Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dyfi Enduro: I must be the luckiest man alive

Star date: 4 May 2014
Location: Deepest daftest Wales
Event: Dyfi Enduro
Weapon of choice: Carbon 29er with way too many gears
Greatest achievement: Timely deployment of airbags
Greatest weakness: For once, excessive speed
Result: 20th

I haven't exercised much editorial control on this one,
so do feel free just to look at the pictures.

Last year my race effectively ended 20 feet into the first rocky descent. This year it effectively ended about 200 yards later. Oops.

Last year the cause was as mundane as a flat tyre. This year it was a pretty spectacular crash from which I was very lucky to limp away.

Last year I went on to cruise round with the weekend warriors. This year I was still among the fast boys and the whole thing was brutal.

Both years it was absolutely fantastic.

And my wife says I never look like I'm trying...
Great photo by St Peter Jones, co-organiser of the always enjoyable Dyfi Winter Warm Up (which uses some of the same trails, generally in a slightly moister setting - see my reports on 2014 and 2013) and roving marshal extraordinaire, who also found time not only to take hundreds of photos of the event but also to look after me following my crash and, half an hour later, catch me on the quadbike to check I was OK. And men can't multitask?

Learning from last year's mistakes (see here if you're really keen), I not only doubled up on tubes and tools (hoping Sod's law would mean I wouldn't need them - and I didn't) but also got to the start really early - like 40 minutes early - to make sure I didn't get stuck at the back again. Like at concerts where there are always these man-mountains with f***-off tattoos and disproportionately hot girlfriends who push through to the front just before the band come on, I did end up a couple of rows back once the pros arrived, but still in a good position.

The ride out to the forest behind the pace car was four miles of hell - constant testosterone-fuelled jockeying for position as 1,000 riders all tried to push through and get to the front for when we hit the forest. Like on a busy motorway, you leave a safe gap to the person in front and someone will pull into it. And if you don't leave a gap it just takes one clash of knobbly tyres when somebody misses a gear to send the whole set of dominos toppling over. Not my idea of fun at all - I much prefer mountain biking as a non-contact sport, it's hard enough coping with the terrain!

For once I didn't enjoy the first long fireroad climb either (although the bewigged shenanigans near the top helped). Sometimes climbing comes easy and sometimes it doesn't. This time it hurt. But I hit the top in around about 10th place and had loads of space for the first descent, which was fast, fun, dry and relatively easy, and I managed to hammer down it without mishap (see photo above).

This was followed by another big climb onto open moorland. It's lovely out there, all fantastic views and little bedrock ups and downs. The pain of the ascent forgotten, I was feeling good now as we headed back down again, my confidence boosted by my first stab at a gravity-style enduro event at round 1 of the Empire Cycles Enduro the previous weekend (report here). So it was that I launched myself down the descent with a sense of invincibility and a determination not to lose Gareth Jones ahead of me.

This first rocky downhill section of the day is one that will forever command my respect. It's not overly steep or uneven to start with, but last year it ripped my tyre in seconds. Putting this to the back of my mind I opted to test the theory of the faster, the better. The idea being that by the time a sharp bit of slate thinks about slicing through your tyre, you're long gone. And in that respect, speed was indeed my friend. No punctures this year!

Trouble is, my XC bike is not a slack-angled 180 mm full-susser like I borrowed for the gravity event. You tear over rocks at speed and it doesn't stay glued to the ground but skips around like a frisky lamb. As the track grew rougher, it became very clear that I was going too fast. With my new-found DH confidence, though, I managed to stay (relatively) relaxed, riding out a couple of nasty dips and regaining control. Result.

Only then it gets steeper. And I'm still going too fast. Apply brakes. Nothing. I'm not spending enough time on the ground for them to work. Instead I start to accelerate under the pull of gravity. Help, what do I do now? I remember telling myself out loud to drop my heels, get my weight back, drive the bike into the ground. Only the ground is now all flat, loose stones. The bike just skids over most of them, and when the tyres do bite they simply send the top layer of stones skittering over those below.

