Words and photos: Joolze Dymond
It was to be a right royal occasion; the 16th edition of Mountain Mayhem headlined by Wiggle, promising bigger and better things. Nearly 2,000 competitors headed to test out the brand spanking new venue, nestled in the hills of the Cotswolds, home to the Princess Royal and offering 7.5 miles of course threading its undulating way up hill and down dale, designed to test the best and help those new to the joys of endurance racing get round safely!
As in past years, all eyes were on the weather; fingers tightly crossed that summer might just grace us with its presence. As proceedings kicked off at midday, a collective sigh of relief could be heard as riders galloped away across prime equine estate under dry skies. However the great British weather reared its ugly face again and the heavens opened just one hour in, unleashing a downpour of biblical proportions. Now all eyes were firmly fixed on the course itself, billed as weather beating, would it live up to its boast?
As the riders trudged round, a line soon formed, carving through the top layer of moistness to the limestone beneath and leaving the course 80% ride-able with just a couple of steep grassy climbs proving unrideable by all but a few.
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As the race unfolded, the memory and effects of the downpour rain quickly faded away, leaving the competitors to get on with the task of battling it out for the honour of the top step of the elusive podium. Throughout the categories the margins were tight, with leads chopping and changing, keeping everyone on their toes. As day quickly faded into night, the battle for many soon became all about finding the enthusiasm to leave a warm dry sleeping bag to pull on damp kit and head for a chilly romp around the Royal estate, such is the way with this variety of racing. Then, just as quickly as the light faded, it soon crept above the horizon and the quiet, subdued campsite erupted with a wave of culpable relief as the end was now in sight. As the clock inched closer to the magical midday, riders started the traditional ‘how slow can you go’ creep into the arena, in total contrast to a marginal few, sprinting to the line to try to beat the cut off time, eager to get a teammate to squeeze just one more lap into the mix.
Then as the claxon sounded it was all over for another year and wave after wave of relieved riders flowed over the finishing line to be greeted by organiser Pat Adams, shaking hands and congratulating them all as they headed for warm drinks or a well-earned beer. Monday morning and the UK is awash with the banter of sleepy people enthusing of the brilliant weekend that was had by all, some even got to meet Royalty, with both Nick Craig and Princess Anne spotted on the podium! Rumour already has it that we may even see a Royal team in next year’s event….
Full results can be found here.