What do you call an Enduro race that’s cancelled due to snow? sNOwduro….
Fortunately despite a hearty downpour of the white stuff on the hill of Dyfi Forest the day before the race it soon turned to wet rainy downpours overnight meaning racing was game on for the final round of the Borderline Events Welsh Enduro Series come Sunday morning.
A sell out of 250 winter enduro warriors took to the four timed stages offered up by the Borderline Event crew with the promise of two natural and two hard pack trails. You might have noticed there’s been a fair bit of rain of late so I’d packed the kitchen sink to make sure I had three sets of clothes to last the weekend. I also applied my xc marathon racing approach of strapping everything to the bike or in the back pockets to avoid dragging a rucksack round. Top tip, xc boys know how to travel light, watch and learn!
The pre event trail descriptions were spot on with Stage 1 presenting a mega pedal fest as it traversed relentlessly across the hillside. The benefit for the downhillers was that there wasn’t much height loss so the transition to stage 2 was pretty mellow. Soggy conditions underfoot meant you couldn’t entirely relax on the non techy traverse as drifting off the narrow man made singletrack was a real threat. A quick blast down a slatey fast doubletrack at the mid point broke the rolling singletrack up a bit but it was definitely one for the pedalers not the downhill pinners. This was a stage that suited my pedalling inclinations these days so I was able to give it the beans although I was feeling the four pint handicap from the night before a little bit more than I hoped. Enduro weekends in my off season give a rare chance to relax with a pre race beer! My efforts were still good enough for my best stage result (7th masters).
Stage 2 was a big contrast to 1 with a more traditional UK DH track feel to it, off camber, muddy and root fest through the trees after an initial fast blast down the slatey trails that the Dyfi Forest is renowned for. A few lines were available out of the main gulley but getting on them could spell disaster so many just stuck with the rut including me. With some steep shoots dotted throughout and limited pedalling this one put the smiles back on the downhillers’ faces. Not having the best mud tyre setup i.e. the ones that I had left on from the summer alpine gravity adventure meant I felt a bit on edge all the way down this one, with tyres nearly instantly clogging up it was a case of “stay on your bike Danny” as the steep hillside could detach you from your bike pretty quickly. I made in down in one piece despite a few scooting punts.
Stage 3 was along the same theme of stage 2 but with a bit more variety as it shot between steep muddy shoots and fast open woodland double track style trails. This was my favourite stage as it had a bit of everything and flowed really well. Somehow the slate on the trail kind of mixed with the mud to create channels that held you and bike in line on the track despite the steep gradient. I was having a decent run on this one until I ended up in a hard gear mid muddy traverse and ground to a near halt so needed a quick hop and run to get momentum going again. Overshooting a drop across a fireroad to the next section meant I lost a fair bit of time on this one. I was happy to have stayed on my bike though.
Stage 4 again offered up something a bit different, taking in the classic Climachx final descent. A great natural feeling trail centre style decent with some potentially tricky gullied rock sections presenting a worry as they appeared immediately after some fast launch drops/jumps. Hitting these flat out seemed to do the job and my 29er clown wheels bombed through no problem. Despite having a weird stomach cramp thing that had developed throughout the day I set off like a rocket and felt those perfect moments on corners where you start feeling the wheels drift but you are totally in control. I think some call in flow… that was until I caught the chap in front about 1 minute in (after giving him at least 30 second head start). From about 20 metres behind him I gave a polite but firm ‘rider’ shout to make him aware of my presence, followed up by another call to come past when 5m behind, followed by several more polite requests followed by a begging please let me past mate what felt like a minute later. I had been tempted to scoot round but that would have been a Dick move and not something that has a place in a usually courteous form of our fine sport. Not sure what the guys deal was but I had to bite my tongue pretty hard not to hurl abuse at him but that wouldn’t have been in the spirit. I’ve been overtaken many a time in races and would always get out of the way instantly if someone was behind so no idea why people don’t save themselves the stress of having a rider on their back wheel by pulling over straight away. I eventually got past him only to approach another rider in front and in the process lost focus on the trail and got jammed on a rock for a bit, uggghh. Bit of a frustrating end to an otherwise top day out and weekend with riding buddies from Bristol.
Enduro’s are a nice break from my usual long distance suffer-fests but I’ve obviously been spending too much time on the skinny tyres judging by my tentativeness on the steep stuff. A few week night missions to the local steeps should help with that in the coming months before my next dabble into enduro. There are loads of local enduro’s popping up and making a weekend of them with mates is always a good craic. Get yourself to random pubs/bunkhouses and random things always happen like a completely drenched local finding his way in to your bunkhouse at 7am claiming to have fallen in the river and needing a hot drink and a taxi number… A tale for the pub.
Thanks to all the people who help me do these things: M Steel Cycles, Roll for the Soul, Tenn Outdoor, Weldtite, USE, ESI grips.