Early Wakeup Call at the Frostbite 40
Last weekend saw the return of the Brechfa Enduro in the form of the Frostbite40 held in the heart of the Brechfa Forest and based in the small village of Llansawel. The event organisers, the Brechfa Bike Club opted for a timed stage format, a format that is getting increasingly popular in the mountain bike racing scene. The event included a separate timed descent, traverse and climb along the 30km course that took in some of the best trails that the Brechfa Forest had to offer. The first thing I noticed was the diversity of bikes that had turned up, from full on XC race hardtails to properly laid back trail bikes with dropper posts withe their riders padded up to suit.
It was an early training race for me to give the legs and body an early wakeup call! I'd started training for the 24 Hours of Exposure during the week so had over 200km in my legs from the week's training. Still, I'd had a good recovery after Saturday's ride and an early night and felt quite fresh for the race.
There was a very relaxed and laid back atmosphere at the Llansawel Village Hall before the start and after a race briefing riders were free to start riding, the organisers giving an hour's window for the participants to start the race, rather than a mass start. Having never done an event of this format before I started as I usually did, off quite hard from the start. It took a few KMs for me to realise that my time from start to finish wouldn't count, so I sat back a bit and treated the non-timed sections as a low intensity training ride, and saving my legs for the timed sections.
The first timed section was the descent, a long, winding section of the Gorlech Trail the top half of which included tabletops, jumps and some fast berms along the open hillside. The second half was steeper and tighter through the trees and a bit more technical. It had a bit of everything to test us. I am by no means a fast descender but decent enough and I was pleased with my time of 3m 16s.
The route followed the Gorlech trail for most of the route with some cheeky off-piste sections through the trees. After what seems to be a very wet winter so far, these sections were fairly slippery and wet and probably quite cut up by the time the mass of riders rode through.
Next up was the timed traverse. Knowing the Gorlech trail well and having ridden it more times than I can remember I knew this would be a tough section. It traverses properly for the first half, but then includes a nasty kick, climbing steeply up around 3 switchbacks before traversing again to finish on the "chute" that spits you out onto the final climb of the Gorlech route. I started the section hard and caught a couple of riders, luckily they pulled over quickly to let me by (thanks guys) and I didn't lose time. I did lose time on the switchbacks though riding into them too hard causing my front wheel to wash out. Not learning from the first turn, I did the same twice, which must have lost me some valuable time. I finished the section in 6m 49s, quite slow compared to the others in the Top 10 (I had no idea of the time or my position during the course by the way).
Time to sit back for a bit and I chilled out on the climb to the top of the last descent of the Gorlech trail. I caught up with Gary Lake of Cyclist No. 1 at this point and tried to follow him down the descent. I did ok for the first half but after a few really dodgy cornering manoeuvres he dropped me, I admit it.
The timed climb came all too soon which took place on the first climb of the Gorlech Trail. The climb wasn't too steep to begin with but those that know the Gorlech Trail and this section will know that the final few switchbacks gets a little steeper and when you're against the clock, this really hurt! The suggested time for this was 8 minutes and I was happy to finish the section in 6m 44s, clocking one of the fastest times of the day so was very pleased with that, and made up some time I had lost on the traverse.
From the top of the climb it was a gentle descent and spin back into Llansawel from the forest for some well deserved tea and cake at the Village Hall and to chat to the organisers and those trickling in from the course. I had a great day out and a welcome change to ride in some fine winter weather. Overall result for me was 8th in a time of 16m 49s, a good start to the year. The winning time by Rob Cooksley was 15m 43s. Full results can be found here
Some route stats:
Distance : 32km
Ascent : 845m
Route can be found on my Endomondo Page
Photo courtesy of www.mattcope.co.uk