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8hrs of Les Hemmes, riding solo
Posted on: May 10th, 2017 by Marijn Tijhof

 

Last weekend saw yet another edition of one of the most gruelling buggy races around, the 8 hours of Les Hemmes. Peter Lynn rider and adventurer Eric Leegwater finished first after 8 hours of solo riding.

 

We met up with him afterwards to ask him some questions:

 

PL Kitesports :

Eric, congratulations with your solo victory and second place overall. Tired but pleased??

 

Eric :

Yes, again this was one tough ride, possibly the toughest yet as this was the first time the full 8 hours were completed. In previous editions the race ended after 6 or 7 hours because of weather or beach conditions.

 

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PL Kitesports :

It wasn’t the first time you got onto the podium of the 8hr of Les Hemmes ?

 

Eric :

No it wasn’t. I won the solo class 3 times before and when I rode the race together with Arjen v/d Tol we came in second. So this weekend my fourth solo victory and second time second overall.

 

PL Kitesports :

Tell us about how the race started this weekend.

 

Eric :

The race started little after 11 on saturday the 6th, the weather was perfect with clean onshore winds. wind strength was about 10m per second and it was forecasted that  this would go up lter in the afternoon. The sun came through multiple times and the beach was dry and smooth.

Becaus ethe wind was going to be stronger in the afternoon I started the race with my 7m Aero, possibly a little too small for the first rounds but perfect for some knots more; as a solo rider I do not want to have to stop during the race to switch kites!

 

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PL Kitesports :

We saw you battling for first position with Mark van den Berg in the first 4-5 laps… You think you played your cards right by picking a fight right at the start of an endurance race? You did still have 8hrs to go…

 

Eric :

Haha, good one! Probably smarter to conserve energy, but hey, I race to win and don’t like anyone in front of me… sometimes this works out, but this time it didn’t. Maybe for the better because after the first couple laps I made peace with my second position and was able to focus more on keeping a constant pace without tiring myself out.

 

PL Kitesports :

After that you kept your second position, we’re you able to see what the competition was doing?

 

Eric :

Yes, it was a clear course and I could see when the other team were switching. Every time I passed the start/finishline I knew exactly how far ahead the first team was. And behind me were my teammates Jeroen and Arjen, so there was a contant pressure there too.

 

Aero_julien

 

PL Kitesports :

You didn’t stop at all did you? 8hrs straight?

 

Eric :

Correct, I didn’t need to switch kites and I did not go to the technical zone to eat or relieve myself. I did stop on the track once to rearrange my harness asit was getting uncomfortable on my gentleman’s parts… So corrected the harness and within seconds I was back in the buggy.

 

PL Kitesports :

No sanitary stop in 8hrs.. Do we even want to ask?

 

Eric :

Hmm, nope, no stop, the risk of losing my second position was simply too big. Besides, I was lurking just behind the number one team waiting for them to make a mistake so I could grab the lead.

I had a 3litre camelback and some energy bars to keep me going and that was it.

 

PL Kitesports :

How do you ride non-stop for 8hrs? Most pilots are glad to switch after 2.

 

Eric :

Good equipment is paramount of course. To ride a buggy for 8hrs it’s important to have a comfortable seat so mine has extra padding for some additional dampening. Also, my tyre pressure was somewhat low to keep the buggy from bouncing too much. Then there’s the kite, I’m really happy with the Aero as it does exactly what I want and it has low bar pressure, a relief for my arms and lower back. The only problem remains the harness, after each upwind turn it creeps up so you have to push it back down.

Second thing I did was approach corners differently than most, by steering in earlier I was able to roll through without much pressure in the kite. If you don’t chances are you flip the buggy, especially later in the race when you get tired.

 

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PL Kitesports :

Didn’t you ever think; I want to stop?

 

Eric :

After 4 hrs fatigue started to kick in and after some 6 hours I really couldn’t anymore but with every time crossing the start/finish line I asked myself; “can I do one more lap before taking a break?” And the answer after each lap was yes, I can do one more. By doing so I gave myself a mental horizon of just one lap.

 

PL Kitesports :

And how did it feel to get your feet back on the ground?

 

Eric :

Haha, it weren’t my feet that got on the ground first but my knees. I literally had to crawl out of my buggy because I couldn’t stand anymore. Upper legs, knees, wrists, lower back and neck have had much to endure.

 

PL Kitesports :

Do you have any tips for aspiring endurance racers?

 

Eric :

Safety before everything! You need to know your physical and mental barriers and not cross them, take a break when you need to. Do not dress to warm; it’s best to be comfortably cool because if you’re too warm you’ll drain your energy much faster.

Eat well before the race and stay hydrated. Determine a sanitary strategy that you’re comfortable with and lastly; rack up as much miles training as possible, only then you’ll find your most comfortable way of riding.

 

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PL Kitesports :

Going again next year?

 

Eric :

When I crawled out of the bug I thought it crazy to go so deep solo, maybe racing in a team ‘ll be better. After a day off however, I don’t feel as bad. Last year during my Greenland expedition I had 27 days like this in a row, so I shouldn’t complain.

 

PL Kitesports :

Any final thoughts?

 

Eric :

Of course I’d like to congratulate all the riders with their results; it remains an awesome challenge to race 8hrs straight. Next to that I’d like to thank the organisation that made the event possible and ofcourse the sponsors Peter Lynn Kitesports and Vliegers&Co who have supported the event.

Lastly I’d like to say that I’d love to see more international pilots attending this great event!

 

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Special thanks to Armand Hopstaken and Bert Kardijk – VLiegers&Co for the pictures.

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