By now I'm officially bricking it. I'm out of control. I can't slow down. It's getting very bumpy. But wait, there's a corner coming up, maybe I can use the bank to scrub off speed. Yeah, if I was Gee Atherton. But even as I grab at this hint of an impression of a straw, I suddenly realise with horror that I'm never going to make it that far. I'm closing on Gareth Jones at an alarming rate and will almost certainly smack into the back of him first.

I hear this primal scream: SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!! (It never gets as far as the T.) It appears to be coming from my mouth. Part warning cry, part plea for divine intervention. I'm long past the relaxed stage now, I'm tense as piano wire, my body position all wrong, and the bike has turned into a bucking broncho. The front wheel slams into a dip, I fly forward over the bars.

At which point things often go into slow motion. And on this occasion it would probably have been in order for my whole life to flash before me. Only there isn't time. I just go BANG!

But here's the cool bit. My feet are still clipped into the pedals and pull the bike over the top of me as I somersault forward, before releasing the bike and launching it like a Scud missile - straight into the back of Gareth. A bit like this:

Top skills all round! Not only a breathtakingly audacious attempt to take out one of your main rivals for the crown of "Second Fastest XC Racer in Ceredigion behind Gareth Payne", but the perfect soft landing for all that shiny XTR bling on your newish bike. Talk about a double whammy. It's a tragedy nobody managed to capture my effort on film for posterity.

Meanwhile I'm lying in the foetal position right across the trail feeling somewhat discombobulated. A marshal scuttles over and shouts "Don't move!" I have an idea where he's coming from - you go over the bars at over 20 mph on a rocky descent and a spinal injury is a distinct possibility - but oxymoronically I don't feel paralysed. I'm more concerned about lying in the path of 1,000 onrushing riders, and rather than put their bunnyhopping skills to the test I crawl off the line for a little sit down.

Time to count how many fingers, have a nice sweet cup of tea, that kind of thing. I'm a little dazed to be sure, my back feels grated, but... basically I'm OK. So after a minute or two I untwist the bars, hop back on the bike and carry on. Gingerly.

The post-event shirt-off post-mortem reveals (other than what looks suspiciously like a bullet hole) that I managed to land on nature's airbags, the only soft bit on the body that won't snap in a high-speed rocky impact (yes, my arse), before skidding along a bit, roughing up my back and shoulder, and generally having a very lucky escape.

The only downside of landing on my backside was an element of numbness/malfunction in the right leg. Fellow XC racer Alan Colville had a run-in with a lorry a few years ago which resulted in him losing part of one buttock - he blogs as the half-arsed racer (you gotta love it!) - and he had to relearn pedalling a bike. I may now have a vague inkling of what he went through. For the rest of the race I felt like I had wonky wheels on the right-hand pedal stroke. This may also explain why I was battling with cramp from about half-way through. And I hate cramp. Well, everyone hates cramp. But I wouldn't normally have problems so early on. This in turn meant that I couldn't stand up on the climbs like I usually do, so I had to sit down, robbing me of any real power.

So, let's take stock. Overcrowded road section, painful climb, big crash, cramp. You're probably wondering how I managed to enjoy myself. Well, this is the Dyfi, the stuff of legend, must-do bucket-list event famed for its relaxed vibe and zany entertainment (including on this occasion a brass band deep in the forest and all manner of random camp nuttiness elsewhere). It's far from perfect, though. For a start, there are way too many riders - and this year the organisers let in an extra couple of hundred due to a computer error, when really they should have been looking at congestion charging. Let's do the math(s): even at get-outta-my-space 10-second intervals you're looking at three hours to get 1,000 riders down the first descent. So unless you have the fitness to get a wriggle on up that first big hill, the early descents are going to be all Alton Towers - endless queuing for just a couple of minutes of regimented fun liable to be spoilt by the other sardines crammed in all around you. Surely an event like this should be akin to cruising down an empty Route 66 in an open-top Mustang, not taking your Yank-tank for a lap of the M25 in rush hour. And don't get me started on the fireroad climbs - fireroad climb after fireroad climb after fireroad climb, it's the ultimate fireroad hillfest.

