The real main event:
After a full year of waiting, careful preparation and training, it was time for the moment we'd all been waiting for... the Mayhem breakfast.
Once again it was the shambolic let down we've now come to expect. "We've run out of hash browns and you can't have an extra sausage" all served up on a paper plate. The coffee was okay though...
Retroking#1 Max was on hand for our team strategy meeting to offer sage words of advice. We decided on a relaxed strategy of no firm plans other than a flexible running order. Speaking of running, Woody made the mistake of mentioning he'd been out jogging a few times on the drive down to Eastnor, so he was the only option for the opening run/lap. (Thanks Chris).
Our secret weapon HarryCrumb arrived on site shortly after the bacon grease fest, and casually assembled a selection of bikes.
No really, the main event:
Before the egg had been fully digested, Woody was sent nervously into the starting pack without his gloves. I went back to base camp to find them, arriving back in the main arena to hear the start siren sound and the 24 hour countdown begin.
The run seemed to take forever before the first Army runner appeared on the main straight. Not far behind in 3rd place wearing a full business suit and tie with 'Retrobike' painted onto the back was Superstrong Geoff. The stick on grey 'tache' was a great touch too.
Gradually the throbbing mass of runners grew thicker and Woody hove into view. Collecting his bike and gloves shortly after Edwards had also collected his.
Reports on first lap conditions ranged from a bit muddy and slippery, to deadly and unrideable. The latter information came from Edwards on his 70psi skinny tyres, so was instantly discounted.
Back at base camp the Retrobike 'Hecklerphone' was in full effect, and Mr K was preparing himself for his first lap. Moisturiser applied and a last mouthful of sun-dried tomato and olive bread and he was off to the transition area.
I was on hand to witness the first 'seamless' transition from our closest rivals. Sinnett's masterplan of making unofficial changeovers at the RB trackside HQ was clearly a gross rule infringement, but nobody seemed to care. I really couldn't work out what was happening and neither could they it seems with ElPedro Pete sailing past to start another half lap or something.
With the pressure off and the prize Etto helmet seemingly in the bag, the first few laps went well for my team. HarryCrumb went out on for his first lap and put in a blistering 1 hour and 5 minute time, before handing over to me in the now rain soaked transition area.
I was already cold and wet setting out onto the course for my first lap, and pedaled hard to warm up. The first Kenda Klimb brought me up to racing temperature, and a last minute tire change to something more modern meant the Univega hooked up nicely on the sticky singletrack sections. My rear canti brake was howling on the slower sections though, and I managed to panic several riders into submission for some satisfying passes.
Leaving the woods and onto the farm tracks I squinted my way through the rain and mud spray on the fast track, before dropping back into the granny ring for the climb up to and onto the ridiculously draggy plasticene woods section. The slippery mud slide was dispatched with all the grace of a sack of spuds, but I rode it and held it together past several dismounted riders. The rear brake was especially loud for that one.
The rain eased off and stopped as I re-entered to campsite and tried to look like I was riding fast past the spectators.
The climb out of the arena and up to the monument was relentless. I heard a shout of "Go on Retrobiker" behind me, and was delighted to get to chat to Tim Davies briefly as he caught and past me.
On the first downhill sections I managed to find a good line to the extreme left allowing me to pass some struggling riders on their full sus modern bikes, and then had to slalom my way passed more slow downhillers on the next tricky and rocky descent.
The mudslide after the North Face house hadn't firmed up much after my recce either, but taking to the undergrowth for traction and bramble whiplash meant I nearly rode it all without dabbing. Eventually after another long sticky drag up to the start of final descent I rounded a corner to see a pair of wheels still spinning in the undergrowth. I got closer and saw some legs and a rather attractive female rider trapped beneath her bike.
Of course chivalry isn't dead, so I thwarted my lap time to offer assistance, by carefully lifting the bike off her and gently hoisting her up from the tangle of bracken and brambles. She was fine, if a little flustered by my musk.
Onwards to tackle the final washboard descent. My strategy for this was clear. Ride as fast as possible to skim over the bumps and hope not to snap my rigid forks. It worked pretty well and I got some good speed down back into the campsite. Once past the RB heckle tent and back round to hand over to Woody in 1:17:19, including rescuing crashed riders.
Part three: 'the horror in the night' coming soon...