After quite an up and down year so far I decided that I well earned holiday was in order. There were a number of places which I would have loved to visit. The Caribbean,
The week started down the pub on a Saturday night in Builth Wells drinking beer. The following day the first transition stage of the race began. The stage was an 80km ride to Llandiloes. The first stage was designed to wake the legs up and prepare for the week ahead, it did exactly that! After the stage we visited the local town looking for some protein shakes and carbohydrates to aid recovery for the following day. All we found was a pub and a chip shop.
The second day saw the first racing stage of the race. It began with another 80km ride to the Climax trail. The climax trail is one of my favourite trail centres, mostly due to the last descent. Luckily the stage missed the main part of the climb meaning more downhill than up. The stage went well. The Ironhorse MKIII soaked up all the drops and rocks nicely. At the end of the day I ended up 2nd on the stage. This was a pleasant surprise considering I was riding for fun rather than results. That evening was spent planning a full on assault on the top step of the podium. Unfortunately I was consulting with single speeders so the ideas got more ridiculous with every pint. At one stage I laughed so hard I dribbled (quite a lot (every where))!
Tuesdays stage began with a lovely ride across the moors to Nant y Arian trail centre. The ride brought back memories of the previous years monsoon conditions. The river which the track crossed was a good 2 foot lower than last year. We reached Nant y Arian and began the special stage. The course was basically one big descent with a long dragging fire road climb back to the finish. I was great fun to ride the descent, although the climb seemed to drag much longer than I remembered. After the stage we had a nice slice of cake in the café before trekking onwards to the campsite in Cwmystwyth. I even managed to place second on the stage again and keep second on the overall classification…. Tidy (as they say in wales!).
Day 4 was a split day. It began with an awesome ride to Cilcwm. We started with the splashes, a series of river crossings which left us slightly moist. It then concluded with 10km single track to the finish, where we set up camp and prepared for the special stage in the evening. The special stage was a night time trial around the Cwm Rhiadr trail. The course was 7km, half up then half down. The stage was run under light drizzle which left the trail extremely greasy. Fortunately I used my Exposure Maxx D light with a Joystick Max so the darkness was no issue, I think they may have even dried the trail as I moved such is the brightness of the beam! Once again I finished the stage in second position however it was close, third position was only 2 second back.
Day 5 was a toughie. We rode across to Brechfa forest for a special stage. The trails there are great, super fast and fun with some tough climbs. The special stage was a fast fairly flat affair. There were no real technical challenges, just flat out pedalling. I found this stage extremely tough. I finished 5th on the stage but as this was the last special stage I secured second overall in the classification. All that was left was to get to the camp site. Unfortunaly we had to trek up the climb of Brechfa twice more before we were allowed to ride the road home. This broke a lot of people both mentally and physically, I was one of them. My body was broken and my mind tired. That evening we kicked back a little at the local pub. At eleven we headed back to the camp site. On the journey we were then persuaded into ‘1’ more drink by the Italian visitors to the race as we passed Llansawel’s other pub. The night ended at 1am rocking the Italians camper van whilst drinking sparkling wine!
Day 6 … hell! Hangovers were the order of the day. The first climb went on for a long time and lots of people overtook me as I wrestled to keep the morning’s breakfast in place between sambuka flavoured burps! Then a miracle happened, the alcohol dried up and the legs began working again. I was flying over the second part of the stage, maybe it’s a good nutrition strategy for a 12h race?
The final day was supposed to be a relaxing affair… yer right. Racing is much more fun. We covered the 65km in 3hours. The legs were screaming at times but the grand prize was there to be had at the finish line… a night out to be remembered in Builth Wells! As it happens it was a night to be remembered, so much so that I can’t remember much past the pole dancing in Builth’s finest night club. Although I do have some cracking bruises and a second place finish in the overall classification.
It was an amazing week. Super company, great organisation, great trails and some good parties. Can’t wait to do it again!