And yet... And yet...

Well, it's all about the descents, innit?

Oh, the descents. O... M... G...

There's rocky and there's puddly and there's flowy and there's scary. Proper nowt-taken-out descents, techy or fast or both. No prisoners taken. I've always had a thing for Goshawk, a fun technical climb leading into a swoopy rollercoaster descent that goes on forever - and then some. And of course there's the steep and exposed rough bedrock ridge of the infamous World Cup, not to mention the smoother slipperier rock of Caban Coch just before it. And my new favourite: a short, easy section that doesn't even have a name but where you clatter over these big flat rounded stones that make this amazing racket, clinking and clunking away like a million broken dinnerplates (Greek Alley anyone?). Pure magic.

The good, the bad and the ugly - carnage on the Caban Coch descent. I made a hash of this bit myself, although I didn't fall off and luckily there was nobody there to see it. 
Great video courtesy of Shem Llewellyn.

Right, time for bed, said Zebedee. Anyone making it this far will probably assume that the title of this piece refers to the crash. To some extent it does, but actually it's stumbling into mountain biking and getting to ride the Dyfi (rather than spending the day down B&Q or watching telly) that makes me the luckiest man alive. And long may it continue!

And for the record:

Gareth Jones wasn't hurt and didn't come off his bike despite my best efforts. In fact he didn't even stop - until struck by a couple of punctures later on which enabled me to pip him to the post - ha! However, the title of "Second Fastest XC Racer in Ceredigion behind Gareth Payne" went to Dylan Stephens on this occasion. Amazingly the three of us finished within one minute of each other in 19th, 20th and 21st places. We could see Dylan up ahead on the final painful, interminable climb that was the surprise sting in the tail after the free bar, but just couldn't close the gap. Gareth Payne finished seven minutes ahead in 10th. The winning time is astonishing, even for a pro.

I missed a sign half a mile from the end (I blame the concussion) and went shooting down the Builth descent rather than a new muddy descent through the trees, thus cutting out a couple of minutes and officially finishing 14th. Oops. I was 20th really. Either way I'm pretty pleased with that, especially in the circumstances. But ultimately I don't care about the result. It was all about the journey, man.

1 Dan Evans 2hr 35min 52sec
2 Neal Crampton 2hr 40min 29sec
3 Sean Grosvenor 2hr 45min 5sec
4 Phil Holwell 2hr 45min 50sec
5 Nic Smith 2hr 46min 29sec
6 Tom Ward 2hr 50min 38sec
7 Scot Easter 2hr 51min 6sec
8 Jon Roberts 2hr 51min 53sec
9 James Thompson 2hr 52min 25sec
10 Gareth Payne 2hr 53min 39sec
11 Mark  Fidller 2hr 54min 57sec
12 Chris Metcalfe 2hr 56min 5sec
13 Ian Palmer 2hr 59min 5sec
14 Chris Schroder 2hr 59min 12sec
15 James  Green 2hr 59min 21sec
16 Dafydd Roberts 2hr 59min 46sec
17 John Buchan 3hr 0min 19sec
18 Huw Thomas 3hr 0min 39sec
19 Russell Hall 3hr 0min 59sec
20 Dylan Stephens 3hr 1min 16sec
21 Gareth Jones 3hr 2min 16sec
22 Daniel Godwin 3hr 3min 16sec
23 robert jones 3hr 3min 45sec
24 Aled Roberts 3hr 4min 5sec
25 Matthew Jones 3hr 5min 53sec
26 Rich Holmes 3hr 8min 39sec
27 Matt Mountford 3hr 9min 0sec
28 rashad sadat 3hr 9min 5sec
29 Ben Gadley 3hr 9min 36sec
30 Mike Harper 3hr 11min 35sec


Welsh XC Series Round 3 and Welsh XC Championships: Gimme a brake!

