Adventures of the Cotic - A Quick Release holidays mountain bike race team

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Wiggle Mountain Mayhem 2013: the same but different

Ant reports from the changed Mountain Mayhem:

Out on your own - photo credits Augustus Farmer
Like many riders Mountain Mayhem was my introduction to the world of 24 hour racing. My first Mayhem in 2006 got me hooked, and I had duly made the annual mid summer pilgrimage to Eastnor to ride as part of a fun team. But this year it was going to be very different indeed: a new venue, a new course, even a different weekend of the year and most differently, this time I would be riding Mayhem solo.
After riding five previous 24 hour solo races I have found that as a mere mortal I cannot race more than one or two in a season, so the build up to one of the few big goals of the season seems even more intense, as there isn’t the opportunity to do another one for a long while until you are fully recovered again.  So in the preceding weeks I became drawn in by the snippets of information realised by Pat & his team, by rumour and tattle on the forums and then in the last week by the BBC weather site. The main question was how would it compare with Eastnor and would we get a dry one?

The Gatcombe park campsite was smaller but had the same atmosphere about it. The trade area, similar – smaller, but with the same feel as last year. Our AQR pit was the same organised and efficient haven as usual, but this time crewed differently by fellow AQR team mates Matt and Kirsty.

AQR pits
It was the same elbows out mad cavalry charge run at the start and charge into the first Kenda Koffin descent.  I quickly settled into my pace trying to find a flow on the downhills and singletrack and follow wheels along the double track. It was all going to plan. Then, after two hours the rain came. As most of the course was under the tree canopy it didn’t seem too heavy, but it changed everything. The just ridable climbs became pushes and the descents real testers of cornering skill. As the course started to dry some of the sections of liquid mud became super tacky  - like the famed plasticine woods of Eastnor. But on the whole the course held up reasonably well and I concentrated preserving momentum and eeking out as much speed as possible. But it was tough. 
Kenda Koffin descent - photo credit Singletrack
Seven hours in I had the usual “why am I doing this” thought, but after an on-course pep talk from fellow rider Rory Hitchens I perked up and ploughed on through the night. Chatting to other riders kept the spirits up whilst plodding up the climbs, whilst all the time picking off other solo riders and gradually climbing up the leader board. 

Dawn came and as the course continued to dry the trusty mud tyres were swapped for faster rolling Ikons and from 20 hours in I was in a battle for a top five placing. My pit crew were getting increasingly excited and I did what I could to pull the gap to 4th place back to just 4 minutes.

It's all a blur
As I came through the lurking zone after 23hrs 50mins I realised only had a very slim chance of catching 4th place, so decide rather than beast myself with one final effort, that 22 laps was enough, and rolled across the line with the fellow lurkers after the 24 hours were up. 24 hours of riding may sound like a long time to ride, but it really was over in a blur. 

My aim was a top five placing, so 5th after approximately 165 miles and 7000m of climbing was something I was delighted to have achieved.
And relax...And sort out helmet hair

It was the same fantastic pit support from AQR teammates I have received in the past but this time from Matt and Kirsty aided by Rach, Ruth & Mat. I really can’t thank them enough as they tirelessly worked through the entire race.  Unfortunately Rach had a rather different race experience, here's her report.

So all in all Mayhem 2013 was different in many ways but the same in others. It was a brave move to use a fresh venue, but the Gatcombe estate really suits the event, and Pat and his team put on yet another outstanding event. It still had the same unique feel and camaraderie as previous Mayhems and I think it can only get better as it settles into its new venue and eventually gets the dry weather it deserves.

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