Thursday, 10 July 2014

RIDE FOR MICHAEL MOUNTAIN MAYHEM


Had a lot on my plate lately so the last thing on my mind was doing a 24 hour endurance race, especially one with the credentials of Mountain Mayhem. When Geoff McComb from Chain Reaction (other bike shops are available see your local at Joe's Bikes Worksop) called me 2 days prior to the race and reminded me that I said I may do it I had to think on my feet, err, well, umm, let me just....

First, was I in a position to compete at a level at which I would be happy, was I fit enough or done enough training, or had I even been on a bike lately, Answer: No.
Second, did I have time to drop everything and just disappear for the weekend shutting the shop at a time when earning back lost revenue was crucial, Answer: No.
Third, was I as equipped as I would like to be, did I have the bike I would like, Answer: No.
In the reality the answer to Geoff's request aught to be a resounding No, but when I took into consideration that the team was put together by him for ''Ride for Michael'' with a view to raising awareness for Michael Bonney and some other friends of Michael would be my team mates, I could only ever say yes.
All of the other team members would meet on Friday afternoon, my plan was to travel down on Saturday after a morning at work, I originally agreed to take part if I could arrive some time Saturday afternoon, but I decided to try and get there late Friday instead. I managed to get a few long effective days work in and got an early start Friday morning, and my Saturday customers sorted out a day early. Ideally setting off just after dinner Friday would be nice but squeezing more out of the day so as not to let anyone down seems to be an ongoing theme in my life, my deadline was going to be about 5 o'clock, but at 7:30 we were just about getting out of the door, van loaded and on the way. After a short while on the M1 and on hands free I might add I called Geoff, he was on his way from the airport having just flown in from Ireland, the guys from Hope Technology who were helping our team over the weekend had picked him up and they were on their way to the race site. My opening comment was "sorry Geoff.....I know it's short notice but I'm not going to be able to get there on Saturday" he replied with "ok....... so just to confirm.......what's er um er?" I quickly interrupted by saying "I'm coming down tonight instead hey hey"
A big exhale with a few words in what sounded like Irish or some sort of Celtic were uttered (BTW Geoff is Irish) and we went on to discuss how we would meet up and where.
We got to the race site and Geoff was there to usher us into a place saved in the Hope Tech camp,
a quick erection (ooh matron) of our tent and the realisation that we didn't have enough sleeping bags gave us a big enough appetite for an Indian from the articulated lorry trailer kitchen next door.
We cracked open a large bottle of Sloe Gin courtesy of Piers which was inhaled as a starter for the beer that flowed throughout the weekend, I had always wanted to do an informal party style Mayhem and here we were celebrating our coming together in aid of Michael.
When we eventually went to bed after all sorts of stories and jokes the harsh reality hit home, I was sleeping on the floor fully clothed due to the absence of a sleeping bag, this novelty soon wore thin, the generator droning in the background didn't exactly help either and I decide to have a wander round, walking along the course a little and around the camp I realised I was not alone, although it became evident that some of the people lurking in the dark were not fellow racers or supporters, a good job I was about, I arrived back at camp and sat on guard watching the sun rise and the early morning Mayhem unfolding, with early morning staff hurrying to the dinnertime crescendo.

Breakfast was bacon butties, the food of champions....maybe not, and the relaxed atmosphere gave way to nervous anticipation and the reality of the Le Mans style start of a five minute run to the bike made Geoff and Mike who were first off a bit twitchy. Last minute visits to the toilet and confusion took over until 12 o'clock struck and they were off and running.
The mad run finished and the bike race took over, the procession of lap after lap for 24 hours had begun, the running order was decided by myself and I mixed it up to make it fun, there were only two teams in it as far as we were concerned and only one outcome, to raise awareness for Michael. We split the teams fairly and did lap after lap with only a minute or two splitting us, the first laps were a culture shock for some of them and I was tasked with the job of helping them through the confusion, I was seen as the experience in the camp. My turn came around and I swear it was the hottest time of the day, but it was a fun course and a dry Mayhem for a change, we all managed to get a couple of laps in before lighting up time.
The night time is usually the hardest and true to form it showed, team South decide to do double laps and my team North kept to chugging the laps out in metronomic fashion, the only adaption was that Antony decided that due to his long drive the next day it would be prudent for him to get a good nights sleep, i agreed with him and promised to wake him up before his next outing, 1 o'clock came and he went to bed with a 5 o'clock wake up call on the cards.

