Epic Cymru – South Wales, Charlie Mortleman

Another to add to a list of “different” events this year (following hot on the heels of the Dunwich Dynamo, Charlie the Bikemonger’s  Dorset Gravel Dash, and QECP day and night Enduro) the Epic Cymru looked like it could be a goody. Well, 4 big days and a prologue XC race were never going to be dull…..

(Editor’s note – if you can’t be bothered to read all of this (understandable) you may want to flick to the video link at the bottom!)

The format was interesting. Untimed liaison stages were to link a series of timed sections (2 to 4 a day), with times from 5 minutes ish to an hour ish. Some were uphill biased, others downhill biased. The “overall” category would be decided by total time on the timed stages; however, some stages (or parts of stages) – the predominantly downhill ones - counted towards a separate category: Trail King / Queen. Confused? So was I a bit, but it soon became clear. So in theory this would make for interesting competition for XC whippets and technical “Enduro” riders alike, and allow sociable sight seeing combined with full throttle racing. On site camping and shared meals also promised a good atmosphere.

Day 1 – Prologue

Made a right old bollox of this. Hit a lot of traffic on the way, and arrived about an hour before the start. Unfortunately, I was also one of the first off. According to the 220 – age formula, I should expire at 170bpm; after 30 seconds, I was at 178bpm. It takes Paul Butler (club coach) about 20 minutes to get me to anywhere near that on a turbo.  Based in Margam Park (where the Dragon ride starts), the course packed around 450m climbing into 10km, and hurt – lots. I also got held up a fair bit on the descents. In retrospect, arriving early and getting a sighting lap in would have been a good idea.

Back to base to set up tent.

Result – 100th ish out of 150 or so, 47 minutes. Guess I should have been 3 or 4 minutes less slow.

Day 2 – 55km circuit from Margam Park, 1500m climbing

The first proper day. 10 km gradual climb out of Margam over to Afan trail centre for 3 timed stages. 1 has a 1 km balls out climb followed by about 4 km singletrack descent, using the Penhydd trails, where I dropped my chain. 2 was most of the Wall trail, mainly up from the bottom to the cabins ¾ of the way round, and was a killer – 40 minutes at full snort. 3 was down the Wall descent.

It was becoming clear that event organiser Matt Page (Wales coast to coast off road record holder) had an unhealthy addiction to climbing.

Think I gained 10 or so places on the day.

Spent an hour or so afterwards in the sun on the WTB bean bags having a couple of free beers (supplied by WTB / Aberdare brewery) with MTB legends Joe Murray (ex-Kona designer, multi US MTB champion), team WTB / Cannondale’s Jason Moeschler and Mark Weir (Enduro hard men, Mark Weir also known for having climbed a million feet in a year), and Chipps Chippendale (editor, Singletrack mag, and contesting the lower middle order with me) (and I suppose I should mention Kerry the extrovert Kiwi, junior codger class leader).

Notable victory after the dinner that evening – mine and Chipp’s Team (Team “Oh alright then”) won the tug of war!

Day 3 – 50km ish to Aberdare, 1500m climbing

Moving base today, so tents were packed to be carted over to Aberdare for the next 2 nights.

I wasn’t looking forward to this – main stage was 12km UP a red graded descent. I had a decent run on the stage before this – another up and down jobbie, then onto the climb. The first 4 or 5 km involved a lot of huffing and puffing up numerous rock steps, with a fair bit of pushing. Thankfully it levelled out a bit for the remainder, but with a few steep boulder sections. 54 mins for me. Apparently Jason Moeschler just dialled in 400 watts and held it there for his 36 minutes…….. then the last descent to the finish, which was as-fast-as- you-dare-to-go fast, finishing pretty much in the beer tent (almost literally).

Up to 76th place in overall, 60th ish in trail king.

Day 4 – 55km loop, 1500m climbing.

Climb up to Bike Park Wales trail centre, a practice descent then another timed climb, where I got comprehensively overtaken by second placed lady Sophie Hemming – recently retired World Cup winning England prop. Then 2 great descents, one at Bike Park Wales (Wibbly Wobbly followed by Rim Dinger), and the second at Mountain Ash downhill course. Then the same last descent as the day before.

As this was the last night there was a band laid on. The lead singer looked at the weary hordes – “We’re used to it, last week we did a triathlon, that was worse! In the sea at 7am they were….”

I was just thinking of bed (at the ungodly hour of about 10pm) when Chipps sidled furtively up to me with a suspicious bulge in his pocket (!!!) – “do you like whisky?”

Retrospectively, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea………..

Up to 71st.

Day 5 – 50km (again), 1500m climbing (again), monsoon, puncture, no brakes

No real timed climbing stages today so I headed off into the deluge hopeful of bothering the top 60! Up the first climb (description at the briefing: “less said about that the better”), and a long traverse to the first stage – down the long climb from a couple of days before. Down the boulder fields I happily pinged and ponged, passing quite a few riders (and quite a few puncture fixers). Then everything went a bit wobbly. Bu@@er. Stopped to pump up flat rear tyre, and rode off, but lost pressure again – sealant wasn’t sealing the hole (I run tubeless). Stuffed a tube in and carried on pretty cautiously as I didn’t want to risk another. Great fun fixing punctures on wet Welsh hill sides – not…. Lost about 15 minutes.

(Moral – carry a bigger pump and gas if you want to inflate a 2.35 inch 29’er tyre – mini pump needs about 500 pumps….. I counted).

The day basically required grit and determination – mainly determination to ignore the grit. My brake pads didn’t – rears were down to the metal and fronts not far behind .




First hombre, Jason Moeschler (3:07), 83rd lil’ ole me (4:42) (8th in senior codger class)

First lady, Nicoletta de Jager (ex world and Euro XC racer) (3:56)

Trail King

First hombre, Rob Williams (1:06), 59th me (1:33)

First lady, Sophie Hemming (1:25)



Great event, with mix of riding, rider, and bike types, great organisation and catering. Strong field, with seriously gnarr-core ladies.

Personal end of match report:

  • Prologue: PPPPPP (p@ss poor prep = p@ss poor performance)
  • Days 2,3,4: much better, solid B
  • Day 5: oh dear, C-. Only 1 spare tube, silly little pump, no spare brake pads – what were you thinking of?

Event vid


If you’re not bored yet – these are pretty good too (from Bike Soup)