After the main event of the year, WEMBO I’ve done next to nothing on the bike and have been eating A LOT with quite a few beers mixed in to wash things down. Some well earned rest I’d say, some solid long hard ‘recovery’ sessions. I’ve not even finished unpacking or sorting out the horrific aftermath of gear in boxes/bin bags from the Scottish road trip!
I’d entered the Empire Cycles enduro with a view to having a pretty laid back weekend away with mates. Although this was a race, turning up on my #nonspecificenduro Trek hardtail weapon with the only thing enduro being a borrowed dropper post meant that I’d have to take it easy on anything that got steep. Fortunately for me several of the stages had big long pedals in the middle and despite the legs feeling a bit hollow still after WEMBO I knew that I would be able to make up time on these.
The venue was Wales’ smallest town Llanwrtyd Wells. I’ve never ridden there before but big hills and a mix of woods/moorland looked promising. We had an awesome night in the local pub on the friday night getting in some good enduro preparation by drinking ale, doing magic tricks with the locals and playing pool. A bacon butty/hefty bowl of porridge double sorted us out in the morning. On arrival it took a little while to figure out what was going on but the general info was go and ride stages 1,2,3,4 today, you’ll race 1,2,3 later with all the stages would be repeated the following day.
Stage 1 was basically an old skool dh track with some steep knarly off camber rooty sections with lots of rough stuff in between and few arse on the back tyre shoots. Not really ideal on my bike but I ploughed down as best I could with only one major jettison on day 1 but a lot of punting and tri podding along the way, pretty slow all round. The stage was changed slightly (for the better) on the sunday and I shaved a bit of time off.
Stage 2 was my favourite with a trail centre surface and some fast open sections and some tricky flat corners where I came to a near stop with my lack of cornering skills. I ended up doing this stage twice on day one after my seat pack went flying off down the hillside after attempt one, the organiser said it was fine to do a re-run so off I went. This meant an end of day solo punt up the hill to come down in the heavy rain. I had Danny’s champery run in mind coming down which helped the motivation and got me a significantly quicker time.
Stage 3 was another favourite. Fast and if you pedalled you could keep your momentum in most places. Some nice little features thrown in to keep it interesting including a couple of steep shoots.
Stage 4 was most people’s least favourite as it was a pretty tough pedal towards the end of the day with lots of flat hard pack. This narrowed to tight singletrack towards the end but it was hard to keep speed in the wet and slippy conditions in the flatish corners.
Stage 5 was ridden blind but was most peoples favourite. A fast double track. Blast out of the gate led to a short fire road flat burst before diving in to the woods for some fun, not too steep loamy corners before dropping in to a final fast gulley to finish. For some reason I was slow on this one but didn’t feel it (timing error?).
So does a 29er race bike make for an enduro weapon? Well for a pedally one like this if I had some more substantial tyres it probably wasn’t far off the mark. I only really struggled when it got steep and muddy but that was probably as much to do with my lack of skill as the bike.
Some (selected) stage highlights below, altitude sickness on a couple!
Great weekend away with the boys. Think I’ll have to get me a more specific enduro weapon and get entered in some more of these things next year.