Dyfi Winter Warm Up 2012
I've already got a collection of nice finisher's mugs from the Howies Dyfi Enduro that's held in Machynlleth each year in May, but this was the first time I'd entered the "winter" Dyfi or the Dyfi Winter Warm Up as it's known. I'm in training for the 24 Hours of Exposure in April so I was on the look out for a few races to enter, mainly to get some high-end training done under race conditions, so the winter Dyfi came at a perfect time, at the end of my first 3-week block of training. I'm not sure whether "perfect" was the right word there, as after Saturday's ride in the cold snow and ice, I was feeling pretty tired and certainly not felling rested for a race the following day!
It was touch and go whether I'd make it at all, with a decent amount of snow falling and settling on Saturday here in the Rhondda Valleys, which then turned to rain, which then decided to freeze over. Out to the van at 6.30 Sunday morning I couldn't get in to the van as all the locks had frozen solid, but after a few jugs of hot water I finally managed to open the door and start the engine and head off up north.
Held in the Corris Craft Centre the format of the race is a bit different to the Dyfi Enduro, being a 3 lap race of an approximately 15km course. Starting with a roll down from the centre to the start of "that" climb. All you Dyfi Enduro goers will know "that" climb, it's the first one of the day, and the longest! They'd included it in to the race to get us warmed up and to get us to the start of the lapped course. It did its job and separated out the crowd of a few hundred riders nicely. I pushed to stay out in the front group to give the legs a good wakeup, and after some initial soreness and reluctance, they came to life. Fellow Niner rider Dan was with me for a while but he dropped back, sounding like he had gear or chain issues. I was also joined by Loco Racing riders Jonny and Gareth.
The reward for the climb was a great technical descent of the usual Dyfi quality, fast, steep at times, loose shale, some drops, berms, oh and this time around, the added bonus of some icy patches. Great fun! The Niner handled beautifully, rolling over the technical sections well, cornering extremely fast and gripping to everything it touched, apart from a few moments on some unexpected ice. I was impressed!
The descent was over all too soon and along came another infamous Dyfi Enduro climb, often added in as the final "bonus" climb for the first 100 or so riders through. It's long and many a time when you think you're about to reach the top it kicks up and keeps going. And going. Our reward though was a classic mile+ long Dyfi descent that brought us back to the feedstation (the finish line of the Dyfi Enduro for those that know it), and onto lap 2, UP the final descent of the Dyfi Enduro. Ouch.
Lap 2 and 3 were even better than the first as obvious lines had developed on the descents making them easier to follow, and faster, and even more fun. The course had held up well, very wet and muddy, but loads of grip underneath. I'd stayed with the first 5 or so riders and during Lap 2 and for some of the 3rd I'd reeled myself up to 2nd place, just ahead of Phil Morris from XC Racer. He held on to me though and pulled away on the final long climb of the 3rd lap. I didn't have much left in the tank by then having been riding hard at the higher end of my limits for nearly 2 hours, and the miles from the previous 3 weeks had started to take its toll. Still, I wasn't moaning, and I got to the top of the last climb of the day relatively safely in 3rd, barring any incidients on the final descent. Thankfully there were none. Taking a note of my time at the finish line, I'd finished in 2 Hours 10 Minutes, 12 minutes behind Matt Page of Wiggle, and a couple of minutes behind Phil. In good company, I was happy with that and rolled back to the Craft Centre with Matt in good spirits.
This was the Niner Jet 9 RDO's first race and I was looking forward to seeing how it rode and how it would perform for a race. Climbing, the bigger wheels rolled nicely, definitely felt "easier" than my 26" Giant Anthem. I like to be able to stand for short sections on longer climbs and I was glad that there was hardly any bobbing coming from the back end. I still had my spare wheels on for this event, but the Stans Crests held up well and took the abuse I gave them on the descents. I used my Ergon BX2 backpack for the race also, and found it to be very comfortable and stable on my back. It was emptier than usual, having taken out much of what I carry on a normal day out, but I didn't find that it flapped or moved about like some other packs can do. I've used the Ergon grips before but the newer GS1s are great, very comfortable, offering plenty of grip positions and the flared palm doesn't get in the way whilst descending.
So far so good with everything. I'm happy that the bike and kit performs well for races just need to keep the rider fit and healthy for the next race and the rest of the training for the 24 Hours of Exposure!
As always the organisers up there did a fantastic job giving us a great course to race on, so thanks to you and the volunteers and marshals who made the event possible.
Here's the route for the course on Endomondo
Huw approaching the top of the first climb. Thanks to Dave Reed for the photo.
Photo by Es Richards