I raced my first ever UK Gravity Enduro at Afan on 21/22 June.
It was a tough, hot, long day in the saddle, but a great fun event and a rewarding experience. There was a seeding stage on the Saturday afternoon, and 5 timed stages on Sunday with quite a bit of pedaling and climbing in between.
6 of us practiced the route on Saturday, covering 27 miles and just over 4,000 feet at a reasonably leisurely pace. This meant we were well prepared for what lay ahead of us, but also meant we had a fair bit of tiredness in our legs for Sunday. I think the optimum solution for these events is to arrive early, practice everything on Friday and session some tricky bits on Saturday without knackering your legs…
Unfortunately I crashed on the seeding run, trying just that little bit too hard. This had the effect of putting me behind some slightly slower riders. No pressure from behind I hoped then, but the downside was catching the guy in front of me on most of the runs, which held me up until we could find a section wide enough to overtake. Lesson learned – don’t crash on the seeding run!!
In the end Sunday turned out to be 27 miles as well, but with 4,600 feet of climbing which took around 5 hours in total to complete. Most of the transitions were tight but comfortable with not much waiting around, with the exception of Stage 3 where we all had a 45 minute wait. Apart from a cock-up on Stage 1 where I ran off course because I wasn’t looking ahead enough (distracted by those roots!) the stages went pretty well. No crashes on Sunday, but a bit of a delay on Stage 4.
The transitions varied from 20 minutes to well over an hour. All easily manageable as long as you had no mechanicals. The good part about the ‘Enduro’ format is, you get to do the transitions with a bunch of people who, by the end of the race, end up being new riding buddies.
- Stage 1 was a typical trail centre style trail (The Wall final descent)
- Stage 2 was steep, rocky trail centre (Blade final descent)
- Stage 3 was long, flatish trail centre (Graveyard trail at Afan)
- Stage 4 was steep, steep, steep rooty, fresh cut loam that went straight down the mountain via tricky switchbacks.
- Stage 5 was a repeat of the seeding stage – a mix of trail centre and fresh cut, but ending in the 4X track into the arena. A great place to finish.
In the end I was slower on Stage 5 than I had been on the seeding run the day before where I crashed. Go figure – that must just be the tiredness showing through.
I need to improve my power. I’m ‘happy’ pedalling and climbing all day, but I just don’t have the explosive power to lay it on the line for a stage lasting 5 minutes. Also, stage 4 was terrifyingly steep and loose which freaked a lot of people out, and I admit to a tiny dismount on one of the steepest switchbacks… More training required!
I have entered the Dyfi round in August as well, so I look forward to doing a bit better next time. For the record, I came 34th out of 47 starters in veterans.
Here are a couple of snaps of me struggling round! Until next time!
And a few of my riding buddies…
Here is a link to another, cooler blog of the event – by a fellow racer trying a UKGE for the first time as well. UK Gravity Enduro, Round 3, Afan.