The British summer weather has prevailed yet again, and those who went to Giant Mountain Mayhem will recall the horror stories from the early morning rides. Sleepless in the Saddle 2008 was another challenge in torrential conditions for the riders taking part in this 24-hour race.
Set in the gently rolling hills, woods and farmland of the Catton Park Estate near Burton-on-Trent, riders gathered to do battle yet again. But the rain had something to say once again, turning the course into a veritable quagmire. There was no escaping the fact that this course was not in the slightest bit weather proof.
With a 2pm Le Mans style start, my own race turned into a walk within 30 minutes when my rear mech snapped. This served to demonstrate all too well the nature of the combination of mud and grass and straw, which packed down and prevented bikes from moving forward.
I’d gone back out on my second bike and struggled to make any headway but I was not alone as everyone else on the night laps in particular seemed as bogged down as I. It didn’t help that the wood was not 10 minutes from the start line and was exhausting people even before they’d got into any sort of rhythm.
In fact, many teams gave up on riding through the night, bedding down by midnight. How often can you say that of a 24hr mountain bike race?
Fortunately conditions did not deteriorate overnight, and with the sun making a welcomed re-appearance from 6.30am, teams were back out on the course and racing continued.
The race directors shortened some of the sections during the day as they had become real hazards, with a dry line appearing late morning making riding a little easier. Conditions did improve with just one torrential downpour about an hour before the end of the race, reminding riders how gloopy, slippery and treacherous mud can be.
All credit to those who stuck it out and rode through the night, more than most could manage. Rumour has it that the course will see some work for 2009 – let’s hope so as many riders were disillusioned by both SITS and Mayhem’s lack of rideability when the heavens did open up and the gloop re-defined what a mountain bike can’t cope with – the Great British summer weather.