Almost 200 riders descended upon the small village of Llansawel, on the edge of Brechfa Forest on January 22nd to take part in the “Frostbite 40" enduro, proving that mountain bike racing is flourishing with entries all sold out well before the event itself.
The event was organised by the Brechfa MTB Club with generous support by the local community on a totally voluntary basis. The event format was to be enduro “special stage" timed format, with 3 timed sections within a 40 kilometre loop. The event was being run with all proceeds going towards the Wales Air Ambulance (www.walesairambulance.com).
Mild and wet weather recently resulted in the planned route being slightly modified, but the rain held off on the day itself and all riders were able to enjoy a rare dry and mild January day in the beautiful Carmarthenshire surroundings. Given the all-weather nature of the Brechfa trails the majority of the route would remain fast, fun and mud free.
The early start was perhaps a shock to some, but the relaxed nature of the start would at least allow riders to set off when they want, within a 1 hour period. Some riders were keen to get cracking, perhaps to have a clear run and others took a more social approach, heading off in groups all heading into depths of Brechfa Forest.
After a short road section which led to a testing fire road climb to help spread riders out the competitors were rewarded with the first timed section at the top. Downhill all the way, using sections of the Gorlech trail, the first half was an open section filled with berms, table tops, jumps and tree stumps went straight into the second half, which was more sheltered flowing singletrack testing riders concentration throughout. The fastest riders completed the stage in under 3 minutes, with Rob Cooksley being the fastest Male and Hazel Wakefield being the fastest Female.
Riders then had the chance to relax on a long linking stage, mixing more of the Gorlech sections with other existing trails within the forest. After 15 kilometres riders reached the second timed stage, a demanding undulating section with some tough climbs and fast and furious descents including the “Big Dipper". Many riders commenting that this stage proved the most difficult of the day, with gradients changing constantly making it hard to settle into a rhythm. The fastest riders completed the stage in just over 6 minutes and again Rob Cooksley & Hazel Wakefield posted the fastest times.
Another linking section took riders through a supposedly haunted section of the forest before a superb 4 kilometre descent over 4 sections taking riders to the lowest point of the day. From here a long climb began. The beginning was not timed, but soon riders arrived at the final timed stage, “The Pond climb".
With over half the overall distance done no doubt there were some tired legs, but although the climb was long the more consistent gradient would allow riders to settle into a rhythm so long as their legs and lungs held out! With a different name at the top of the timings in the Men's race it was Phil Morris who set the fastest time with a stage time of 6 minutes 29 seconds, but just 5 seconds separated the top 3 fastest times the racing was extremely close. Hazel Wakefield took a clean sweep in the Female race although Celia Way came a very close 2nd on the final stage.
From the end of the final stage riders could relax with the majority of the climbing done it was a swift descent back to the village of Llansawel to round off a great days riding. After all the results came in and were checked it soon became clear just how close the racing was, with just 12 seconds separating first and second in the Men's race!
The Brechfa Mountain Bike club would like to thank all the sponsors who generously donated prizes and support to the event: Bike Brechfa, Cotic, Windwave, Exposure Lights, howies, Clif Bar, Sixsixone, Maxxis, Mud Trek, Cycle Mart, Pembrokeshire Bikes and SPS Distribution.
Photos from the event are available from the official race Photographer, Matt Cope - http://mcope.photoshelter.com/gallery/Brechfa-Frostbite-40-January-2012/G0000rscvxJwcvwY
Overall Results (combined special stage times):
1. Hazel Wakefield – 20 minutes, 46 seconds
2. Celia Way – 22 minutes 32 seconds
3. Claire Bennett – 23 minutes 8 seconds.
1. Rob Cooksley – 15 minutes 43 seconds
2. Ryan Bevis – 15 minutes 55 seconds
3. David Thomas – 16 minutes 25 seconds
Hazel Wakefield said:
“I thought the format was great and made the whole event so much fun. It is the first time I've done a race in this format, but I think it's definitely a winner. I enjoyed being able to ride the majority of the course at a steady pace with my friends and then test myself on the time stages. The cold but glorious sunshine and the fast and flowing downhills that had you squealing at the top of your lungs! It was one of those day when everything was brilliant.
"I was aiming for a top 3 position, but I didn't know how I was doing during the day so with this in mind I pushed myself on each stage. The final hill climb stage stood out for me, mainly because i was feeling pretty beat by this point but mentally i knew that all i had to do was get this small section of pain out the way and then i'd be on the home straight. Weirdly enough i actually enjoyed it!
"I used my faithful Kinesis Maxlight hardtail. It's my only XC bike, so it was the right choice! Though I can imagine with a bit more suspension you could go even faster on the downs!"
Rob “Box" Cooksley, men's overall winner (on a 29er) commented:
“The timed stage format kept it pretty social I did a fair bit of chatting to folk in between stages which was nice, it was a good balance of climbing and descending which i really like. I have done quite a few of these now and Brechfa was up there with the best. The climb was a good leveller as normally it would just be the faster downhillers cleaning up but it was great to see some of the other boy's like Ryan and Dave getting on the podium, riders who I class as great all-round mountain bikers.
"The best part for me was the descent at the end of stage 2 because you went into it in full oxygen debt, it was slippery in the berms and you just slotted in to them, it was a great stage. The transition stages were nice some of the tree's in that wood are mental I love tree's. The climb was good for me believe it or not,i mean I'm 12 stone and the bike was 29lb but it was good for that climb as long as you keep on top of the gear and don't get bogged down. I didn't win that stage but I had someone fall on me when he got out of my way so I think it would have been even closer with out that.
"I used an Intense Spider 29 which was lent to me By Extra UK it's a large and i'm only 5'7" but i love the 45.5" wheel base it's a real boat. It's not often i race such a stock bike with a bit of XT and this bike rocked up I set the sag and tyre pressures and won the race it was nice to do that with no faffing."
Photos © Matt Cope