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  • Writer's pictureEsko Lius

The world of 24-hour cycling races in Hungary and Finland

Cycle Club Helsinki is proud to see its club colours flying high in various parts of the world. Kinga Őry, our member from Hungary, the town of Gödöllő, put on CCH Women team jersey in July and took part in the 24h Hungaroring race with great success. Here's her thoughts about the event.

24 hours races are really special – not only in auto & motorsport, in cycling also. We could say that nowadays many nations organize 24-hour races for cyclists, at least once a year.


In Hungary, we have a cultic location for racing on a track. Hungaroring is a technical, twisty track, which is not full of straights. It is best known from the F1 Grand Prix. Finnish F1 drivers have gained good results on the Ring. Mika Häkkinen won twice (1999, 2000), Kimi Räikkönen in 2005 and Heikki Kovalainen also one time in 2008.


The Ring24 – 1 day fighting with the elements

When you watch a race on Hungaroring in TV / app, the elevation gain is absolutely “invisible”. People do not realize how hard it is to ride on this circuit. Corners 1-2-3 are sloping, but after that we face a small “wall” before corner 4. The track has also flat sectors, but before the finishing straight there is also a short uphill. In general, we have north or northwest wind, so riding on the finish straight always needs more effort. It also means that on the downhill section we experience wind from side, so cyclists must focus on holding the bike firmly.


The summer is really hot in Hungary, and also this year we had a sunny, warm race in the beginning of July. 30-32° Celsius, the asphalt was nearly 55 °C. Start time: 2 PM. Regarding the “night shift” it is very important to highlight: on the track, only the box area has lighting. The racetrack itself is unlit. Every racer needs good lights on the bicycle. Small animals (rabbits, marts, hedgehogs) often appear, so cyclist need to pay attention to every move.


The Hungarian 24 hours cycling race has the following categories: solo; duo /men, women, mixed/; 4 and 6 team /men, women, mixed/. Solo racer must ride under 12 hours on the track. Duo – 6 hours / person. 4 team – 4 hours / person. 6 team – 2 hours / person.


About my side, I raced together with my friend in category women duo. We operated with 1 hour – 1 hour 10 minutes shifts. So, one turn was ca. 30-32 km. At early morning, we had a longer (2-2,5 hours) resting time. Together we totalled 610 km (141 laps), and both of us could reach 300 km. With these numbers, we won our category, and it was surprising that in men duo category we would have been placed 5th (of 10 duo team).


The participants could use the services of the box & paddock area. Every cyclist / team has an own place in the box zone + parking place for cars behind the box area. Electricity, plank-bed, and tap water are assured. The times are recorded by bibs & chips (start number). Medical service is available from the event start to the finish. All in all, the organisation is really professional on Hungaroring as per my opinion.


A short comparison with the Finnish 24 hours cycling race event

After watching videos on YouTube and reading some summaries, reports about Juhannuspolkaisu / Ratareisi on Alastaro circuit in Loimaa, I could draw up some notes. First of all, in Finland, the 24 hours race is connected to the midsummer night parade. So, the event is organized in the end of June. Naturally, as Alastaro is situated so up in the North and as it is the longest day of the year, it won't be pitch-black at all. There is some light on the sky all night long, unless it's very cloudy.


From a cyclist's viewpoint, let’s see the characteristic of the Hungarian and the Finnish racetracks – via Strava segments.


Hungaroring:


Alastaro:


On the previous Ratareisi events, a race lap had a 2,7 km layout on Alastaro, but in 2023 cyclist rode on an extended version (4,2 km). With this 4,2 km lap, the Alastaro has almost the same length than Hungaroring (4,3 km). The biggest difference between the tracks is the elevation gain. Hungaroring has 45 m elevation gain, Alastaro only 7 m.


Fun fact: let’s check Hungaroring’s QOM list on the photo, on 3. place there is Mirka Vahtera – a Finnish woman. I wonder when she raced on the Hungarian track :)


As per the reports, Alastaro does not have a built-up paddock and box area with garages and service sectors. On the Hungaroring, these buildings are required because of the F1. Finnish racers sleep and rest in tent / own car or in small accommodations nearly the track. Despite that, Hungarian racers can rest in covered, closed box garages – directly on the track area. So, racing in Finnish 24 hour cycling race, participants need more self-effort (for background infrastructure) than on the Hungarian version.


In 2023, 37 participants raced on Juhannuspolkaisu and more than 100 cyclists on Ring24 in Hungary. For me, it would be a nice challenge to take part on the Juhannuspolkaisu.


Voi olla 2024?

Text: Kinga Őry (on the left in the photo below)




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