Ah Mountain Mayhem, it’s the first event on the calendar and has come to dominate my riding the past few years. It’s become the motivation for riding on wet cold Sunday mornings as I try and get fitter so I can ride better at Mayhem. I found out about it via a call for volunteers at work 5.5 years ago, and having raced a bit when I was younger I jumped at the chance.
5 years on and I’ve had a year that was a disaster (toys out of pram, went home early), 2 years of improvement and a miserable year in 2011. This year we had 3 teams riding and mentally I felt that I was a lot stronger, both physically and mentally, and more than ready for whatever the event could throw at us.
Then we arrived to wet, sodden muddy fields. Wonderful.
I did the run last year and went out way too fast leaving me shattered by the time I got back to the arena and onto the bike. I decided that this year it woudl be someone else’s turn bit as no no-one else on the team wanted to take on the run, it was left to me again.
This year I took the, correct, view that the race isn’t won on the run so I just jogged around. I set off with the 2 other Cap runners (Kevin from Well Oiled and Morgan from Gently Greased) and while they sped off we all arrived back within a few seconds of each other. It was a good decision and I felt fine as as rode out into the unknown course conditions.
Lap 1 – 2hr 12 with a 10.15 run
I can never remember the exact flow of a lap, so all I can do is provide edited highlights.
The Kenda climb was packed as I expected so ended up walking the top quarter. The single track sections after it were slippy and had a lot of queuing as many people couldn’t ride them. The long plasticine woods was pretty much unridable, the mud was so sticky the wheels clogged up so it was a long stretch of push, unclog, push, repeat.
At one point I was admiring the rider infront when I realised I’d not but my transponsder on so at the bottom of the grassy descent I left my bike with a young lad while I legged it up to the campsite. The look on the rest of the teams faces was interesting and much looking of watches was done.
The long grind up to the top was uneventful, ridable but hard. Some of the descents were great fun, steep, rocky and slippy but if you let the bike run, feathering the rear at times it was easy to pick of lots of inexperienced riders.
The final descent was similar and then the last slog around the field to make it to the handover point. This last bit ruins the course in my opinion, no matter how hard the lap is, if you finish with a downhill so you can sprint into the arena at speed you feel great.
Lap 2 – 1hr 59.
Second lap started at 8.15. I was waiting with Joe from Cognoscenti, who were were camping with and he set off around 15 mins before me. I thought I might have a chance of catching him before the end of the lap but decided to just ride my lap as I would normally. The Kenda climb was being timed and tempted as I was to sprint up, I just rode within myself. I ended up 108/239 with 1min 55.
Most of the first part was ridable and I came across Joe who’d snapped a chain and we ended up riding near each other for the rest of the lap. He would gain a bit on the climbs and I’d overtake him on the descents or technical sections. I really noticed how my technical riding has improved over the first year I rode MM. Conditions were worse than that first year but I was able to ride more and at speed with confidence than back then.
The rain started on the second part of the lap and it was properly chucking it down by the time I got back to handover to Pete. Over food and a coffee I saw I’d sneaked in under 2 hrs, which in worsening conditions seemed a good time.
Lap 3 – about 2hrs 20
At 3am I spoke to Jason who’d decided 2 laps was enough. Pete had struggled with cramp and Mark was due back in from his lap at 5. It looked like there might only be me who was up for more punishment so we waited for Mark back at camp to decide on how many more laps to do. No-one seemed keen (myself included) but at 9.45 I decided we needed a hero lap so off I set. The Yeti hadn’t been cleaned from lap 2 and the CamelBak hadn’t been filled so I was in danger of struggling.
However the sun came out and although parts of the course were worsening as the thin mud from the night was starting to thicken, I really enjoyed the lap. There was a lot of pushing but I wasn’t racing. I crossed the line at 10 past 12, shook Pats hand and got out medals.
It was without doubt the worse conditions I’ve ever ridden in, and pushed in. It was also, for me, the Mayhem I’ve enjoyed the most. A race like this isn’t just physical, it’s mental as well and I knew coming into the event that I was well prepared. I’d decided to do one more lap if no-one else wanted to and I did. Seeing others stop riding as it was no fun just made me feel stronger and better. I could have done another lap but to do much better we all need to be able to ride a lot faster, something that’s not going to happen given the time we all have for training.
We ended up 56/180 in Sports Men and 44.123 in Vets, a result we are very pleased with and the best in the 5 years we’ve done Mayhem as a team. Bring on 2013.