The notion of racing for 24 hours is not a new one, “Le Mans 24hr” is a famous motor racing event that has been running since 1923 but it wasn’t the French or us Brits that had the crazy idea of a 24hr Mountain Bike race, it was the Americans and when the sport was still in its infancy during the 90′s.
Rewind to 1998 and Pat Adams organised the first British 24hr MTB race; Mountain Mayhem was born. The first year was held at Trentham Gardens near Stafford, from 1999 to 2003 it moved to Sandwell Park, near Birmingham before moving again to Eastnor Park for 2004 to 2012. Year on year Mountain Mayhem attracts thousands of entries and remains the biggest MTB event in the UK and probably the biggest 24hr race in the World. For 2013 the event moves to its forth venue and its rather royal! Being held on June 14-16th at Gatcombe Park the country home of Princess Anne in Gloucestershire. More associated with 3-day eventing on horses it is being used for a Mountain Bike event for the first time ever.
Mountain Mayhem is seen by many as THE event to do. But what makes it so popular? Perhaps the unique festival atmosphere that is created by everyone who journey for a weekend of camping and riding among like minded people. Every year you can expect some surprises and some great entertainment. From a full philharmonic orchestra playing at midnight to RAF helicopter and Red Arrow flyovers and DJ’s in the middle of a wood, expect the unexpected. Only a few very select people know what Gatcombe is going to offer in terms of course design but from what has been said, it sounds like its another top venue and certainly a very exclusive one!
The number of categories can be a little confusing, so here is the low down:
- Solo – Like it sounds, one man against the track for 24hrs. Pit supporters are allowed and absolutely vital for a successful race.
- Team – all in a relay format so at least one rider is on course at all times.
- Elite – A team of 4, with at least 1 woman. There is big prize money at stake and you can expect to see several big names racing.
- Men/Women are teams of 4 single sex with Mixed being a 5 person with at least one female rider.
- There are also various sub-categories such as single-speed, university, forces and a 10-person team category, all of which are hotly contested, especially the forces with the usual Army vs RAF battle!
Much like the original 24hr, Mountain Mayhem starts with a “Le Mans style” run to the bikes! Usually it is about 400m but a few years ago someone got a little carried away and it ended up being 2 kilometres! With the teams it’s usually a case of drawing straws to see who is the unlucky one, but not everyone takes it seriously and there are plenty who will gently stroll around the “run” before heading off on the bike.
Solo racing can be rewarding, but physically and mentally it is challenging. Racing as a team is quite a social and enjoyable. There is nothing quite like the feeling of completing a lap, then returning to the pit to tell tales of the crazy overtake or fun descent or maybe just how the conditions are changing “It’s drying out and super fast!” or perhaps, the words of dread “Get your mud tyres fitted!” It is all part of the fun!
Mud and Mountain Mayhem have gone hand in hand with Mayhem recently, but it has never spoiled the entertainment. Even after a monsoon like June in 2012 and a course that in places was extremely muddy the riders still enjoyed and returned with a big smile. The fact that the 2013 has sold out yet again tells its own story! The scout motto “Be Prepared” is quite apt and so long as you are then no matter what the conditions are like, you will be sure of a fun weekend. The word being spread is that Gatcombe Park will cope with whatever the weather throws down, with good elevation and a suitable soil type.
So with just a matter of weeks until the 2013 Mountain Mayhem its time to start getting excited, thinking about bikes, kit and of course the weather. On June 14th a new chapter in the history of this fantastic event will begin. Will you be there?
Stats are per lap. Riders aim to complete as many laps as possible within 24hrs, fastest teams will be around 40 laps, solo between 30 and 35 laps.
Name: Mountain Mayhem
Distance: 12km (7.5 miles)
Ascent (m): 320m
Estimate Fastest time: 35min
Typical/average time: 50min
How Hard: Score Teams: 6/10, solo 9/10
Given that it is a 24hr with a lapped format, the longer you want to ride the tougher the challenge. A single lap will not be a great challenge, being roughly 7.5 miles with just over 300m climbing. A solo racer doing 30 (or more!) laps will be riding several hundred miles with thousands of meters climbing.
When to go:
June 15/16th 2013
What do I need?
You only need a working bike and helmet, but would advise to take as many spares as possible.
How to prepare:
As part of a team you won’t need to be incredibly fit, but the stop/start nature of a lapped race might take some time to get used to. Anyone taking on a solo 24hr and looking to keep riding needs excellent endurance and a very strong mind.
Bontrager TwentyFour12: An endurance MTB race similar in style to the Mountain Mayhem, this time with options for a 12 or 24 hour race. Held near to Plymouth, Devon in July.
Relentless 24hr: An October race up North of the border in Fort William, the track takes in Witch’s Trails and part of the World Championships course.