Updated 23 July 2002
The Red Bull 24hr Mountain Mayhem 2002 -
most popular endurance mountain bike race on the UK calendar without a doubt,
the 5th Annual Red Bull race returned to Sandwell Valley Park, Birmingham on the
weekend of 22nd-23rd June. It's always held on the weekend closest to the summer
solstice and once again the weather played ball…coolish and slightly overcast
on the Saturday but with gorgeous sunshine on the Sunday.
De Laune had two teams this year, imaginatively named 'A'
and 'B' consisting of James' Lett and Lyon, Ross Fryer and Steve Price in the A
team and Andrew King, Cliff Steele, Simon Pamplin and Malcolm Fawcett in the B
team. Doing a sterling job in the helping stakes were Carol, Tig and Bill. Ross,
Malcolm and Cliff arrived in the van on Friday; I'd been there since Thursday so
we had our campsite in good order fairly quickly. The rest of the teams showed
up on Saturday morning.
The race starts at 2pm on Saturday and goes right through
until 2pm on Sunday. The format is fairly simple…there must be a team member
out on the course at all times and each team member must ride at least 2 laps.
Apart from that the planning is up to you. The suburbs of Birmingham aren't
renowned for their mountains but the course designers had set out a 10 mile lap
consisting of bumpy grass climbs and descents, a little bit of tarmac and a lot
of singletrack. The course also managed to contain a surprising amount of
climbing…the altimeter on my cycle computer recorded 700ft (200m) per lap.
race starts with a LeMans style run to the bikes…anyone who has ever seen 400
mountain bikers sprinting half a mile to where their bike is held by a team
member will understand the "Mayhem" part of the title. Steve Price was
volunteered to run for our team and put in a great start, getting out onto the
course well up with the leaders. He came through in just over 45 minutes and
handed over to me. Lap times throughout the race were very consistent between
all the team members, all of the A team averaging about 44 minutes per 10-mile
lap, although James Lett turned in a blisteringly quick sub-41 minute lap early
on. Up until nightfall everything was going well, in fact De Laune A was in the
lead for most of that time. The dark hours however are what can make and break
the race for many. There's not many incentives to climb out of a warm sleeping
bag at 2am and thrash round a course that you've already ridden so many times
you can almost do it blindfold. Steve and I took the "early" shift
from 10pm ish through till about 1.30am when James Lett and Ross took over
riding duties. Riding at night brings a whole new meaning to mountain biking.
You're riding through a tunnel of light, there's no peripheral vision, no
scenery to look at and everything feels twice as fast. Unfortunately things
weren't actually twice as fast with the result that we lost the lead to Team
Pedal-On sometime in the small hours.
A lot of mountain bikers adopt the "If I can't see
it, it can't hurt me" approach to night riding, sadly trees and rocks are
just as hard at night as they are at any other time and I witnessed a couple of
very funny incidences where riders in front of me rode through bushes they
didn't know were there. I didn't have any of these problems…I had a
phenomenally bright 40W head-torch which, from a distance looked like a small
alien spacecraft moving along about 5 foot from the ground. James Lett borrowed
it for a lap and couldn't believe how much faster he went…riders would move
out of the way without you even asking!
arrived and I was woken up from sleep by a mixture of the dawn chorus and riders
changing gear 2 yards from my tent as they rode past. There was a battle royal
going on for first place now, with Team Pedal On edging ahead, then being pulled
back, and then edging ahead again. Meanwhile, 3rd place was being keenly
contested as well with both the Army CC and Arctic RC chasing hard. Lap times
now were faster as riders put in more of an effort as the end drew near. I came
through into the arena 5 minutes before the bell and James Lett went out for the
final lap. The team that had been chasing us so hard failed to make the 2pm
cut-off, which put them a lap down on us. Out of the 188 Sport Men teams only 2
had done 33 laps; Team Pedal-On in 1st place and De Laune A in 2nd place, less
than 8 minutes behind after 24 hours of racing. Two hours later, the team was
stood on the podium. An amazing achievement and an amazing feeling as well.
Team B managed to get a very creditable 24th place in
spite of Cliff trying to demolish his bike and Malcolm taking his own sweet time
to get to the handover area!
None of this would have been possible without the help and
support from Tig, who kept track of two teams for 24 hours and organised all the
riders to be in the right place at the right time, Carol who cooked up some
fantastic food and kept the campsite in order and Bill who cleaned and lubed all
the bikes after every lap ready for their next thrashing.