Haibike Welsh Gravity Enduro Series round 2 at Afan’s Glyncorrwg
Lewis Bradley reports in from his first race in Elite
Images by Doc Ward and Dave Price
It’s been a chilly year so far for enduro racing!
Round one of the Welsh Gravity Enduro at Bike Park Wales the end of March was a frosty one with mud freezing like concrete and water bottles turning to ice. Round two of the series was meant to go down shortly afterwards at Afan but, thanks to the Beast of the East, it was snowed off and rescheduled.
This weekend’s race was the re-run of the snowed-off event and my first competitive ride in the elite category. I was hoping the weather would play ball and so would my legs!
Arriving at the venue on Saturday morning was already an improvement on the previous attempt. The race looked good to go (albeit with some chilly fingers) and we’d be racing a mash-up format round Glyncorrwg at Afan.
The ‘old-school’ trail centre is still a hidden gem in the South Wales Valleys with plenty of trails to choose from. We had five hours to do three stages as many times as we could, with the fastest run on each counting towards an overall time. It’s a great way to race – you an treat it as a day out with your mates or go hell for leather. Either way, there’s plenty of riding to be had if you’ve got the legs for it.
The three stages were a complete contrast from each other, all with different features to keep you on your toes. From technical rocky descents to flat-out downhill to get your adrenaline going!
Stage 1 would be ‘Hokey Kokey’ on the Blade Trail, it started with a long and physical sprint before sweeping berms would send you down the hillside. It was tough but still great fun, a real test of endurance and less about skill overall.
A complete opposite to stage 1, ‘The Rock’ which is also on The Blade trail started off very quickly in the trees. Keeping off the brakes was the aim before a short but steep climb would separate the good from the bad. You had to make it up ‘The Rock’ climb clean if you wanted any chance of a good run. After that, there were rock drops and loose turns to navigate before the finish.
Riders were rewarded with one of the best trail centre decent Glyncorrwg has to offer. The ‘Darkside’ trail on the famous ‘Whites Level’ is fast!
Rob Williams said you can hit speeds over 30mph on some sections, it was all about staying off those brakes. You definitely didn’t want to go off the edge. In between were a few sprints but that didn’t wipe the faces when riders got to the finish.
And on to the racing
Cai Grocott and Rob Williams had a great battle in elite, only a few seconds separated them. Ed Roberts in the senior category is also one to watch in the Senior category, placing 3rd overall.
In the female field, Caja Parkes took the fastest time, followed by Amy Murphy and Lindsay Hanley. It was interesting to see all three of the fastest female riders appear in separate age categories. It goes to show that enduro isn’t just a sport for the young guns!
It was also great seeing French Moto GP rider and 2014 Superbike World Champ Sylvain Guintoli on track in the eBike category. He’s clearly adding a bit of MTB to his training regime and scored second place behind Davi Roberts.
And what about me? Well, my day didn’t go so well! Uni life has taken its toll (All the work I mean, not beer) and I’m not as fit as I was this time last year. I also found that elite was a big step-up as well and the speeds those guys are going is incredible. I still had a great time pushing myself and riding with people who I haven’t seen for a long time.
The next round is up the road at Bryn Bettws, Afan Bikepark on the 20th of May. The organisers are planning to introduce a new ‘off-piste’ stage, this will be a new challenge for most riders along with the other great stages in the area.