Star date: 18 May 2014
Location: Fforest Fields
Event: Welsh XC Series Round 3/Welsh XC Championships
Weapon of choice: Carbon hardtail 29er with 20 gears
Greatest achievement: Not stomping off home in a strop
Greatest weakness: That pesky little matter of speed
Result: 6th in race, 5th in champs

I seem to be cursed in this year's XC series:
  • Round 1: Two flats
  • Round 2: One flat
So round 3 was very much last-chance saloon territory. If I didn't have a decent race without mechanicals, that was it. I'd stick to endurance events in future, no more XC for me.

I haven't had much luck in past Welsh XC champs either:
  • 2011: Pedal disaster
  • 2012: Saddle disaster
Admittedly I still bagged bronze medals in both of those years, at a time when I was, frankly, still a bit crap, but that just made it all the more frustrating last year when I only managed fourth place despite being way fitter and faster and nothing actually going wrong. Anyway, this time I was really fired up and determined to get back on the podium.

So what did round 3 and the 2014 champs bring?
  • One brake
Yep, no sooner had I hopped on the bike for a warm-up than the rear brake locked on with the lever dangling uselessly in need of an urgent Viagra infusion. Apparently it was something not readily curable to do with seals and return springs. Likely cause (get this): overheating in the back of the car. All I can say is don't ever let me get a dog! Anyway, big thanks to Gareth Rowlands from Cycle-Tec for the diagnosis and for helping to run round trying, in vain, to find someone with a suitable brake to borrow.

Decision time. Drive straight back home cursing and crying and maybe squeeze in a consolation ride locally on the singlespeed - or man up and race anyway.
  • Me: "Do you think I'll be OK with one brake?"
  • Consensus: "Not on that course, you'll die."
So I decided to give it a go. Fforest Fields is always a climber's course anyway, and I could always run/abseil the scariest bits. But any chance of a result was gone. I surprised myself by cresting the first big climb in the leading group with relative ease, so I do now wonder what might have been... But then we started to head back down again and that, basically, was that.

Note two-fingered death grip on front brake.
Great photo by Roy Bevis while taking a break from heckling me.

The problem with having only a front brake is three-fold:
  1. Brake too hard and you'll fly over the bars, with potentially dire consequences
  2. Brake too gently and you just don't slow down, with potentially dire consequences
  3. Brake moderately and it still messes with the bike's handling, with, er, potentially dire consequences
And that's before you consider the effects on the mind - and I find descending fearlessly a challenge at the best of times. My initial approach was therefore to creep along at such a low speed that I wouldn't ever need to slow down. Which worked pretty well in terms of keeping me alive but had its disadvantages. Not only is going slowly not the ideal race tactic, but there were spectators and photographers on both descents, making it deeply, horribly, cringingly embarrassing.

Luckily the leafy loam and myriad roots were bone-dry and full of grip, so I was able to speed up somewhat each lap as I grew more proficient at hanging off the saddle to drive weight down behind, rather than over, the front wheel. I only went over the bars the once, and bounced well. The course was more tricky than scary anyway, so in the end I was happy riding everything apart from one short drop on the first descent (having gone arse over tit running down it on the first lap, I opted for riding the longer but easier B-line after that).

I felt really strong on the uphill sections, easily passing people on both climbs every single lap - only to have to let them past again on the descents. Come the last lap, though, I was so fed up with this pattern that I decided to lose the two guys I'd been playing cat-and-mouse with for the last hour by red-lining up the hills and easing off on the brake (sic!) on the descents. I even managed to pass another rider on the final climb and almost, almost caught one more in a lactic-tastic sprint finish (turns out he wasn't in my category anyway, so I was, like, whatever). All this made my last lap as quick as my first, which is unusual and testament to the power of bloodymindedness.

