Sleepless in Le Mans

The Le Mans 24-hour endurance race has been one of the most demanding events on the international motor racing calendar for many years. A torture test for man and machine, the race is often decided through equipment failure and driver error, as sleep deprivation takes its toll.

Now imagine the same event, but contested on bicycles. Two local cyclists, Jerome Ameline and Jerome Begot, recently took up the challenge. The two could certainly be described as Cayman’s flying Frenchmen. Ameline has earned the title through his dominant racing in local time trial events, while in Begot’s case the title is much more literal, as he is the pilot behind Cayman Helicopters.

This was the inaugural edition of the event, and featured individuals or teams of up to eight cyclists attempting to complete as many laps of the world-famous Bugatti circuit in France as possible in 24 hours.

‘This year 2009 was the first edition for the cycling event, a bit slower but a lot greener [than the car race],’ laughs Ameline.

The two Jeromes teamed up with two cyclists from Canada, Olivier Beauvais and Philippe Anstett.

‘We were four, taking relay and trying to cycle as much as possible in 24 hours. We did a little bit over 900km on the famous Bugatti track and around six hours each in four relays,’ says Ameline.

‘We looked very smart and professional as we were wearing the same uniform.’

The team competed under the name of its main sponsor, Plaisirs Gastronomiques, with Revolutions indoor cycling and Cayman Helicopters co-sponsoring.

‘The weather was beautiful, everything went well. The hard thing was not to cycle intensively but to stay awake for such a long time,’ says Ameline.

The cyclists had to grab naps when they could in order to recover, then get up and ride again.

‘We had to wake up early the Saturday morning, after some Friday evening wine, to pick up race numbers, then the start of the race was at 3.00pm and we cycled until 3.00pm on Sunday,’ recalls Ameline.

The team did very well in the unfamiliar race format.

‘We placed 41st out of 285 teams, averaging 24 mph,’ says Ameline.

The event was won by the four man team of Cyril Masson, Jimmy Aubert, Bruno Teillet and Sebastien Heron who completed 970km in the 24 hours.

‘We were very pleased to go to bed on Sunday evening,’ laughs Ameline.

The format of the event allows it to be contested on any closed road circuit, with a racetrack being more of a luxury than a necessity for hosting such an event.

‘We hope that one day, the Cayman Islands Cycling Association will be able to put an event of that sort together.’