As has been the case for the past 14 years, the mountain bike tribe of Great Britain assembled in June for Mountain Mayhem. The location may have changed over the years, as has indeed the title sponsor, but the essentials remain the same. Pro’s and not-so-Pro’s riding their bikes around a race course for 24 hours. This year, for once, the weather wasn’t the main theme or topic of conversation about ‘Mayhem’.
The most common word that sprung up whilst talking to people was ‘diversity’. No, not the ‘Britain’s Got Talent’-winning dance troupe, the diversity of the types of person seen out on the course and around the huge event village. The amount of families with kids was more than ever before too. Mayhem isn’t an off-putting cycling ghetto.
We can’t think of any other mountain bike event that has so many first-time racers and have-a-go-heroes chugging their no-frills bargain-basement bikes around the same course at the same time as Elite racers on their multi-thousand pound cutting-edge carbon machines. The fact that these two types of rider from each of end of the spectrum can ‘do’ Mayhem and not have their weekend impaired by each other is testament to this event’s genuine community spirit.
Event organiser Pat Adams’ opening and closing speeches to the assembled throng made frequent mention of the word ‘respect’. And respect was in abundance at this year’s Mayhem. All the riders were respectful of why each other was there and what they were trying to achieve. Whether it was just surviving the 24 hours or trying to get on the podium. Taking part was awarded as much merit as winning, which is how it should (but quite often is not).
The course, as usual, was different to previous years. It was generally felt to be quite a physically demanding course. At 16km/10m long with seemingly much more climbing than descending it was a test for most riders to get around. The weather behaved itself with only a couple of showers during racing which seemed to actually improve the course rather than wreck it. There were noticeably more 29ers in effect this year (especially in the Solo category) and maybe it’s us being exposed to them more but they don’t look as odd or ugly anymore do they?
A good ‘Sport’ category lap was about 1hr. Speedy racers were putting in some sub-50 minute times. There were also first-time teams putting in consistent 1hr 25min laps. Which of these times is the most impressive will depend on your point of view but for us, being out there trying your red-faced hardest for nearly an hour and half at a time, on a 30+lb bike with plastic pedals and V-brakes, knowing you’re going to have to do it again at some point, is much more heroic than the racers zipping around their seventh or eighth Mayhem.
Having said that, the Soloists deserve every credit they get for what they put themselves through. It’s gone beyond impressive in some cases and is now bordering on being worrying! The Soloists are the (barely) walking embodiment of Mayhem. The winning Mens Soloist Anthony White did 21 laps. 21! That’s 210 miles. With a 2km run at the start. Apparently he stopped for a grand total of 5 minutes during the whole race. See what we mean? Worryingly impressive.
In the Expert Team category it was Hope Technology who top the top spot (29 laps), no doubt ever-so-slightly assisted by drafting in the services of one Liam Killeen. Team Scott, the team who usually win this category, came in 2nd place (also 29 laps). We’ll be putting more results up as soon as we can.
The new start/finish time of 12noon seemed to go down well with both riders and spectators. It certainly got rid of the Sunday late-morning longeurs of past Mayhems and made the day feel much more interesting and involving from the get-go. Having the prize presentation at 2pm also proved to be a good idea, with a healthier sized audience than in past years.
So that’s Mountain Mayhem done for another year. It was one of the good ones this year. We’re already looking forward to the entry forms for 2012 Mayhem coming out. You should be too.