The Welsh Gravity Enduro‘s Welsh Open Champs saw riders battling for the national title in the home of the Athertons.
The Dyfi Forest is renowned for its variety of riding and quantity of rain, and neither disappointed as the Welsh Open kicked off this weekend. Sam Dugon was on hand to capture all the action.
Sport or Open?
The Welsh Gravity Enduro descended upon the Welsh town of Machynlleth this weekend for a round like no other. Not only being the next round in the infamous series, but also an EWS Qualifying round and the Welsh Open. It was not just the top step that was up for grabs, but the title of being Welsh National Enduro Champ. With 13 categories, and over 160 Riders, it was set to be a busy day on the Dyfi hills.
Wanting to be accommodating to all types of riders, the Charlie (Welsh Gravity Enduro Organiser) put on 2 categories, the Welsh Open and the Sport category. The differences between these?
The sport category comprised of 3 stages and stuck to the easier tracks. Riders racing in the sport category could expect to pedal over 32km.
The full monty.
The Welsh open category was the full blown option. With 5 categories, ranging from fast and flowy bike park feeling sections, to tight, slippery and technical runs, really pushing the riders to their limits and testing who wanted the Welsh title. With over 45km and 1800m of climbing and descending, it was set to be a long weekend behind bars.
Starting with a quick lap of Stage 1 which ended back in the pit area, the riders then had to venture out through Machynlleth to the Dyfi mountain where stages 2, 3 and 4 were situated.
Being an EWS qualifying round, Charlie made the transition times the length that would be expected at an average EWS round whilst abolishing the penalties. This allowed the riders to focus on the whole experience and focus on working out the energy and fitness needed to be able to progress to EWS level.
The rain in Spain…
Saturday saw the riders hiding in their vans waiting for the rain to subside before venturing out into the sloppy mud that coated the tracks. To make matters worse, Dyfi had been bone dry the day before and all the dust that had created fun and loose conditions to practice in, had been rained away into sludge, the type perfect for locking up wheels and making slicks out of whatever tyres you had.
Come midday and the once the rain subsided, riders convoyed over to stages 2-4 to get some practice in, however the slick conditions made it near impossible to get a feel for what the tracks would be like come race day, with a lot of riders testing out their new crashing techniques rather than cornering.
After the downpour of rain on Saturday, the riders were greeted with clear skies and drier ground come race morning. With the temperatures set to rise to a (British) summery 17 degrees, riders were setting off in short sleeve jerseys, ready for the long day of pedalling ahead of them.
Following the previous days conditions, riders feared that the already slippery and tight stage 2 would be more treacherous come race day, however the weather gods had smiled upon Mid Wales and by the time the riders hit the track, the sloppy mud from Saturdays practice had turned tacky, giving the riders grip as opposed to clogging up their tyres.
Unfortunately, that was not the same to be said of stage 3. With roots polished by slick mud, stage 3 was like a slippery battleground weaving between the trees.
Once the riders had got their breath back, it was onto the aptly named Climax; stage 4. Featuring hard pack, trail centre terrain, it was a track the riders could really let their brakes go and find some flow between the tape.
Stage 5 had similar features to last year’s British Enduro Series, but cut out some of the more technical drops to make the course suitable for all riders. With a high banked and tight left turn into the finish line straight, it was the perfect chance for riders to kick up some style into the pits.
Rachel Atherton made a surprise appearance on her new Trek Fuel and was persuaded into entering her first Enduro race. Taking part in the sport category to ease herself into the Enduro scene, Rachel described the pedalling “got hard, but so fun!” on her Instagram.
Perhaps in years to come she will she will follow the path of Tracy Moseley and dominate yet another discipline of mountain biking. Rachel then took the win in the women’s sport category by over 4 minutes.
Katie Wakely took the win in Elite Womens’, winning 4 out of the 5 stages after narrowinly missing out on the win on stage 1 to 2nd place Emma Wareham.
The Elite Men’s saw Orange rider, Joel Chidley take the win only 16 seconds ahead of Intense Racings Charlie Hatton.
Hot pursuit cycles, hardtail shredder Tom Dunn took the win by over 30 seconds in the Hardtail category.
Sponsored by Bird bikes, they were pleased to see one of their riders Francie Arthur take the top step in Senior Womens’ by over 1:40 from 2nd place.
There was a tight battle between the senior men with Cai Grocott taking the win in stage 1, 2 and 3 before suffering an issue in stage 4 and ultimately pulling out before stage 5. With Ben Wooton hot on his heels, Ben took the win in stages 4 and 5 placing himself in 2st place by the end of the day, with Ben Jones creeping up 6 seconds behind.
The next round of the Welsh Enduro Series is in September at the hallowed ground of Eastridge. Check out the Welsh Gravity Enduro website for full details.