It’s done for another year and on the forums it seems like the jury is out on whether it was a success or not.
Here is my memories, thoughts and experience of this years event – my 6th.
Lead up and Preparation
I usually travel to Mayhem with a team mate but this year he couldn’t leave until lunchtime so I planned to arrive first to reserve some space for the 5 teams that were going to camp together. I decided to pack most of the car the night before so I could get off early. Typically I’d been feeling really good until midweek when I picked up a cold so I wasn’t feeling in top form.
It’s easy to get to and find, well signposted and I marked out a suitable area before putting up my
own tent and sending messages to the rest of the team members on where we were. This year be brought 2 Coleman Event Shelters with us for the communal area I managed to get one up before others arrived to make the rest a bit easier. We also bought some poles to have a proper bike rack for a change so they could be inside the shelters, secure and easy to get to.
Friday night is one of my favourite parts of Mayhem. Excitement levels are high, the banter is flowing and everyone arrives to warm greetings.
This year we decided a sighting lap was essential t get a feel for the course so at 5 ish a group of 6 of us set of for a pootle around. Initial thoughts were that it was pretty good, quite short, fun descents and a lot of hard climbs – Would have been nice to have some more technical singletrack but it was my sort of course.
Food and beer were consumed before we retired.
We persuaded Pete, a veteran of 10 previous Mayhems, to do the run for the first time and despite his protestations he lined up just before midday in reasonable weather.
We usually have an informal little inter-camping group competition as to which team will do the best and this year Morgan brought some young IBM chaps in the form of ‘Team Spongecake’ to challenge the 3 Capgemini teams of ‘Lightly Lubed’, ‘Well Oiled’, and ‘Crude Oil’ and a group of ex-NHS colleagues ‘Cognoscenti’.
Pete was the last back from the run and he set off for our first lap.
I was due to ride second and while waiting for his return the heavens opened. Hard rain and a strong wind saw waiting riders pushed back into the tent at transition so avoid the freezing onslaught. I wasn’t looking much to my lap yet when Pete entered the arena, you feel a surge of adrenalin and after a quick handover I was off.
From the arena you head out through the solo camping area into a small wooded section that leads to the Kenda Koffin descent. It’s not really that steep for anyone with a reasonable amount of experience and on the sighting lap this was fun. However, after a downpour it was very slippy and many people were not used to this sort of challenge. There was no grip to be had and it was a ‘fun’ descent with 2 or 3 sections that were steeper and needed commitment.
Next was some wooden trail, fast in the dry and hard in the rain as it turned to mud.
If I remember correctly the Wipperman climb was fine for the first part but then wasn’t ridable due to the steepness and lack of traction.
From here it was average normal double width trail with a few fast fire road descents leading to the lakeside trail. This was singletrack with a few passing places and was dry and fast all race.
Onto the Clifbar climb – a long grassy, steepish climb that was ridable when dry and if you had the strength and skills it was a place to make up a lot of time.
The FT2 dip was a tricky fast descent due to the camber which rose into a climb that was ridable if you attacked it but most people walked.
The Redbull timed section was a fun, fast section with several turns and a short steep drop with hard and easy options. Great fun to blast and no doubt saw many people over-cook the corners and come off.
The Unior climb was a long slog that I cleared once but turned to slippy cobbles after the loam was worn away. Mentally though as this was the last proper climb it wasn’t that hard as you knew you were near the end of the lap.
The Singletrack singletrack was rather short but good fun at speed followed by a fast run in to the arena.
My first lap was horrible with the mud sticking and clogging up the wheels, the lack of traction meant
a lot of pushing which stops the mud being flung off. Tyre choice became a headache as mud tyres might have been OK for a few sections but would have been horrible for the rest. I was glad to enter the arena to hand over to Jason.
After your first lap of Mayhem you get into a routine, well I do anyway. Get a drink, and a recovery shake then sort out the bike. The latter took quite a while and I made it ridable rather than clean.
Then it’s time for food and a rest, a bit of chat about the lap and the course and, waiting on riders to come back to see how the course is evolving. It’s common to feel very tired and that you can’t ride any more laps. Not sure why this should be as it’s not very far, nor very difficult riding but I’ve learned over the past 5 years that mentally you need to put the physical feelings behind you and commit to another lap.
Over the next couple of hours things were looking good as riders came back cleaner and cleaner in faster times so I was feeling optimistic when I went to wait for Pete. He managed a sub-hour lap and looked in decent shape as he hammered around the arena to hand over.
I set off on my second lap feeling strong and as soon as I hot the Kenda descent and saw a dry line down it I gave the lap everything I had. For the 5 years Pete has always had the fastest lap, no matter how our training had gone and I struggled to find form in the race to backup my improving fitness. This year I was determined to have a real go for the fastest lap (amongst our teams) so rode all bar one hill and kept pushing all the way.
I made it back to transition ahead of time and Jason had only just arrived. My Garmin showed I’d have done a 51 min lap which lifted my spirits and set the tone for the rest of my race.
I did a dusk lap with lights and a dark lap in the middle of the night – both of which felt great. An early morning light was a bit harder as the mud became stickier and my legs more tired.
As we hit 20 laps and worked out we might have 2 or 3 more laps to do and I set out on lap 22 with 75 mins left. I had been lapping in under an hour and no-one fancied a last lap so I had some fun. I blasted the fun sections and rode very slowly on the rest to avoid too long a wait at the end.
I managed to cross the line 15 secs after midday in milf drizzle so I was happy to not be in the
middle of back to back laps in the rain.
Results-wise we aim to come in the top half. We all get to train once a week usually and are never going to challenge for a top spot. We beat the IBM guys by about 30 mins to retain our record of the fastest campsite team.
We came 39th out of the 122 teams in Sport Men. A result we are thrilled with. In Vets we came 35th out of 151 – similarly chuffed.
My second lap was the fastest in our campsite and I feel that I rode pretty well – unusual for me at Mayhem where I usually feel disappointed at how I rode. Roll on 2014.
My lap times were :
A new venue is always going to have teething problems but Pat and his crew had very few in my view. The venue was supposed to cope with wet weather better than Eastnor and to be honest while the campsite might have done the course didn’t. It’s difficult to think of anywhere that’s not a purpose mail trail centre that would cope well with rain and thousands of wheels without being un-ridable in places. To be fair it dried up very quickly and laps quickly got faster. Next year might be better as there will be less soil/loam on the surface to start with
We were asked not to wash our own bikes to keep oil and products off the land – fair enough. But only 6 wash bays was nowhere near enough so people did resort to doing it themselves. Most oils and cleaners these days are biodegradable so there shouldn’t be any issues but this will need addressing if the weather looks bad next year.
The atmosphere wasn’t as good as the course didn’t go through the campsite but the layout means there’s not a lot to be changed here. The campsite ended up large enough and it was better for being a lot closer to the arena.
HRH turned up to do the presentations and had I known I would have gone along but it seems it was a last minute decision on her part.
Overall I think it was a bit of a success. Highlight was the course which I think was well designed. It’s hard to get something that is enough of a challenge for decent riders and ridable for novices. It was short enough to allow lesser teams to do more laps and fast enough to challenge the speed demons
Well done Pat and his team. Fingers crossed he can get the support to keep this amazing event going strong.