Wideopenmag’s new roving-enduro-reporter just checked in from Rd1 of the Welsh Enduro Series.
Photos by Ollie Hooper and Norsk Photography
Mike Marsden organised his first Enduro back in September 2013 (the PMBA Enduro series) and since then he has gone from strength to strength. Mike felt the next natural step for his events was to spread further and work with other local organisers. He then spoke with Bud at the Penmachno Enduro and he was all over the idea. They got a team together and that’s how the Welsh Enduro Series was born!
Round 1 for this new series was set at one of the most well known trail centres in the UK, Coed-Y-Brenin. Coed-Y-Brenin has a vast 140km trail network including 3 black trails, 3 red trails, 1 blue trail and a family trail. The 10 mile loop took riders around the majority of the orange trail (Tarw) which included 3 timed stages. The condition of the trails were prime, they were fast and flowy and for a trail centre some of the stages were very challenging.
I arrived first thing in the morning on Sunday to be met by blue sky, which was a nice change than the usual rain that North Wales unleashes! Once I had signed on, I went for a ride around the loop to take a look at the trails and what Coed-Y-Brenin has to offer. From my practice loop it was apparent that it was going to be a test for the legs as there was so much pedalling!
Stage 1 (R-74) – This was the first and easily the most demanding stage. It included numerous uphills which seemed to go on for an eternity. It was about 4-6 minutes long depending on how much training you have done. This stage started off really nice with fast flowy single track and a few small rocks which could easily throw you off the side of the trail. The trick for the rest of the trail was to try and get up to speed and maintain it but with some short technical uphills this was a hard job for even the best riders.
Stage 2 (Heart of Darkness / Snap/Crackle/Pop). This was used for the 2012 UK Gravity Enduro and was my favourite stage starting off with an open technical section with rocky hairpin turns which made it hard to carry your speed and keep your balance. The stage then went onto a short fire road sprint before dropping into a freshly cut section built by NRW. The stage then dropped into the second section (Snap/Crackle/Pop) which saw many people pushing their bikes down in the morning practice with a flat rear tyre, including myself.
Stage 3 (Rocky Horror / Old School / Dual Descender). The longest stage of the day lasting for about 7 minutes, the trail started at the highest point of the route. A flat out rocky single track with a few drops and one climb into a fire road which took you into the second section. The second section was more natural and technical compared to the rest of the stages. Then it was tight singletrack through the trees and on to the old dual descender section and a berm fest to finish!
One thing that I really liked about this race was the timing used, it was much easier than having to wait for the beeps at other races, as it meant that you could go whenever you wanted at the top of the hill. One thing that caught many riders out was that you had to stop at the bottom to scan your chip, even though we were told many times by the marshals, riders still went past the finish and had to run back! At sign on you had to choose a time slot, this was nice because if you have friends in different age categories you could still ride with them. It also meant that you could socialise with people from other categories which was a nice change.
“We felt the day was a great success. When a team works together for the first time it’s often difficult knowing who’s doing what and what’s expected of who and each other.”
Mike Marsden (race organiser)
The race went well for me, I felt that I could have pedalled a little harder on stage 1 but stage 2 and 3 were great and I got a good clean run down on each one. I came 2nd overall in the under 18’s narrowly missing out to Jim Topliss.
“I felt that I did better in race runs than I did in practice and felt quite confident after stage 1. I kept it smooth on the top of stage 2 ready for the fire road, dropped into the bottom section which was the best bit of the whole race just typical Welsh downhill track. I dropped into stage 3 which was nice tight, techy single track and left a little bit of power in the legs ready for the last section.
I think I am going to book onto the rest of the series now!”
Jim Topliss (Santa Cruz Syndicate)
Ed Roberts narrowly took the overall win by a close margin of 3 seconds followed by Hywel Silvester. It was also great to see a huge turn out of women racing, one of which was a familiar face in the mountain bike scene. Anna Walters, a key player in the success of Bike Park Wales.
“I had a fab weekend, it was glorious weather and I got to ride with one of my best friends! The stages were hard, a mix of pedally and rocky, it certainly tested me for my fitness and technically.”
Anna Walters (Bike Park Wales)
Another familiar face in the enduro scene is Joe Harrison, who has recently come back from fracturing his growth plate in his knee and tearing some ligaments.
“I had a really good day, the stages were better to race than I thought! I thought I had a flat again on stage 2 but I think I was just paranoid from practice. All in all an awesome event and happy to be 10th in senior”
With over 150 already booked onto the next round, you should not delay to get registered. The next round will be held at the Marin Trail on the 31st May. Bud is once again organising the stages and you can expect more gravity and epic stages with the stage 3 once again a 7 minute test of endurance!
Thanks to everyone who organised the race and helped out on the day, it was thoroughly enjoyable and I am looking forward to the next one!