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Performance Testing Wiggle Mountain Mayhem

To be honest the performance was poor, testing it certainly was, not so much wiggling, quite a lot of mountain and certainly mayhem.

Another example of me trying to challenge the passage of time occurred as I entered into the Wiggle Mountain Mayhem 24 hour endurance mountain biking event. The event is held at Gatcombe Park. As some of you may know, this is Princess Anne's country home and is rarely open to the public. The course was a 6.5 mile circuit, however with a total ascent of over 300 meters, it is an extremely difficult proposition for even elite participants.

The aim of the event is to complete as many laps of the course in the 24 hours, with the winner being the one with the most completed laps. I rode in the team event with three other riders; Neil, Roger and Chris. The team event is categorised by age and ours were classified as “Oldies”. To qualify for this group the combined age of the team has to reach 160 years. We managed 158 years between just 3 of us, so we were over-qualified if anything. We named ourselves the “Delamere Dudes”, after the place where we do most of our training.

The whole event is run a little like a festival. You all pitch up on Friday, set up camp and register.  Later in the afternoon the course is opened for you to preview.  Then off to bed for some rest, ready for the trial to begin next day.

Neil was “nominated” as our first rider which meant he had the pleasure of the 0.5 mile run to get his bike in a le Mans style start which was designed to stop bunching at the start.  Watching from the sides you can see the difference between the elite teams like the RAF, Army and Navy; and the rest of us.  These guys did the run in no time at all and were off like lightening. The end of the first lap saw lots of incidents, with people having to complete their lap with the bike on their shoulders because chains had snapped, wheels had been broken and so on. This made me very nervous as I was rider 4 in our team. Neil turned in a great first lap with Roger and Chris next, and then finally me, the self-appointed “tail-end-Charlie”.

The course itself begins with a ride out of the arena before a big descent down the Kanda Coffin. This proved very tricky both on the first lap, when there was lots of bunching, but also after various downpours.  There is a lot of forest track, and some difficult (impossible for me) climbs up grassy fields. There are then some rapid descents which eventually brought you to a point closest to the main house. From there you enter the “Red Bull Time Trial” which was a race-within-a-race. To finish, there is a long hard slog back up to the starting arena where you pass the timing gate and hand over to the next rider.

Overall, I would say I found it very tough physically. The lack of sleep really starts to tell, and due to fate I ended up doing 2 nights laps instead of the 1 that the rest of the team did. Modern LED lights are really bright and everything, but because you are behind them you get no real sense of what is in front. A deep muddy line looks just like a smooth piece of tarmac until you hit it and instantly stop!
Eventually 12:00 on Sunday comes around, and I was destined to be doing our last lap. I crossed the line at 12:05 and our race was run.  After initial worries about bike mechanical failure, we didn’t even have a single puncture in the race proper; the failures were more physical with cramp and tiredness.

Now the results have come in, we completed 16 laps and came 87th out of 151 “Oldies”.  The winning team overall did 36 laps!  The fastest lap overall was about 38 minutes, unlike my typical lap of about 1 hour 25 minutes!!!  Just to add insult to injury, some riders do these things solo – the winning solo did 26 laps on his own!

An experience – yes
Pleased to finish – yes
Do it again – shoot me first!


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