Photo credit: CheesybeanZ
Another weekend, another race - only this time I would be on the other side of the tape spectating and hanging out in the pits, instead of out on the race course. The event: Mountain Mayhem, the UK’s largest and longest running 24 hour mountain bike race. This was my first Mayhem and I was pretty blown away by the sheer scale of the event village and the number of people zipping around on bikes. The racers themselves ranged from novice riders to national champions – a truly representative cross-section of the mountain bike community at large.
Rain threatened throughout, but apart from a couple of heavy showers, it stayed mercifully dry (photo credit jj55)
Upon arriving at the venue with Dave (thanks again for the lift) it was time to set up the sportive registration tent and take a quick look around the place. I’d come along with the intention of pitting for the Ergon 24h race team of fellow contributor Trevor Allen, who were racing in the ultra competitive “Expert Mixed” category. Their pit set-up was a typically German looking affair – ordered and efficient. It was clear that they were not new to this 24 hour racing lark.
Before I knew it, it was midday and time for the race to kick-off. As is customary in these types of races, racers set off on foot before grabbing their bikes and starting the lap proper. This is important as it serves to break up the massive field before hitting any narrow sections out on the track. Well, at 2.5km long, the run certainly did its job! Apart from a couple of speedy guys at the front, everyone else was looking decidedly wrecked and bedraggled. There must have been more than a few who questioned just what the hell they got themselves into!
Within a couple of hours, the race had settled down and riders were getting into a routine that would become all too familiar by the end – ride the lap, eat, sit down, eat some more, maybe a cheeky nap, then back out for another. Even though each rider on a 4 man team would only be on course for around 6 hrs, the time in between still wears you down.
Trev enjoying himself maybe a bit too much (photo credit: rocketdoguk)
With things ticking over nicely for Ergon, there was plenty of time to catch up with the guys at USE who were also racing in Expert Mixed and our own Bath Uni boys who were tearing up the University sub-category.
Eastnor Castle respelendent in the afternoon sunshine (photo credit: FunkyDunc)
Day soon turned to night. In the far distance, small light spots could be seen winding their way up the hills as riders continued to plod on. Back at Ergon HQ, a screening of the “Ride the Divide” movie kept me and some passersby (but mainly me) entertained until the late hours, at which point I called it a day and hit the sack.
I was up early the following morning to register for the Sunday Munch sportive which was put on by road.cc. A short spin on the roads surrounding the event village the previous afternoon had confirmed that there was some great riding to be had in the area, and I was keen to discover more. A missing sign proved the first obstacle but I was soon back on track after a quick consultation of the map, along with another group of riders who were similarly flummoxed.
5 minutes later and the group were stopped once more as a herd of cows was being moved between fields – classic! The road the cows had left behind was now looking a bit worse for wear and I was glad that I hadn’t put too much effort into cleaning my bike the day before.
Once moving again, I got a good rhythm going with a rider in Radioshack kit and we were soon attacking each of the hills as they came. Given that his derailleur was playing up and he was stuck in the big ring, he really had no choice but to give it the beans. I was only too happy to join him in the fun!
A couple of issues with moved signs on the way back aside, it was an enjoyable cruise back to Eastnor Park including the much talked about ford which turned out to be a lot tamer than I was expecting. At this point, we were passing cars loaded with bikes heading the other direction, as the mountain bike race was winding down. Although the route may not seem hard in pure elevation gain terms, the wind and occasional poor road surfaces combined to make it a tough day out none the less. For a searchable gallery of Dave’s pics from the sportive, click here
Yours truly enjoying some lovely back roads on the Sunday Munch Sportive. A chilly start to the day meant that I was way over dressed for when things warmed up later
Back at the event village, there was just time to check up on how all the teams had got on. The big news of the day was the Bath Uni team’s utter domination of the University sub-category putting over an hour into their closest rivals Imperial. Nice one guys! Ergon put in a solid effort but could only come away with 5th in what was a stacked Expert field. USE were further back in 9th but spirits remained high, buoyed perhaps by the sense that everyone had really gotten away lightly on the weather front.
Big thanks to Dave who managed to get us back to Bath safe and sound after having both competed in the 24 hour race as part of a team and being the official sportive photographer – RESPECT.
Next up for me is round 4 of the British XC Series at Margham this coming weekend where I can hopefully back up my 1st and 2nd from the previous two rounds.
For 5 years, racing was my life and I went all the way from a newbie bonking after 40 miles, to a full-timer plying my trade on the Belgian kermesse scene. Unfortunately, the pro dream wasn't meant to be and these days, you're more likely to find me bimbling about country lanes and sleeping in a bush on the side of the road.