Tap. Tap. Tap. The rain is desperately trying to seek a way into the dry inner of our tent. The incessant hammering of rain on the flysheet is becoming annoying. We left a wet London and had our fingers firmly crossed for a drier and sunnier Wales. No chance. Perhaps not a surprise – how often do you see the words “drier and sunnier” used to describe Wales?
We awake on Sunday morning to hear the rain still tapping at the flysheet. Still trying to find a way in. Half an hour from our 9.20 start we’ve nearly given up all hope of being able to leave waterproof jackets stashed inside our camelbacks. Hang on – is that a slither of blue sky appearing between some parting clouds?
This kind of weather kicks up the biggest problem for mountain bikers. Despite millions of pounds of investment by clothing companies, deciding what to wear never gets any easier. Layers, as we all know, are the way forward. But assessing how many and which particular layers you’ll need up the hill from the relative comfort of a tent in the valley is a notoriously inexact science.
So, baselayer on. Bikemagic jersey. Gilet. Waterproof. Take the gilet off. Will the jacket be too much? It’s started raining again so keep it on. I’ll regret this decision on the very first climb when the jacket comes off again.
We’re persevering through this horrid weather for the first round of the Dragon Enduro, with Glyncorrwg near Afan the host. Glyncorrwg has recently had a fantastic new visitor centre built, with all the mod-cons the modern mountain biker needs. But more about that later. We opted to do the 62km race (there was a 62km non-competitive and shorter distance options too), deciding that we might as well be out there long enough to get thoroughly soaked.
A novel feature for this event was the staggered start, with riders setting off in waves. This is a great idea and would have avoided bottlenecks into the first singletrack section. As it turned out, though, the first 7km fireroad stretch did a fine job of spreading the riders out enough to avoid any annoying hold ups. In fact, it seemed like the first hour and a half was all fireroad (and the steep variety) but the long wait for singletrack was worth it.
We started with sections of Whites Level, some used backwards, with the final descents (which rock in the wet) used before the classic first climb of Whites. Reaching the top we turned off the normal route and headed out into the hills, eventually linking up with much of the Skyline trail. This is a fairly new trail, and some sections were visibly straining under the combination of the weather and the thousands of riders using it – some TLC is needed we think.
We eventually got back to camp in dead on 4hours 30minutes. The man at the top of the timesheet, Lewys Hobbs (Merlin/661) got around in a staggering 3hrs 14mins. Hot on his back wheel was Jonathan Pugh and a little further back Jonathan Webb (JustRidingAlong). The fastest woman around was Rebecca Webb (JustRidingAlong).
About 230 riders turned out, not bad considering the weather, and £3 from each entry fee goes directly to the Foresty Commission for trail maintenance. Our maths isn’t that good but that’s something in the region of £700. We’ve no idea how far that goes in trail maintenance, but it all helps.
The next round is 24 July, again at Glyncorrwg, but on a different course. Visit www.dragonenduro.co.uk/ for entry forms and more information.