I admit I had my doubts. I’ve raced in the various guises of Mountain Mayhem throughout its 13 year history but in 2007 decided that enough was enough. With back to back mud fests and an attempt at solo I’d had enough. All it took though was an email from a close friend; “Anyone fancy doing Mayhem this year as Trek aren’t putting in a team?”
My initial response to John “Shaggy” Ross’s email was no, no, no, no. Enough is enough. However with the formation of The Kinesis Morvelo Project (The KMP) and a promising string of team results in endurance races, I was tempted. Julie, with her new found enduro legs, was keen. Lea took no persuasion, Phil took some convincing and Frazer couldn’t make it, as was the same for the remainder of The KMP, leaving the door open for a ‘Ringer’, ably filled by Shaggy. Before we had a chance to change our minds, Julie was cycling off to Pat Adams in the small hours of the morning and our entry into Mixed Teams was in.
The run up to the event had it’s fair share of ups and downs. The ups were Julie coming second at Bristol Bike Fest in the solo category and Lea coming 3rd in the most recent round of the Hove Park Crits. The downs were myself, crashing in my first road race mass pile up but worse than that was Phil treating some North Downs trees to some tough love and coming off worse with a dislocated shoulder. This was only 2 weeks before the race so things weren’t looking good.
So the search for another ‘Ringer’ was on. Well, when I say on, it was more a case of another close friend of ours Gareth Jones of Singular Cycles, offering his help. We’ve all ridden together lots so even though the team as one fifth Trek, one fifth Singular and 3 fifths KMP, it felt like old times. Plus Phil still came along to help with pit bitching duties aiding by his (and The KMPs) new team wagon which we all thought had a wonderful air of Baywatch about it. We’re just glad Phil didn’t just show up in a mankini.
Setting off from Brighton on the Friday it was a sun and shorts day and the forecast, which I’d been watching with a worrying amount of frequency, didn’t look bad and made those ‘Which mud tyres?’ and ‘Which supermarket plastic bags hold filthy bike kit the best?’ decisions look unnecessary. Standing on the Morvélo stall (thanks to all those who came over and said hi, bought tees and generally made us feel glad to have started this whole thing!) in the lashing rain on Friday afternoon my heart sank and I wondered if this event really is cursed.
After our traditional drink up and catch up with friends on the Friday evening, the hangover was subtle and the sun was poking it’s head out. Maybe things were looking up. As Lea hates starts, we naturally made him do the run and looking at the whole line of pained faces that came back, we guess it was a good deal longer and harder than everyone imagined. The plan for this race was consistency and enjoyment. No point rinsing yourself on one lap to die on another. Enjoy the ride and the speed will come.
After we had all done our first laps we chanced a look at the leaderboard for our category. The great news was we were 2nd, the bad was that first place were already 20 minutes ahead and 3rd place was just a few minutes behind along with a whole batch of others. No pressure then.
Our first impressions of the course was that it was a touch tedious with a handful of fun, fast singletrack bits, a great Kamikaze style flat out fireroad and one rubbish bit which was tacky, twisty with no flow. Oh and one bit that we nicknamed ‘The Death March’. This was a climb essentially from the bottom of the campsite right up to the top of the course and had people strewn everywhere looking for a path up. Some walked, some weaved left and right, some I thought were track standing but on closer inspection, they were actually moving.
The more we rode it though, the more we enjoyed it. Climbs to get stuck into and singletrack to learn your lines through. It grew better each lap. Some sections were just a full tilt blast through the singletrack, whooping left and right, up and down which had Shaggy on his back like an upturned beetle on one lap, and Gareth deciding to use his hip as a brake on another. The same lap Gareth, or Dorothy as we then called him on account of his red Sidi’s, also tried his hand at somersaulting over the bars too. Still riding the same way as he’s always done then. Flat out and hold tight! Everyone we overtook was incredibly courteous, humerous and seemed to be loving every moment of it. Times like these, seeing so many people enjoying just riding bikes, makes me glad that cycling is such a large part of my life.
Throughout the night we still kept on checking times as whilst Southdowns Bikes, the leaders, weren’t getting any further ahead, Cambridge CC and Torq weren’t getting any further behind. Still the pressure was one. Phil, it his pit bitch duties kept everything in shape from bike adjustments, letting us know what time we needed to go out, cooking food and making coffee which surprised everyone as he walked the fine line between drunk and wired on coffee until about 5am on Sunday when he thought it best to turn Black Sabbath off and have a lie down.
In his drunk and caffeine fueled state he’d set in place a great system which meant we all could rest, eat and get down to the transition in good time. It showed too as we knocked out consistent time after consistent time. I didn’t realise how consistent until I’d checked my lap times after the race.
I’ve only previously shown consistency like that in bad line choice! Still 1st place were dangling like a carrot and 3rd place like a stick as we approached the end of the race. It was down to me to bring it home as Shaggy crossed the line with 10 minutes to spare. I hate last laps like this and have made excuses and avoided them in many many occasions. If you hate doing something, you can rely on your friends to make you do it and in hindsight I’m glad they did.
Bombing the final downhill and swinging over the finish line to shake Pat Adams’s hand was a great experience made all the sweeter by holding on to 2nd place for the whole 24hrs. We’d done it! Bikes, Beer, Action, Mayhem all in 24hrs.
On an end note I’d like to say that once again the Maxlight is a proper rocket which makes small work of even ‘The Death March’ and still loved the steep and loose downhill chute enough for me to want to flick the back end out on the final corner. It got a “Yeah!” from a marshall so I was happy with that. Although not as happy as Gareth being told by Nick Craig at the top of the climb “Nice climbing!”.
Manitou R7′s performed flawlessly once again and handled all the braking bumps and choppy singletrack without flinching and TRP Dashs remain uber consistent. The saviour for me though was my Skins Recovery Tights. I always suffer with cramps and sore legs in enduros but putting these on after every lap meant my legs were ready for action time after time. I can see why they are so highly rated. With all this I’m even tempted to give Mayhem a go next year