We’ve got to meet Princess Anne again. Sally Burgess, my female pairs partner and I were discussing our tactics for the 20th and last ever Mountain Mayhem 24hr MTB race. We’d come 2nd in Female Pairs the previous year and had the HRH handshake and chit chat. The last one is bound to be re-visited more often so it’d be good to be on that podium.

We had no idea of our competition this year. Our previous year’s tactic was just to go out when we felt like it but if we were being more serious this year it’d needed forethought and planning. The main factor for me was, due to also looking after the kids even if loosely, I must have some sleep. A few hours at least. I am unable to manage them without it. So it was planned one lap each all the way to late night, some kip and then get up early, 3am or 4 am to start again. First day this plan was followed and we generally held onto second place with the odd first and third. When it came to 10.30–11.00pm we agreed to get some kip. Phil was tasked with waking me at 3.30am and whoever was up first between Sally and I would do a lap.

I was woken at 4am by Phil and found Sally up and ready to take a lap. This allowed me to come round a bit, have a coffee and some food. It then transpired that Sally had infact also put in a night lap! What an absolute star. So we continued with the one lap each and then I also took a double to give Sally a bit of a longer break, given she’d not had much sleep. What to bear in mind in all of this was the excruciatingly hot temperatures we were experiencing. It was about 30° throughout the day, with the temps not dropping until much later on 8-9pm. In the forest there was shelter but as soon as the route came back out for that last grassy dragging climb up into the arena it hit you like a blast furnace. There was a constant battle to get enough fluids in and it takes away your appetite. All riders were suffering but there was little to do when you are based in a tent in a field.

Always one of the key elements to a 24hr race is to just to be on the track. You don’t need to be fast, just be on it. So as it came to the last couple of hours we were only just ahead of 3rd. Would I need to go out on the last lap? I only found out as I stood at transition for Sally to come in after her last lap. A look at the timings said yes, I had to go out. I can’t say I high-fived the idea but we had worked hard to maintain our 2nd placing, 1st were too far in front, and just one more lap would secure that 2nd. So off I headed. As an incentive I promised myself I didn’t need to clear every climb. This was the first year where I had managed to clear almost all of the climbs on every lap. Of course when it came to it pride kicked in and I still made sure wherever possible I cycled up them, even clearing that last left hand tree rooted kicker up to the last tricky downhill.

I came in about 30mins after the final horn had gone. Yey, Pat was there, to give me my last ever Mayhem finishers handshake. It was not just poignant as it meant we had our 2nd place, but after 12 years of riding this event the last ever ever. We got our handshake with HRH and I even had a good chat.  Pat, you’ve been amazing. What a legend of a man and legend of a race.

Thanks go to all Team JMC fellow riders and ground crew who provide banter and enthusiasm and cups of tea throughout Cookson Cycles for my unstoppable SuperFly and Sally’s awesome Scott Scale, USE Exposure for their amazing lights, and Sally my phenomenal pairs team mate. Without her 1am, lap we’d not have held that 2nd spot.