The weather played a decisive role as the 2012 Mountain Mayhem 24hr race turned into a mud drenched fight for survival. Billed as the UKs largest and most prestigious 24hr race, Mountain Mayhem has occasionally been derided for having few mountains and little mayhem. Not so this year as heavy rain in the preceding weeks turned the grassy course into a muddy wallow under hundreds of tyres.
The Mayhem always attracts a wide variety of different types of racers and this year was no exception. Team Scott and Hope Factory Racing were both fielding strong teams in the Expert Mens category, the evergreen Nick Craig and Paul Oldham both featuring, against equally strong squads from Hargroves Cycles and the sponsors, Wiggle Exposure. alongside these top class racers was a mass of weekend racers, recreational mountain bikers and have a go heroes, all wanting to cut that 24hr notch on their racing posts.
In the first lap the division was clear with the top racers attacking the run, led out by an RAF rider, whilst the majority jogged, sauntered or walked. After collecting their bikes, the expert riders took on a tough and testing course featuring long dragging climbs and steep, and occasionally twisting, descents. Despite leading out the run, the RAF team was unable to hold onto their advantage and it was the familar kit of Scott, Hope and Hargroves who led the first lap. After this it was always difficult to tell exactly who was leading without consulting the big screen, arduously put into position through the mud on Friday, or the small screens in the catering tent.
As the endless tyres churned the soaking course into mud, the race for all but the most competitive teams turned into a battle for survival against the elements. Survival for tired bodies and tested bikes as numerous bikes came back to the arena without chains or mechs, so completely clogged with mud that their numbers and even makes were indistinguishable, their riders equally blackened.
As night fell, the promised rain came, obscuring Eastnore Castle towering over the big screen and further soaking the churned up ground. Still working as well oiled teams, Hope Factory Racing and Scott continued to churn out the laps. Hargrove however, suffered and fell down the rankings to be replaced by Wiggle-Exposure. They weren’t the only ones struggling. In the solo mens category, Dave Powell (Team JMC.it, on the podium for the last two years decided that enough was enough and retired, leaving Mark Spratt to take the lead and the eventual win.
As dawn arrived, Hope had a enough of a lead to ensure victory and there were no major surprises for the top teams in the final hours, except the weather which, after two days of soaking rain, turned out glorious, drying out soaking tents and equipment and making the task of moving hundreds of bogged down cars off the once green and pleasant site.