Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Margam Madness: Beyond perfect

Star date: 19 April 2014
Location: Margam Park, South Wales
Event: Margam Madness 4hr
Weapon of choice: Carbon 29er hardtail with 30 gears
Greatest achievement: Just about taming the new black descent
Greatest weakness: Speed, I guess
Result: 6th vet

Big hills, big wheels, big views, big fun.
Fab photo courtesy of Kevin Thomas who took literally hundreds of shots of the event.

It turns out you can improve on perfection. The original Madness in 2012 was flawless: great climbs, great descents, great venue, great everything. The second coming in 2013 was just as good despite monsoon conditions - see my eulogy here. Third time round and the sun was back, along with some amazing new trails purpose-built for World Cup XC racing. The best just got a whole lot better.

And don't just take my word for it. George Budd, runaway winner of the eight-hour race, who also beat everyone in the four-hour race, even the pairs, and lapped me in the process, and who is therefore a very fast rider indeed and worth listening to, had this to say:

"This event really deserves to be a lot bigger than it is. It's the most demanding and yet most enjoyable lap I've ever ridden, anywhere" 

Praise indeed. There's little worth adding to this, other than that the event ought to be rebranded Margam Magic - the only madness would be not to come!

High5 flag under attack from my bar-end.
Photo: Kevin Thomas.

Hang on, I hear you cry, you can't just stop there. What about all that added wholegrain goodness? Well, OK, there were four new chunks of trail, and each and every one of them was a gem in its own right:
  • A twisty trail-centre descent, part high-speed pumpy berms and part loose flat corners, which I never got to flow properly but enjoyed trying (skidz are for kidz)
  • A steep gravel climb with super-tight switchbacks, which really would've hurt fifth time round on the singlespeed
  • A scary-bastard black-rated descent. "The steep rooty drop at the top is the worst bit... Wouldn't fancy it on an XC bike" was the locals' verdict at registration. Well, it wouldn't be Margam if I didn't soil myself at some point - and this was it. Lap after lap. Taking the chicken run just wouldn't have been right. The problem with the drop was that you had to turn on the way down to avoid flying off the edge of a cliff. First time around, I was put right off by a photographer doing a very good impression of a dead cyclist, but it went better after that. The rest of the descent was rooty and steep with some really tight turns, which was all very doable in the dry but will at some point prove a right 'mare in the wet... Can't wait!
  • A vertiginous rocky climb with more switchbacks and these loose slabs that clunked satisfyingly as you seesawed over them, the whole time trying not to even think about looking down
I came into the event poorly prepared due to bruised ribs from a KOM-chasing mishap but felt surprisingly strong on the day. After two hours I was in a fairly comfortable fourth in category, once again tracking former European 24-hour champ Huw Thomas, when I slipped off a rock and lost the air from my rear tyre. By the time I'd sorted that, my pacemaker was long gone and I was down to fifth. I found it hard to get going again after that, so just sat back and enjoyed the ride, eventually finishing sixth. I suppose I should have tried to claw my way back to fourth, but it was such a lovely day and such a great course, I just wasn't bothered...

In turns steep, rooty, narrow, loose, twisty, pumpy, jumpy, rocky - the course ticked every box and has totally restored my mojo. Gareth, can we do it twice a year?

Climbing again. I was so fast on the descents the photographers missed me.
Another great photo from Kevin Thomas.


4hr Solo Old Gits Top 10

1 03:17:10 Anthony White, XCRacer/Scimitar 01:16:43 00:00:06 00:40:03 00:40:17 00:40:01

2 03:28:39 Jon Roberts 00:38:56 00:42:23 00:41:42 00:43:02 00:42:36

3 03:34:55 Lloyd Bettles, Clee Cycles/KCNC 00:41:15 00:40:54 00:42:18 00:44:27 00:46:01

4 03:50:56 Chris Cooknell, Bikecity T3 00:44:24 00:46:23 00:47:11 00:45:52 00:47:06

5 03:51:48 Jason Thompkins, MAESTEG C.C 00:43:15 00:46:28 00:47:27 00:47:58 00:46:40

6 03:54:08 Chris Schroder, Sarn Helen 00:43:25 00:44:36 00:48:38 00:48:14 00:49:15

7 03:56:45 Sean Scott, Specialized Concept Store 00:45:44 00:47:29 00:47:39 00:49:01 00:46:52

8 03:12:06 Anthony Cowling, AC Cowling Repairs 00:45:46 00:47:13 00:48:29 00:50:38

9 03:12:34 Chris Blackmore 00:46:25 00:48:36 00:47:42 00:49:51

10 03:20:58 Steve Whitehouse, Kernow Riders 00:50:45 00:48:50 00:49:49 00:51:34

8hr Solo Male Winner

1 07:22:08 George Budd, Salsa Factory Racing 00:36:38 00:37:42 00:38:35 00:39:30 00:38:25 00:39:44 00:41:56 00:41:23 00:42:58 00:42:38 00:42:39

4hr Solo Male Winner

1 03:15:30 Phil Morris, XCRacer.com/ Scimitar 00:36:37 00:38:05 00:39:08 00:40:33 00:41:07

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