I decided to stay up, guide everyone and dish out wake up calls, there had to be someone up to look after the bikes as there were thieves lurking, I was quite looking forward to the prospect of catching a night crawler but that didn't stop bikes from going missing elsewhere unfortunately.
During one of my night laps I got a glimpse of Princess Anne watching track side, I called out a quick wahaay! as I passed her. On the same lap I got caught up the safety truck on an uphill drag, I tried to keep well behind it because of the fumes it was giving off, using the time as a rest. On that lap I managed to overtake team South's Simon Gallup, he is the bass guitarist in The Cure, an Orange rider and all round good guy,. That put us in team North a lap ahead in our friendly battle, when Simon pulled into camp there was a beer ready for him and we both sat down and relaxed for a while with our chosen tipple chewing the fat.

A welcome site on any 24 hour race is the sunrise, we had a warmish night and some of the team had some good sleep, time to wake Antony and with a little confusion he set off obviously refreshed as he did one of his best laps, and the elation showed as he came in to hand over to me, I decided to wear tights and a long sleeved base layer under my shirt which was a bad move as although it felt a little cool when I set off I soon had a roast going, in the twilight i saw Luke taking a break (a polite way of putting it) on a corner, he encouraged me up the next cobbly climb cheering me on to the top, one of the things I managed to do throughout the race, I didn't get off and walk. I wasn't happy with my pace, I would have loved to have been fitter and this showed on the climbs, the flatter areas and downhills were fine but I still enjoyed myself. Staying up all night was not easy, the alternative "good nights sleep" turned out to be quite a chore too, the constant beep beep beep of the timing chips on racers ankles crossing the line was like Chinese water torture, this added up to a lay down with little sleep. When we first got to site we thought how lucky we were with the proximity to the facilities and start, how wrong we were was mirrored by the faces of our sleep deprived supporters / campers in the morning. Our team managed to keep ahead for the rest of the race and although there was a gap in timing myself and John Chennells decided to do the last lap together.
Earlier in the day I went to see how Luke Copestake was doing, he was Joe's Bikes solo entrant and was showing signs of exhaustion, I told him to wait for us on our last lap just before 12 and we would finish the last part of the lap together.

Me and John set off and although we said we were going to do a steady lap we still had bit of fun in places, we got round to the Joe's Bikes Easy-Up and had a drink in the shade while Luke collected himself, we moved out together and lifted the pace into the last section, up came the last corner which we all dipped into in unison knee out, as soon as the bars levelled up I pulled a last straight wheelie to the finish line, after all it would have been rude not to.




The hand shake from Pat Adams signified the end of Mountain Mayhem for 2014 as we filed past him and collected our medals, then we all met up shook each others hands, hugged and had lots of pictures taken, anything to avoid the inevitable task of breaking up camp.
At the end of events like this there are always varied emotions, we are all like minded individuals thrust together with one aim, to gain awareness for Ride4Michael. I think we did this with style and had some fun in the process, Michael I'm sure was proud of us. We took a mixed bag of riders with various talents and competed in one of the biggest events in the race calendar and finished in about 30th position with only a few positions between the two teams, but who's counting, there were only two teams in it, and they both won.
After packing up the van we were off home, the weary three hour drive was the final nail in my sleep deprived coffin, I got us part way up the motorway and had to pull into the services for a bite to eat and a driver change, after all I had been awake for over two days. Lynne took over driving duties as I sat in the passenger seat like a nodding dog, ''oh yes".
A few days have passed and the pain of the hot daytime and dark weary laps has passed and we have all been passing happy messages to and fro, the memories have been polished and dished up with a grin and there has already been talk of next years race and how it will unfold. And why not, we had a fantastic weekend and I hope next year can live up to it.  Cheers to the teams, but also to Michael.

Team riders were:

Team North: Joe Whitaker, Geoff McComb, Piers Mortimer and Antony Penny.
Team South: John Chennells, Simon Gallup, Mike Summers and Chris Davies.

Special thanks go to Chris Davies for the excellent photography.

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