchen :-)
Me having a first look at the track.
Good surface..
and a nice hill.
Having a last good rest before the race.
Or not.....TNS having their last briefing.
Dirk found his sleepingbag.
Photo-boy Frank, Germaine and Martijn.
Maritza managed to get something growing here :-)
Ouch, to early in the morning.
Having breakfast.
Our coach Wilma.
The rest of the camp is waking up too.
And ofcourse another briefing: eavesdropping on German strategy.
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Peter Nikkel.