On the first lap I was even scared on the flat bits.
Photo by Roy Bevis.

Sixth in the race and fifth in the champs was disappointing, but looking at the times even with three brakes I don't think I could have stayed with the top three. Even so, I really enjoyed the ride. Dry trails always help, but against expectations it was a gem of a course. I found it a bit dull last year, but a new rooty descent, a carpet of bluebells and a bit of tweaking worked wonders.

So, am I now going to flounce out of XC racing for good? Well, I'm still thinking that 70-80 minutes is just too short. By the time you've driven there, faffed, raced, faffed and driven home, you could've had a whole day's riding from your door - and unlike in longer races it's nigh-on impossible to recover from a puncture or mechanical. On the other hand, a really good course like this one can still make it worthwhile. I also have unfinished business - I'd love to have one clean XC race this year to see what level I'm really at. I feel faster than ever.

So, one more race, a really good course, let me think... Seems all roads lead to the British Series race at Margam on 15 June!

Before that, though, I have a big wilderness ride lined up in the form of the Red Kite Events Devil's Challenge 130km on 8 June. I probably won't come out of that one complaining it's too short.

1 01:13:23 Roy Davis, Roy Davis Cycles 00:17:39 00:18:26 00:18:19 00:18:59
2 01:14:15 Christopher Kay, Wrexham Roads Club 00:17:27 00:18:24 00:19:06 00:19:18
3 01:14:54 Mark Spratt, Cardiff JIF 00:17:34 00:18:29 00:19:34 00:19:18
4 01:17:37 Timothy Davies, CC Abergavenny/JP Signs 00:18:01 00:21:19 00:19:06 00:19:12
5 01:21:33 David Watt, Team Elite 00:18:19 00:20:25 00:20:54 00:21:55
6 01:28:38 Chris Schroder, Sarn Helen 00:21:06 00:23:11 00:22:39 00:21:43
7 01:29:10 Richard Bowen, Gateway Racing 00:19:48 00:21:47 00:22:42 00:24:53
8 01:30:36 Andrew Gibbs, Cwmcarn Paragon Cycle Club 00:20:37 00:22:29 00:23:08 00:24:22
9 01:33:08 Simon James 00:21:01 00:23:14 00:24:24 00:24:29
10 01:39:29 Jon Howes 00:22:34 00:24:25 00:26:25 00:26:05

No Strava today - stupid Garmint packed in as well!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Empire Cycles Enduro Round 1: Going down for a whole weekend

Star date: 26-27 April 2014
Location: Llanwrtyd Wells, Mid Wales
Event: Empire Cycles Enduro Round 1
Weapon of choice: Bionicon Alva 180mm full susser
Greatest achievement: Taming the beast
Greatest weakness: Unleashing the beast
Result: Comfortably mid-table

Enduro is all the rage in mountain biking right now. At least that's what all the magazines say - you can't move for features on the latest enduro bikes and enduro helmets and enduro shorts and enduro guyliner. Positioned somewhere between downhill racing (feel no fear), cross-country racing (feel no pain) and everyday trail riding (feel like another pie), enduro manages to cut out the things I'm good at (climbing and covering long distances at speed) and focus on what I'm not so good at (descending at speed). So obviously I've just dismissed it as a passing fad for the young and the lazy and ignored it completely - until now.

Yep, last weekend I dug out my baggiest jeans, rotated my baseball cap, acquired some rad facial hair and some sick ink, levered a curtain ring into each earlobe, sourced myself a seriously big 'n' bouncy bike, and gave it a go. And, you know what, I was totally won over.

I’d say this pretty much sums up the weekend for me.
Cracking photo by Carol Corbett at CAC Photography.

