Photo copyright of e11evens
It was an early 5:30am departure, tunes on in the car and cruising to Merthyr Tydfil just next to the Brecon Beacons for the exciting planned stages at Bike Park Wales. I have had a great winter of riding and cross training, as the 2015 race season begins to kick in I am feeling privileged to be riding for The Development Racing Team. There have been a few races this season already and it seems that everyone is picking up their standards, pushing that bit harder on the stages and challenging for every second!
After signing on and picking up my number board I pedalled off along the trails to ride the entire course before my first stage time of 2:41. The scenery was beautiful with the distant snow-topped hills glittering in the sunshine, I was pleased to have my layers on however soon warmed up during the forty-minute climb to the top. I always like to know what is on each stage to plan changes in seat height and gear changes, optimising my performance.
After completing the course and having two hours to spare (and trying to keep on top of my nerves, it has to said) I sat in front of the fire at the wonderful BPW café reading The Mountain Bike Magazine and chatted away with a few other competitors. It’s a joy meeting new people at races and hearing about their own adventures. With time now ticking on I re-fuelled and checked the bike over. One of the hardest things about multi-stage racing is keeping on top of your own psychology, you want to be performing at an optimum and from this I mentally break everything down into the individual stages.
Stage one was the black route ‘Dai Hard’, this trail was awesome, full of roots, mud and tight turns. I would have to be in the zone on this stage to make a good time and was pleased with how well my 27.5 wheels were eating up the course, they were a boon and I was hopped and popped down the trail. Despite over-shooting the track into the wooded section it was a pretty clean run, no chain drops or flat tyres but best not tempt fate.
The second stage was a mixture of the ‘Wibbly Wobbly’ and ‘Rim Dinger’ red routes, this was the longest stage of the day and as their names suggest it involved a pedalling section into wind at the top and then down through the rock gardens, which were no problem for my Orange Five Diva I shall have you know. I had another clean run however suffered with a bit of cramp during this stage, I’ve decided to ride clipped in this season and it’s a challenge but I’m gaining confidence with each race.
By the time I was on the final stage I had climbed the hill six times in one day and despite the fitness my legs were beginning to feel fatigued. Despite re-fuelling 15 minutes into my riding I was suffering from a fair bit of cramp and it was exceptionally painful at times, in hindsight I think my knee pads were too tight.
Top spot, get in!
I was delighted to take the first position in the women’s category, very closely followed by Beverley Barnes and Anna Walter. It was another great day on the bike, Bike Park Wales is a brilliant place to race with excellent marshalling, a top-notch first aid team and the eclectic bunch of riders I got to know on the climbs. Looks set to be a great year of racing, see you at the next event.
(Note from Lee: Hi, unfortunately action photography of this event's female riders have been very few and far between which has been both disappointing and a great shame especially considering how many photographs were taken of the male riders. Hopefully this issue rectifies itself before the next enduro event).