Back into it and the Howies Dyfi Enduro
It's been a month since the 24 Hours of Exposure and it was about time I got back into it, as it were. I've not really been idle for the last few weeks, I've still been clocking up some decent mileage on the bike, just not doing anything specific, just riding really. Lou and I spent a week in Spain near Alicante on a last minute holiday and I took my road bike and covered some 500km over the week in the hills behind Alicante. It was nice to go away for a break and get some nice rides in in warm weather. We got back to the usual wet and windy weather but yesterday we were treated to a great day of sunshine, not too warm or cold, perfect riding weather.
Spot the Niner Riders! There're 2 of us there.
I always enjoy the Howies Dyfi Enduro, for the course and the atmosphere. I had been tempted to go to the Gorrick 100 as it's part of the Endurance Series being run this year so I thought about doing the Series to clock up the points, but I decided to stick with the Dyfi, and I think I made the right decision. I felt ready this weekend to get back to racing on my bike so it was a perfect time to test out the legs and get them going again. I chose the Niner Jet 9 RDO full susser this time as I enjoyed riding the Winter Dyfi so much on it a few months ago. It was great again this time around.
Race Number 13, unlucky for some, so I stuck to Rule #13
Lining up at the start it seemed like a tough crowd had turned up this year with a lot of great riders. After the initial neutral start along the road it was time to hit the infamous first climb of the Dyfi Enduro. At 3.6km long with 268m height gain, it's pretty tough. A few years ago when I started doing the Dyfi as I hauled myself up that climb all I could see was a steady snake of hundreds of riders in front of me winding their way up to the top. I vowed in those "early" days that I'd aim to have fewer and fewer people in front of me on that climb each year and this year I managed to get up there with just 2 other riders in front. I was pretty pleased about that! The first climb is always something to look forward to as you never know what you're going to get - this year we had a Welsh lady playing a harp on the hairpin and the local cheerleading group at the top.
The course was surprisinlgy dry apart from some very deep puddles which never dry out anyway and I worked hard to stay with the front riders. I felt like I was climbing well so kept pushing and I was pleased that I made my way up to around 4th for most of the ride. Matt Page and I were reasonably close together for a good few kilometers, he'd destroy me on the descents but I'd fight back on the climbs. We even rode through an ace Star Wars re-enactment together in the middle of the woods. Matt and I rode under the huge At-At that they'd erected to cheers from Darth Maul and some Wookies. Random, but it all adds to why the Dyfi is such a good event. Matt eventually pulled away on the World Cup Descent followed by a long fireroad descent and I was on my own.
As always this year's course offered some excellent descents, crazy steep and fast, fun and swoopy. All of course underlain by the local shale that feels like you're riding over shattering dinner plates. It really does feel and sound terrible, especially with a carbon frame.
The Dyfi is notorious for various kinds of punctures and with around 15km to go I passed Nick Craig who was at the side of the trail fixing a blow out, which luckily for me left only Matt Page and Ben Price from Torq in front of me. I could see them up ahead and I eventually passed Dan on one of long climbs but Matt had a decent lead by then and was the eventual winner.
Photo by Peter Jones
With 6km to go, thinking I was on the home straight I did a huge mistake by missing a turn. Things didn't feel right as I couldn't see any tyre marks on the trail. A huge sinking feeling set in that I'd gone the wrong way and when I reached a closed gate heading out of the woods I knew I'd gone wrong. I was livid with myself. Nick caught up with me at this point, as well as dozens of other riders who'd done the same mistake so we back tracked to where the turn off point was and headed back towards the finish. I was cross with myself for making that mistake and lost around 10 minutes and a number of positions. I've seen it happen many times when people take wrong turns at these events, it's easy to do, and just one of those things.
I was really pleased with how I rode, managing to knock around 25 minutes off last year's time, despite my detour. According to my Garmin 800 I finished the 54km course (with some 1,800m climbing) in 2 hours 44 minutes. For the Strava lovers like me, I've published it here.
Photo by Es Richards