Robbie Mitchell (Auchencrow Thistle CC) does things the hard way; he’s never ridden a 12 hour time trial but jumps right in at the deep end – a 24 hour time trial.
And not just any old 24 hour time trial, the CTT National Championship; oh yes, and then he goes and wins the thing…
The basics first please Robbie, how old are you, where are you from what do you do for a living?
“I turned 40 in February of this year.
“I live in Duns in the Scottish Borders and work for a local engineering firm, where I’ve worked for 20 years now.
“For the last few years as workshop foreman which, although stressful at times, is a very rewarding job and a great company to work for.”
I believe you’re from Durness originally – what are you doing in The Borders?
“Yes, that’s correct. I grew up in the small village of Durness, in the North West Highlands.
“A great place to grow up in what was basically a playground with very few limits and spent my teenage years playing around on motorbikes.
“I moved to the Borders in 1998 to study Agricultural Engineering.”
How come we haven’t really heard much about you until this year?
“Although I’ve been competing in the Scottish scene for a few years now, I was, perhaps, spreading myself too thinly, racing all types of events.
“I rode cyclo-cross, MTB, some road racing, time trialling and I’m also partial to a long hilly sportive.
“But since ‘Lockdown,’ effectively, I’ve concentrated on my TT bike, particularly the long endurance events.”
No 12 hour ridden, straight into a ’24’ – gallus!
“Without giving too much of my training away, there were 10 and 12 hour rides most weekends in the early part of this year, some back-to-back often starting in the middle of the night!
“And after the hours spent in prep for the North Coast 500 ride I felt this was the year to have a crack at a ’24’.”
Tell us about nutrition on what was a very hot day?
“Nutrition has been one of the biggest things that we have worked on this year, the reason of the previously mentioned long training rides.
“Some being fuelled by ridiculous amounts of food, others pushing the limit in the other direction often on a single food source to see if it works for me.
“The information learned on these rides has been invaluable and I was able to make a very detailed plan, which we were able to stick to.”
“Again, we’ve worked hard on this to see what I require, and can get away with.
“The only thing we did differently here for the heat was use 750ml bottles instead of 500ml bottles most hours, for all but the coolest sections of the night.
“Also choosing not to wear the skin suit or aero helmet helped me keep a lot cooler.”
Tell us about your support team
“This is where I’m under no illusion that I’m a very lucky lad.
“Having done quite a few longer endurance events on the road and MTB, I’m lucky to have a great team around me that I can rely on.
“None more so than my family who are very supportive throughout all the training.
“For this event however, it was only my fiancée Ann and 15-year-old son Charlie, as we went in to this event with no expectations or pressure to perform.”
How did you judge your pace – and can we ask about your watts for the ride?
“Although all my training is done with a power meter, on these long efforts, I rely on heart rate just as much, so that I can keep fuelling the efforts and be able to digest the food while in the TT position.
“Power-wise, the long training rides are probably more spectacular as I never allow myself to freewheel, however, during the race I took whatever recovery I could and just aimed for 220-230 watts on the level roads.
“This proved to be possibly slightly conservative as I was able to finish very strongly and felt good in the later hours.”
Did you have any bad patches?
“I only had the one really bad patch, possibly around the 18-hour mark, once back on to the shorter, 12-mile loops and the temperature was rising again.
“This, I now realise was down to my nutrition plan being based on time/hours and not lap distances.
“Once I realised what was happening all was well again.”
Tell us about your machine – did you have any ‘mechanicals’?
“It’s a Giant Trinity, like many others use, for good reason as they are great bikes.
“I’ve been on it since 2017, slowly upgrading the spec; using Revolver wheels with Continental GP5000 tubeless tyres.
“I’m still on a mechanical gearing though, with a single chainring and 11-28 cassette, however, I did use a double chain set for the NC500.
“Luckily no mechanicals during the ‘24’, other than planned light swaps, the service crew just had to feed me.”’
I believe you’re with Espresso Coaching – tell us about your preparation for the race?
“I was lucky enough to win a competition for three months coaching in 2019 with Espresso and have been under Davie Lines’ guidance ever since, trusting him with the workload means all I have to do is hit the numbers in the training.
“Davie has joked in the past he doesn’t know how or why we sit on the bike as long, but he generally turns a blind eye if I stretch the endurance a little.
“As I mentioned earlier about there being no pressure on me for the ‘24’, we luckily had a huge endurance base and really just concentrated on the TT bike for the last month.”
How did you feel on the Monday after the ride?
“Physically I was really surprised how well I felt and was back training three days later; nothing like I normally feel after a Strathpuffer, the 24 hour MTB endurance event, where I’m broken for weeks.”
Your North Coast 500 record ride, what prompted that – and by how much did you beat the previous record?
“Ann calls it a mid-life crisis but I was determined to create something positive out of the whole Covid period and used this goal to keep focussed and motivated throughout.
“In the weeks building up to the event I was proud of what I had achieved training-wise and had never felt in such good shape, although not confident I could beat the record as so many things are beyond the riders control.
“I lowered Josh Quigley’s record by 2 hours and 14 minutes with the new time now 29 hours and 5 minutes, but like all records, it’s there to be beaten.”
What’s next, I’ve seen Land’s End to John O’Groats mentioned?
“Yes, lots of people are mentioning LEJOG and I’m not going to lie, it is something that I’m starting to think I should give some consideration to.
“Certainly not this year but I’m finding myself researching all the stories and am intrigued by the history of the event.
“No doubt there are reasons why some of these impressive records have stood for so long.
“Logistically, to put everything in place may be a harder challenge than the riding itself so we will need to put some serious thought into it…”