The format seemed pretty undemanding – pootle, refuel, hurtle, chat, repeat for two days – and I arrived expecting a walk in the park for a lean, mean racing machine like me. But 50 km with 1,500 m of climbing is a fair old workout whatever speed you do it at – especially when you do it two days in a row interspersed with seven bursts of all-out sprinting and a largely sleepless night under canvas. I also failed miserably on the pootling front – you can take the boy out of cross-country but you can’t take the cross-country out of the boy - and I didn’t take anywhere near enough food. But I did OK on the chit-chat.

Saturday morning was practice on stages 1 and 2, which basically meant a 25km loop with a long fire road climb to the top of each stage followed by stop-start reconnaissance of the descent: ride slowly, stop, survey, walk back, man up, ride faster, proceed to next chunk.

Saturday afternoon saw a re-run of the same loop, only now the two descents were electronically timed. Although I’d plotted some good lines in the morning, I pretty much missed them all in the heat of the moment. Perhaps memorising/visualising the descents is part of the enduro skillset. But at least there were no nasty surprises - just the usual challenges of loose corners, ruts and excessive speed.

Sunday then brought one big 50km loop taking in five more timed stages: another stab at the first two, two new ones ridden blind at Coed Trallwm trail centre, and finally a third crack at stage 2 on the way back (the original stage 5 having recently been trashed by forestry machinery).

Stage 4 was a little muddy.
Photo: Carol Corbett at CAC Photography.

Each lasting 2-4 minutes, the timed stages were a mix of tricky and fast 'n' furious, with just about the right degree of technicality – enough to give everyone something to think about at speed, but not beyond the capabilities of the average rider if ridden with care:

Cwm Henog DH: Fast, winding trail with firm base, one steep section, odd slippery patch, shallow ruts. Seemed to induce the most whooping.
White Bridge DH: Tricky steep start over big roots, then fast loose gravel with ruts and sharp turns, a steep drop, some short sprints and a bonus slippery section at the bottom. A lot of mistakes made on the flat corners.
Coed Trallwm Red DH: Super-fast start with occasional sharp turns, then twisty, pedally and a short sharp climb in the middle. Smooth gravel surface. Surprisingly tiring.
Neil’s Old Skool DH: Muddy, rooty, unsurfaced downhill line cut down through the forest, really tricky from start to finish and very steep towards the end. Shorter than planned due to fallen trees. This stage had the better of almost everyone - including me - but was also most people’s favourite.

The start of the steep bit (that’s someone else’s grubby tush btw).
Photo: Carol Corbett at CAC Photography.

So how did I do? Much better than I expected - I took nearly 30 seconds off pro rider Matt Page’s Strava KOM on Cwm Henog and almost got the KOM on White Bridge too, which wasn’t too shabby. On the other hand, some of the other riders were 30-plus seconds quicker again! I managed to make a right hash of the old-skool stage, but at least I managed to slither down the steepest bit without dabbing and made it across the bridge at the bottom without falling off, unlike several others. Three things struck me watching the others come down that one: (1) it really was very steep, (2) you’re actually going quite slowly, and (3) the really good riders don’t half make it look easy.

Of course, there was a reason I was quicker than normal on the descents. While I was sorely tempted to do the event in lurid Lycra on my rigid singlespeed, that might have proved more moronic than ironic, so I went to the other extreme instead and borrowed an absolute beast of a bike from the very nice people at Bionicon:

No, not a Bionicle, a Bionicon!

My best Bionicle impression. Not bad, eh?
Photo: Carol Corbett at CAC Photography.

Yes, one of these:

Phwooaarrr! Look at the forks on that!
Photo: Carol Corbett at CAC Photography.

The bike generated an incredible amount of interest. It looks like a downhill rig with those big triple-crown forks, but it also has this natty adjustable geometry that morphs it into trail mode for the climb back up. Compared to the lightweight XC bikes I’m used to, I still found it hard work getting up the hills – but on the way back down the Bionicon lived up to its name. It was like a monster truck cum hovercraft that gave you a permanent get-out-of-jail-free card as it made light of whatever the trail threw at you. It didn’t just smooth out the descents with its massive travel and slack geometry, it flattened entire hillsides – it was like the whole planet had shifted on its axis just for me. On that bike there is no such thing as steep.

