The weekend of the 20th and final Mountain Mayhem, finally arrived on Saturday the 17th of June after 6 months of training and preparation. I had not checked the weather forecast on the run up to the event, but had heard from others it was going to be dry and hot. I did not pay much attention to this, being from the North I fully expected the weather to cause complications, of the wet and muddy variety.
I arrived on Friday afternoon in an non-air-conditioned van full of stuff and made my way to an area of land, Budge had declared as part of the team JMC Empire by putting a flag on it. Then promptly with help from Keith Kitchen erected my oven, I mean tent for the weekend. I declined the opportunity to ride the course, as I was keen to keep hold of what little fluid my body had left in it, following the journey in the van.
So onto the race. Having moved all my kit to the Team JMC pit area and laying it out in a way I thought a Formula 1 team might arrange it. I assembled at the start line among the other competitors to begin my maiden solo 24hr bike race and the slow painful removal of any skin which contacted my bikes saddle. We respectfully held a 30-second round of applause for the recent passing of both Mike Hall and Charlie Craig whose loss reminds us all of how fragile life can be.
The start comprised the customary “Le-Mans” style run and bike search prior to the race proper, I took this very easy, and started the first lap slowly mindful that barring a crash or mechanical, over pacing would be my biggest problem. This was helped on the first lap by my position at the back of the pack, meaning any corner or sudden change of gradient caused a standing queue of riders.
A lap was around 7 miles with around 300m of climbing. And could be split into two halves. After leaving the start finish area, you descended through a field and into the first wooded section. This was gently rolling and flowing with some lovely fast single track to entertain. You then arrived at a choice of “A” or “B” line were I think the intention was; the “A” was technically harder but shorter and the “B” easier and longer. Having alternated for the first few laps, this tuned out not to be the case. In reality the “A” line had a very steep decent leading to a long climb or if unlucky hospital and the “B” line was shorter and included a bomb hole type stream crossing and mud-fest, followed by a high street bank style rope queuing system to try and lengthen it. I settled on the “B” line as it was shorter and did provide entertainment, as I watched other competitors try and ride the muddy section resembling cows trying to get in a dingy as I walked it.
The sections then merged, you left the trees and rolled through some fields which presented some of the beauty of the Cotswold’s. This culminated in a short steep climb round a tree and then a long fast grass decent with a couple of fast corners. You were then back in the trees again for the second more challenging part of the lap, this provided fewer entertaining flowing sections, although did have a waters edge trail through a secluded, serial environment past a boat house shimmering in the sunlight. The remainder of the wooded section was simply climb after climb, these culminated at a highest point where you rapidly lost all the height you had just gained, plummeting down a steep rocky double track back to the point where you began the climb on the other side of a hay bale, you then left the trees and, you guessed it, climbed again, to the camping area and start finish.
The temperatures during the day meant getting enough fluid and food down me could be a problem, these temperatures did however provide entertainment for the kids in the camp site taking out riders with water pistols and pretty much anything that would hold or squirt water. The atmosphere riding through the campsite was amazing with people cheering riders on, playing loud rock music and generally enjoying themselves. As night begin to fall, camp fires and festival lights were lit as the frivolity continued. When you push yourself physically and mentally to the limit it’s this uplifting atmosphere and encouragement by the spectators and other riders which really helped me keeping going and proved very emotional.
Through the night I sorted out my stomach and lights and tried to settle into a reasonable rhythm of laps, which was occasionally broken by the bike unexpectedly sliding on whatever I was riding over at the time. After a few frustrating laps punctuated by the need to keep stopping I settled in to some good pairs of laps before the temperatures started to rise.
The late morning section saw me not really taking on enough food and energy levels began to dwindle along with body functions. I managed to summon enough energy for a respectable second half of the final lap and a sprint to the line with another soloist which I promptly lost. Completing an emotional, physical and mental journey. I finish 9th in the solo male category completing 23 laps.
I would like to say a big thanks and well done to all of Team JMC who attended for their hard work, effort and encouragement and particularly Budge for his organisation.