Well over 1,500 competitors made their way to Newnham Park in Plymouth on the last weekend of July for the Bontrager TwentyFour12 mountain bike enduro.
Now in its fourth year, the event continues to attract enthusiasts and newbies alike, all keen to test their endurance and bike handling skills in a festival-like atmosphere, with hundreds of other like-minded souls.
In the 24-hour solo race it looked like there was to be a real clash of the enduro titans, with Anthony White coming head-to-head with Mountain Mayhem rival Matt Page, while Ian Leitch, fresh back from injury, was keen to outwit them all.
It was a relief to see blue skies and feel a warm breeze as race day dawned – we were on track for near perfect conditions. The 14km course had been tweaked to remove the wettest section, leaving miles of sinuous singletrack weaving through ancient woodlands interspersed with a few killer climbs just to remind you it was a race. Oh, and not forgetting the obligatory river crossing – a visit to NewnhamPark would not be right without a dip in the river!
In the 12-hour race Torq dominated everything they entered, winning the men’s team, mixed team, mixed pairs, solo veteran women and men’s solo races, with James Lister opening up a blistering pace to take his third win of the event.
Anthony White took the hardest route to victory in his race, deciding to take on both the 12-hour and the 24-hour simultaneously. The plan was to go as hard as possible for the first race and then hang on for the 24 and take that one too.
His hopes were dashed by Lister’s furious pace in the 12-hour, which meant he had to concede the win and take second. The 24-hour race had some strong contenders, but one by one they dropped out leaving White pounding home for gold, with Iain Payne chasing hard for contention. After 27 laps White took the win, just one lap ahead of Payne.
“I wanted to do the two races as it takes the whole endurance race onto a new level,” said White. “It’s quite hard to keep going, particularly if you go out hard like I do. I had a chance of hunting for the 12-hour and I wasn’t quite sure about the 24 – both races had stiff competition.
“In the 12-hour James Lister was amazing and it became apparent that I was going to totally waste myself with the effort of chasing him, so I started to think about the 24-hour. By now both Ian and Matt had pulled out, so then it was just a case of self preservation.
“The course was incredibly hard with some really difficult climbs so, yeah, it was a tough one, but good for me. I was a bit under-prepared for Mayhem so I got a bit of racing in in-between the two to sharpen up a bit. Now I’m up for drinking loads of beer in celebration. I think I deserve it!”
Sally Daw showed great strength and determination to take the win in the women’s 24-hour at her first attempt of the distance, racking up 20 laps.
Team Certini, the mixed 24-hour team led by Plymouth’s mountain bike queen Maddie Horton, dominated their race to take the win, recorded the most laps of any 24-hour team and to cap it all, Horton picked up the Queen of the Night title after completing the fastest night lap.
“The course was great – it pre-rode very well and then it just got greasy, which made it more difficult,” said Horton. “There were lots of riders around, it was difficult to get past and difficult to stay upright, but it was fun. It always is here!”
The Exposure-sponsored event saw Torq add one more victory to their stable of wins too, with Anthony O’Boyle taking the King of the Night title with his scorching sub-36-minute lap.
Despite the onslaught of rain in the closing stages of the race, faces were beaming as tales were recounted of their best and worst bits, over bottles of beer, steaming mugs of tea and lashings of pasta.
Organiser Keith Bontrager said: “It was good fun, in that endurance sport sort of way – way more fun after the event than towards the end!
“The course would have been easier if it hadn’t rained. A lot of the climbs that were middle ring rolls last year were just slogs this year. It wasn’t boggy out there, just technically challenging.
“I’ve done so many of these races now and the chance to participate and help design the course is the fun bit for me. It’s a great scene in the UK. The riders are brilliant – they all seem to get it and enjoy themselves. I’ll be back next year for more of the same fun, but I may go for a team – this solo lark isn’t really working at the moment!”