Coed-Y-Brenin MTB enduro - a game of two halves...
The moment the front wheels crossed the border into Wales on Friday night, the precipitation tested the effectiveness of windscreen wipers. Fortunately we had ignored Sally's suggestion of camping and opted for the luxury B&B! The advance party (Baz, Al & Andy) had time to sample the Dolgellau curry house, washed down with a couple of pints. It rained all night and the following morning when we reluctantly set out to locate and navigate Charlie's eagerly anticipated natural 'Saturday route'!
Set in Snowdonia's national park, the route was more akin to SAS training including a memorable section yomping up a long hill through waterlogged marsh with bikes and rucksacks on our backs!
We continued over rocks through beautiful rugged landscape around a loch, up and down some very steep tarmac sections where the faint aroma of burning brake pads could be enjoyed as big Al's brakes started to catch fire!
We abandoned Martin 'sheep botherer' Brown on a hill when he managed to puncture after negotiating a knarly ride down a rocky stream, which was particularly challenging and good practice for the following day. After spraying ourselves with cow sh*t on the last descent of the day, we finally got back to the cafe a little bit colder and wetter than when we left!
Sally (the toughest woman I have ever had the pleasure to meet) had kindly ordered the entire menu including the largest scones in Europe. A challenge which Big Al and Baz easily took in their stride. All of the radiators on the farm were loaded with wet shoes and clothes before we set out to the local pub for dinner and a few pints of real ale.
Beautiful blue skies greeted us on Sunday morning but it was chilly as we rode down to the mtb centre. Charging up up like lizards on rocks, competitors lined up in the sun before the start line. A single gun shot signalled the start of the 55km enduro at 10:00am. Eager not to get caught up in the mele of riders at the 'bottle neck', I quickly found myself out of my depth amongst the far more experienced 'down hillers'.
There are many loooooong climbs (1600m I'm reliably informed) past and through babbling brooks with the reward of stunning panoramic vistas of snowdonia at each summit. These are quickly followed by a brilliantly designed and built array of trails which at one point had me laughing out loud with sheer joy speeding through woods like a computer game. Each with catchy names such as 'The beast', 'Rocky horror', 'Uncle Fester', etc...
At the entrance of a new trail there was a 'skull & crossbones' sign with 'steep descent' written below. "This would be cordoned off in normal walks of life" I thought to myself as I struggled to keep footing whilst climbing down a very steep bank with the bike on my back to another rocky river below which had to be croseed on foot!
It was not long after this that I noticed my pedalling didn't seem to be working. A glance down confirmed that my final drive system (chain) had absconded! I was despondant thinking that all my efforts were to no avail and it was the end of the road with me stuck in the middle of nowhere. As riders whizzed by, I pushed the bike back up the fire road looking for the chain, then coming back down, there it was curled up like a slow worm on the gravel! All I needed was a spare link, doh! I called out to riders as they passed when a friendly group of northerners stopped. I was deservedly chastised with "Bit of a schoolboy error not carrying a spare link wasn't it?", I agreed with a sheepish look before replacing the weakest link and riding like a man possessed by a lucky red dragon to claw back some of the many places I had lost.
Other jolly roger moments were before traversing a huge very steep bank down to a ravine way below (although it was better not to look down) and before the new 'Y-slab' section. This was two huge slabs of rock at steep 45deg angles which we had to ride down and drop off onto flat ground below!
The bottle of 'Purple Moose' beer and finishers mug were gratefully received when I finally crossed the finish line although with legs covered in lacerations and aching ribs, a stretcher and ambulance may have been more appropriate (I didn't mention the crashes). Thank you to my friends for a brilliant weekend enjoyed by all and at the risk of sounding like the yoof of today, it was epic!