Sadly, though, the Bionicon is not for me. Partly because I enjoy climbing, but mainly because I doubt I’ll ever have the balls to ride this bike as hard as it is clearly begging to be ridden. More capable hands could probably bring out the animal in it to frightening effect, but at my pace the ride ended up so smooth and well-mannered, it was almost like taking tea in the back of a chauffeured Rolls-Royce. I did have an absolute ball on it, though, and there could be a happy medium - I guess that’s what they call an enduro bike.

The bionic man! Truth be told, I almost dropped it.
Photo: Carol Corbett at CAC Photography.

So, apart from a weekend’s riding along picturesque marked trails in Wildest Wales with top-notch descents, electronic timing and medics on hand for emergencies, what do you get for your £50? Well, free camping with proper  toilets and showers (not normally my scene, but I tried it for the full enduro experience and rather enjoyed it), free pasta party (and not any old rubbish, we’re talking restaurant-quality food consumed in a restaurant, the Drovers’ Rest), energy drinks and bars en route, tea and toast at event HQ, a free beer at the end of each day, bikewash facilities… Oh, and this being a Red Kite event, you also got a free soaking on day 2.

But more than anything, there’s a real sense of camaraderie. Compared to XC and endurance racing it was like a breath of fresh air. I loved having the time to stop and help someone fix their bike (OK, so I wasn’t much help). I loved chatting up some of the climbs (“Haven’t seen you around before, I like your curves...”). I loved having the chance to set myself for a downhill run rather than launching straight down still panting from the preceding climb. I loved stopping at the bottom to savour and dissect the descent, to swap war-stories (anglers: it was thiiiiiiis big; MTBers: I was thiiiiiiis close), to cheer and heckle the other riders.

Of course, the timed stages are still racing and still all about me, me, me. But that’s only 20 minutes out of a whole weekend. Enduro is about us, us, us. I arrived on my own, but found everyone welcoming and friendly, especially after a cosy beer or two at the Drovers’ Rest on the Saturday night. In true Red Kite Events style, it was all a very relaxed affair. So when the timing system went down for an hour, resulting in an extended pit-stop at Coed Trallwm cafĂ©, we just went with the flow (and stuffed ourselves silly with some seriously good Easter Passion cake - four levels of carrot and coconut sponge layered with mascarpone and lemon curd, just one short of my 5-a-day!). While this presumably wouldn’t have happened at one of the big corporate-backed enduros, who really wants to be herded along timed transitions with 800 other riders and set off on timed descents at 20-second intervals? There must be a happy medium, though, and it’d be great to see more riders at future rounds. Be warned, though, next time I might just be on the rigid singlespeed.

Thanks to all the lovely people at Red Kite Events and their merry band of marshals, all the lovely people at Bionicon, all the lovely people at the Drovers’ Rest and Coed Trallwm, all the lovely Carol Corbett for the photos, all my lovely family for the weekend pass, and all my lovely fellow enduroists for the company and inspiration.

The Top 20:
Michael Gray 00:15:02
Martin Astley 00:15:07
Phil Allum 00:16:04
Mike Brazier 00:16:31
James Scott 00:16:37
Peter Lloyd 00:16:44
Lee John Gilson 00:17:06
Stephen Aucock 00:17:30
Matthew McMillan 00:17:31
Matt Ford 00:17:31
Garry Firth 00:18:27
Chris Schroder 00:19:40
Rich Grundy 00:20:44
Mark Christian 00:20:46
Tom Telford 00:21:06
Darren Rossier 00:21:09
Anna Walters 00:21:31
Lawrence Chandler 00:22:09
Eifion Richards 00:22:10
Oliver Timms 00:22:14
Charles Dixon 00:23:05