Having missed Round 3 of the WGE at Cwmcarn, I was excited to race up at Afan, especially considering I’ve never ridden up there before.
We drove up to Afan on the Saturday to do a practice lap and check the tracks. Upon riding them, I wasn’t all too happy, as they were extremely bike-parky and with very little natural, freshly dug sections. Even so, with the weather looking decent and them riding quite quick, it could have been a lot worse.
On Sunday, race day, it all kicked off with timing starting at 10:30. I went up to ride Stage 3 first as it had a bit of natural muddy section that could have been chopped up with everyone riding on it. The stage starts off quite mellow, nice and flowy with a few tight corners and after a bit of a straight it plummeted into a short but technical muddy rooty section, where time could be made or lost easily. The stage finished on what seemed to be an unused 4x track. On the first run down I was happy with my time and rode onto Stage 1.
Stage 1 was a dead short, quick and flowy track with a few small jumps to add a little extra. The first run down I encountered a headwind coming into the open section, which stalled me completely. Then, as a bit of a slap in the face, the end berms were made of marbles and finding grip proved a challenge, with multiple two wheel drifts and crashes from lots of people. This track was definitely one of those that got better the faster you went and I enjoyed it more than I did on Saturday and I felt more time could be made.
I finished off the first lap with Stage 2, the longest and definitely the most physically demanding stage, with a reasonable climb scattered with rocks that bounced you around. The first run down proved to be a no go’er as I smashed my foot out of my clip on the start sprint and felt unbelievably slow on the climb. After running through all the stages, I decided if I wanted to improve times, I would need to do Stages 1 and 2 again. With this being a mashup event, you can do the stages as many times as you want.
A better result for Stage 1 required a reasonable amount of luck for the wind, luckily, I got what I asked for and got a bit of a tailwind at points and improved my time overall by 4 seconds. Good start to the second lap so far!
Up at Stage 2…
I knew I needed to simply avoid the rock in the sprint, utilise my dropper on the climb, and be more ballsy by staying off the brakes as I know what I can get away with. I did just that, the foot stayed in, the climb felt faster and the brakes where used less. I improved by 13 seconds on this stage, happy with the improvement of the time.
After checking my standing I was at 6th, I heard some talk going that 3 was running quicker as it was drying out in the muddy section. I decided to head up the hill to complete 2 full laps of the course and hopefully improve my standing.
I climbed up the 15 minute transition for the last time that day hoping to improve my time. It started really well, then I misjudged a tree root in a berm, ending up a passenger for a few seconds but got away with it. Coming out of the natural section I dropped out too fast and off line, causing me to foot down which inherently slowed me down lots. Bummed with these 2 large mistakes, I improved by 1 second, which showed how much faster the track actually was and annoyed I couldn’t capitalise on it. Even so, the result had pushed me up to my final position of 5th in the U18 category!
Overall the weekend turned out better than I had expected…
…and I ended up having my best finish of the 2016 season so far. Me and my trusty Dartmoor Wish are looking forward to next week’s MaD Enduro organised by MaD Events on the freshly-dug trails of Ebworth, near Gloucester.
Words by Carl Crowley