I spent last weekend in South West Wales. The Saturday was spent riding the high fells and slate piles of the Preseli Hills for a forthcoming route guide. You’ll be able to read all about that in March. Here’s a picture of some Preseli ponies to tide you over…
The Sunday was spent competing in the Brechfa Frostbite 40. A 40km mountain bike race in Brechfa Forest. The whole thing isn’t timed, just three stages: a downhill stage, an undulating stage and a climbing stage. It’s a unique format that the organisers dubbed an “Enduro”. Whatever your thoughts on what should – and should not – be called an “Enduro”, it’s clear that new race formats can be hard to categorise. Here’s a good blog about it from Ash (Transprovence chief).
Personally I think everyone should just stop using the word “Enduro”. Get rid.
I don’t typically do very many races. I guess I average about one a year. I can’t remember exactly why I entered the Frostbite 40. I think it was a combination of a relatively cheap entry fee (£20), a chance to see an old friend who lives down there now and a target date to have a ‘normal pedally bike’ sorted for myself by then.
I failed as regards the latter objective. I still haven’t got a pedally bike of my own. I seem to only have a hefty 140-160mm ‘burly bike’ and a light but twitchy singlespeed. My quest for a pedally bike is worthy of a blog entry in itself so I’ll not go into that now. So anyway, I used a 140mm full-sus trail bike on loan for the race.
The weather on the day of the race was pretty perfect. Quite cool. Clear and bright. The preceding days had seen some hefty rainfall so we were advised that the trails may be a bit squelchy in places. Especially the off-piste ones.
Most competitors seemed to be there with a friend or few. I knew a few of the organisers and marshalls but not anyone who was actually riding. It was a bit odd at first riding along amongst mini-peletons of pals but I soon settled into my thoughts and rhythm and zipped along.
The type of mountain bikes being used were relatively broad. Amidst the majority of short-to-mid travel full sussers there were a handful of optimistic burly bikes, a smattering of 29ers and quite a lot of sub-£1000 have-a-go hardtails. I got the impression that most people were there on their main/only mountain bike. Which is a great thing about these events. People don’t have to ride/buy a specific bike. Your regular ride will be fine.
The first stage (downhill) had a bit of traffic but that’s part and parcel of mixed-ability racing. It probably stopped me from trying too hard and crashing out! It was quite sketchy being back on normal tyres after a winter of mud spikes.
The second stage (undulating) was fun. Partly due to the novelty of racing an up-and-downy stage. I’d never done such a thing before. Having a dropper seatpost was a distinct advantage. The steep uphill switchbacks in the middle were a killer. The final jumpy fling was ace.
The third stage (climb) was hard work but not as bad as I feared. It was a middle-ring affair with frequent gear changes at the back. Being able to see the finish line marshals’ hi-viz vests towards the end was a nice incitement to keep cranking.
I acquitted myself alright in the end (33rd) and was generally pleased with my efforts and attitude. Like a lot of people, it’s tempting to think “if only I’d done this” or “if only that hadn’t happened”. But results are results at the end of the day.
My experience of the race was, in a word, nice. Nice weather, nice trails, nice atmosphere, nice bike, nice riders, nice marshalls, nice sponsors, nice charity cause, nice community vibe, nice cake, nice idea.
It’s a good race to do on your own but it’s a great race to do with friends. I’ll be back next year with some.