Rd 5 of the Welsh Gravity Enduro Series saw a return to a venue I last visited for student XC champs in 2006. My memories are patchy at best and consist mostly of gas bottles exploding on bonfires and ford transits drifting between tents in the early hours of the morning.
Three fun stages with a 5hr window for unlimited runs made the best of the modest venue (Photo Doc Ward)
This time the visit will be memorable for its simple successful format, trails that punched above their weight and above all, the conditions. As in wet. A trail surface resembling slurry freshly pumped over the roots and, for one stage, a fresh coating of hail.
The Before and After Shots;
Polished and fettled Fuji Auric and a freshly bleached race jersey (Photo Ed Kerly)
5 hours later. Eastridge dirt has well and truly enveloped bike and rider (Photo Ed Kerly)
With no hose on-site I used a screwdriver to scrape the mud from my legs (Photo Ed Kerly)
Fuji Mechanic Ed Kerly described the conditions as ‘flingy’ (photo Meg Bichard)
A sunny start and end to the day in picturesque Shropshire (Photo Ed Kerly)
Classic British conditions at a classic British venue –Dyfi Wales (photo Ed Kerly)
It’s been nearly 6months since I broke both arms crashing my bike into a tree while play riding on my local Nelson trails. My right required surgery, placing two plates to hold together the many fragments of the shattered radius and ulna. After 6weeks completely off the bike I was able to start ‘nana’ riding but I couldn’t risk falling off! It was a bit of a rollercoaster recovery as seems to be the way when coming back from injury-two steps forward one step back! It wasn’t until 4months after the crash that I felt comfortable enough to do any ‘real’ riding. Luckily since then progress has been more rapid. It’s taking a while for my confidence to return and I’m still wary of those trees!
As I was getting ready to try my hand at some racing again the NZ race season had drawn to a close so I decided to head to Europe a month ahead of hitting EWS #3 Wicklow. Unfortunately luck was not on my side again and upon arriving in the UK I was off my bike for another 2 weeks with some kind of virus (probably from over 30hours in the germ tubes otherwise known as planes!).
Great to get on the (small) box alongside these shredders. (photo Ed Kerly)
So my first race back was a week out from EWS and a bit of a dive in at the deep end – The British Enduro Series at Dyfi. Although most of the UK was forecast to have a heat wave West Wales managed to provide its more typical weather. Of the 6 stages only one was a bike park built to endure the Welsh winter, the rest being a mud and root fest and two big days of 30miles and 1400m of climbing!
Some riders were bemoaning the conditions but I was absolutely loving them! Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t easy I had a fair few offs as I tried to remember how to ride mud. I was happy my body held up and to come away with a 4th place against some quality British girls.
Strapping on an EWS plate always feels good. Perhaps a little more trepidation than normal this time around. (photo Ed Kerly)
So second race back and to EWS in Ireland! Although I’d ridden at Wicklow last year and loved it I was still pretty nervous in the lead up. A few runs had some very tricky sections and Ireland always draws large crowds which can be pretty intimidating when you’re dropping in! I was a little paranoid about breaking myself again! In practice I had a few moments of ‘why am I doing this?!’ When you’re on the top of the techy rock sections with heaps of other riders doing the same, looking down trying to decipher the best line and just hoping you can make it to the bottom in one piece!
Ready to roll raceday morning. 7 spectator lined stages ahead mixing heathland tops with raw forest floor trails. (photo Matt Wragg)
However come race day the atmosphere was amazing, I was excited to get out there! The crowds came in droves- the Irish know how to spectate in style- fancy dress, cowbells, horns and chainsaws! There was a friendly group of girls racing and we had a lot of fun!
I’m really happy with a top 10 finish, I didn’t expect it. I still have a lot of work to do on my confidence, fitness and strength so it’s a great confidence boost.
All time conditions (photo Ed Kerly)
The drop in to stage 3 through a cacophony of noise (photo Matt Wragg)
A bit of built feature fun to mix up the raw techy nature of the trails here in the Wicklow hills (photo Matt Wragg)
#fillthehill – and they certainly did. Threading the needle on stage 7 as the terrain steepened and the hecklers gathered. (photo Ed Kerly)
I’ll now be targeting the major multiday enduros with my first being Trans-Slyvania in the U.S. in two weeks’ time. I’m looking forward to my ‘series’ of week long races – Trans Savoie, French Alps; TransBC, Canada and TransCascadia in Oregon! I love the big days out exploring a new area, racing blind, meeting new people and seeing old friends. For me they are the ultimate enduro!