British Enduro Series Rd2 - Dyfi, Wales
This weekend saw me and Dad travel south to the sunny land of Welsh Wales for round 2 of the British Enduro Series. I had an exam in Aberdeen in the morning so after writing furiously for two hours about various aspects of media law I hoped in the car and hightailed it home to the TweedValley to pack the van for Wales. A quick turnaround saw us on the road by 3pm and trucking South to a B&B in Bala which was about 30mins from the race venue but a good spot to stop off for the night.
The next morning, after a night of enduring Dad's snoring we set off for Dyfi. The venue was impressive with a pro pit set up and many exhibitors offering everything from tyres to sports bars and everything else in-between. I signed on and looked at the map. A big day of 30miles was the order of the day. I got all set up and headed out on my practice lap alone. The stages were very similar to pervious UK Gravity Enduro races of yesteryear with a few alterations. Clearly the trail team had put in alot of work which was great to see. I enjoyed most of the trails with the exception of the top half of stage 3 which was simply rubbish. It was dark, narrow and a total slop feast. It was pretty much unridable with any kind of flow or confidence and many felt this section should be cancelled for the race. However, the riders views very not respected and the stage was run in its entirety with the justification being that, "Enduro is hard, its the nature of the sport". Enduro is about enjoying the trails above all and having a good laugh on the way round with your mates. Sending 200 riders down the worst trail I've had the displeasure of riding has nothing to do with the nature of the sport.
Seeding was held after the practice lap and I was feeling a little tired with 30miles in my legs. I headed up to the top of the new fresh cut stage to see where I'd end up. I got to the top in time to catch my breath and prepared myself for my first stage run at a British Enduro Series. I was a little nervous but I've been to enough races to deal with these nerves. I cranked out the gate and hit all my lines. The stage was really blown out and the corners were unsupportive. I was relying on ruts holding me and my bike on line. All was well until a rather steep corner. I took the lower line and it just didn't quite hold me and I hit the eject button and ended up tumbling down the hill and having to remount. I scrambled back up to my bike and continued down the hill. After another small crash and getting stuck behind another rider, I seeded nearly last, 31st but only 30 seconds off 1st so times were pretty tight.
We spent the night in a lovely B&B just 5 mins up the road called The Old Vicarage owned by Rob and Jackie. Jackie made us a mean fish pie and we settled down for the night. In an attempt the quell Dad's snoring I stuck a nasal strip on his nose. But this was in vein as his supersonic snoring persisted and kept me up most of the night.
Morning broke and rain had fallen over night. I changed my front tyre to a Maxxis Shorty for better traction, but stuck with the Aggressor out back. I ran lower pressures with 25psi in the front and 26 in the rear. This is the lowest I've ever gone on the rear and it has alot to do with the Double Down casing on the tyre. It's so strong and hasn't let me down. After a pre race interview I hit the trails for some sideways action.
The transitions were on the tighter side but nothing too bad. It was a big day out but I decided to go without the backpack as I really don't like the feeling of something on my back when racing. I carried a bottle on the bike and two water pouches in my pockets plus a wee ham sandwich if things got desperate. My first stage of the day was pretty good. I really focused on my breathing and staying calm. I rode pretty conservatively and posted a time inside the top 20, only 10 seconds behind race winner Jerome Clementz. A good start to the day.
I started the long transition to the next stage happy with my progress. This transition went on for a long time but we did get to take in the wonderful views of Snowdonia national park. Atop stage 3 riders had congregated to refuel and chat about the upcoming stage. I busted out the ham sandwich in the hopes it would raise the sprits ahead of the dreaded stage 3 top section. Sooner than I wanted I had to get to the stage start. I gave the goggles a wipe and got ready. I rode well until I hit the wooded section which was considered for cancellation. It was now even worse than it was in practice. Tight, rutted and roots everywhere. There was no grip to be had and it reduced some of the countries best riders to looking like Bambi on ice. I was paddling through, not able to get my feet near the pedals, let alone clip in. I even came to a halt once or twice. Once I got out of the woods and onto the second half of the stage things improved but I was furious the section was included. It put a real downer on the day but I pressed on to stage 4 in the hopes of better riding.
Stage 4 did deliver better riding with a nice mix of open slate tracks and natural wooded section which weren't blown to pieces (which was a nice change). I rode the stage well with no real dabs or moments. Perhaps too conservative but all clean which I was happy with. Dad caught me coming down the last 3/4 of the track.
The penultimate stage of the weekend was my favourite by a long way. Its a classic Dyfi trail centre trail with rock slabs and exposed section. It flowed really well and I actually enjoyed riding it and not just trying to survive it. My legs felt heavy and I struggled to put the power down but I slid into 19th which was my best stage result, only 9 seconds off the stage winner so times were really tight.
A quick spin along the road back to the town for the final stage which was on the hill behind the pit area. I was feeling ok about the day and still felt I could get a top 20 and achieve my goal. I headed up the transition to stage 6 for the final time. As I set off , the track was super slick but what made things really bad was the mud clogging. I hit some good lines until suddenly my front wheel locked up and nearly threw me over the bars. I thought something was wrong with my front brake initially. The front wheel was totally jammed, it wouldn't move. I had to pull over and scrape out the mud to keep moving. This ate up alot of time but other riders where struggling too so I pressed on. I got back on track and came into an off camber section and started to slide. I aimed for the rut in the hope it would catch me. It did but in the process it tore my rear mech off. I tried to pedal and the mech went into the spokes and everything jammed up. I was forced to walk the rest of the way down the track which meant I finished dead last.
I was pretty sad that all the effort I had put in was scuppered by the final 3 minutes of racing but I suppose it was just one of those things that can happen at any time.
All in all I enjoyed my first British Enduro Series race. I learned alot and was pleased with how I managed the weekend. Thanks to Si and all his team for the great organisation. While I thought the top of stage 3 should have been canceled I still feel that the event as a whole was a great success and very well run.
Huge thanks to Dad for all his help this weekend for making sandwiches to helping with repairs and everything else in-between. It almost makes up for his snoring!
Jonathan at Fall Line Cycles put in a huge effort prepping my bike and it felt mega all weekend.
Next up is Tweedlove International and I can't wait to ride more in the sunny TweedValley. But there's the small matter of a Delict exam before that.
Till next time