Dyfi Enduro

The Dyfi is probably my favourite event to ride in the UK. A mixture of a chilled vibe, lots going on and a course that really tests riders both up and down.

Bike choice for the Dyfi was fairly standard, my Pivot Cycles LES 29er hardtail, with 1×11 and Rotor REX chainset with oval 34 tooth thick/thin chainring. Tyre choice was also standard, using 2.25″ Racing Ralph snakeskin tyres. Nutrition was a little tricky, but I decided on using 2 bottles rather than a camelbak. The new TORQ energy blackcurrant with 4 gels in my pockets.

Not officially a “race” but at the same time, one of the biggest single lap marathons to “win” in the UK. Many riders will specifically target it and I include myself in that. This year, I knew I wasn’t quite on top form, but felt I had a chance to do well. Lining up on the start line, I could see it wasn’t going to be an easy race with lots of very fast riders including TORQ Performance rider and current British Marathon Champion, Neal Crampton and also Welsh Road Hill Climb Champ Dan Evans (who can also ride downhill!), who no doubt wanted to make up for his puncture 2 years ago. There were also a string of other riders I knew would be in the mix.

It was my first event in the brand new team kit and the newly wrapped ‘A Cycling’ van, which was getting lots of looks from passers by.

The lead out seemed faster than normal on the back roads and the pace was being pushed on the climbs, which I was quite happy with as it formed a kind of warm up. Normally its a procession, but this year it felt faster and safer at the same time as riders were a little more strung out.

As we headed to the off-road section and where the racing ‘officially’ starts, I moved towards the front, just behind Neal Crampton and he took up the pace for the first few hundred meters. The pace was steady and I was happy, but a few riders started pushing it up slowly and I was starting to reach my limits. When Dan Evans moved to the front, he kicked on and although a few tried to stick with him, it was clear that he was climbing far quicker than anyone else and soon had a gap. A group of 3 climbed together behind him, including Neal and Dan Wells and I was a little back from them.

By the top of the climb, I had been passed by Chris Metcalf, into 5th place at the top. Not a bad position for me at the Dyfi – the first climb is never my strong point. Down the first descent I had a clear run and closed most of the gap to Chris. The second climb was just as long, starting on forest roads and ending up on moorland known as “The Field Climb”. It’s a tough one with steep pitches and varying grip levels. I was passed by Gareth Payne, so I was down another positions, but I was hopeful to claw it back on the downhill.

The second descent is ace. Not that steep, but really fast and very loose with slate all across the trail. On a 29er hardtail, you can push the bike pretty hard as its not too rough, but you have to look after your tyres a bit. A short fireroad and then another short descent. At the bottom of this, I must have mis-read the arrow as I turned right and retrospectively, after looking at other people’s GPS traces, the course went left. I didn’t realise for quite a while, eventually getting back on track, but adding at least an extra kilometre and loosing lots of places. No one else made the mistake, so it was totally my fault.

I found myself back in the mid-high teens with lots to make up, so I pushed pretty hard to gain time. A fairly long climb led to a short, but rocky descent. I really should have known better, but I hit it full gas and got a puncture. Bugger! I looked at it closely and it looked like it might hold without a tube, so added a CO2 canister and that seemed to do the trick, so I carried on. It held for the next climb, but on the next short descent the tyre went flat again. I wasn’t sure if it was the same place, but decided not to waste time and put a tube in.

I knew by this time that any hopes of a good finish were gone, so I decided I’d just enjoy the event and take in the views and atmosphere. Heading into the woods and past the brass band playing, I then passed David Evans from Cycle-tec walking around a puddle to keep his bright shoes clean and dropped into “World Cup Decent”, the most talked about descent in the enduro, but not the hardest in my opinion. I was having to nurse the rear tyre, so didn’t get carried away, although I almost disappeared down a ravine near the top after taking an interesting line choice!

After a long climb to the feed station it seemed right to get a flapjack, seeing as any chances of a good placing had now disappeared, although it took about 5 minutes to chew the thing! A few more fun descents were followed by more long climbs in typical Dyfi fashion and I found myself working back through the field without killing myself. The next descent was a blast, straight down, really fast and very rocky. At the bottom I noticed I’d picked up another puncture. My fault for having too much fun!

After fixing that, I no longer had any spare tubes, so told myself to take it easy on the downhills or I’d be walking the rest of the way. A long climb followed and I arrived at “Dicko’s” which is a descent I knew well. I arrived at the top just behind Mathew Pritchard who is quick downhill. More fun followed, although I didn’t get too carried away and thankfully no puncture. That was a result worth having a drink over, so I grabbed a swift half-pint at the Enduro Bar at the bottom and headed off.

The next climb was very long. From the bottom of valley to the top. It went on for ages, but I found myself pushing pretty hard to try and get a few places back. Near the top I caught sight of Lee Davies (Cycle-Tec) who himself had had a bad day with 2 punctures. As soon as he saw me, he pushed on and tried to stay away. I got by on the next descent, which was a bit of a maze with lines all over the place. We had a little battle up the final sting in the tail and then a short descent to finish.

In the end I was 33rd with a time of 3hrs 12min. Possibly the slowest time at the Dyfi for 10 years, but with a bit of extra distance and 3 punctures, a flapjack and half a pint of ale, it wasn’t too bad. Dan Evans rode a strong race, staying ahead and having a clean race to make up for the misfortune of 2 years ago. Current marathon champion and TORQ Performance team rider Neal Crampton finished second a few minutes back and even stopped for a drink at the bar himself, nice one!

The British Marathon Champs is in Selkirk next weekend, but I have decided to give it a miss and instead will head to Ballyhora, Ireland for the European Marathon Champs.