Over the last few years the Welsh Enduro Series has spent the majority of its time at venues such as Gwydyr and Penmachno – hard-packed trails with a real focus on pedaling your ass off and carrying outrageous speed. Never afraid to try new things, Mike and Buds brought racing back to Foel Gasnach, and reminded a lot of us why it’s a great place to ride.
I’d not been to Gasnach for quite a few years, and it’s had some work – signs to the trails from Natural Resources Wales and an ever growing club (Foel DH Riders) mean the trails have been getting some riding and some love. The format for the day was a simple one, practice until 12, and then 2 laps of each of the 3 race stages. With the SiEvents wrist timing jobbies you could ride the stages in any order, and take the opportunity to heckle your mates along the way!
Stage one was the classic line down the far left of the hill, nothing too steep but with a few sniper roots to catch you out on the way, and a few seconds of pedaling/stump dodging along the end.
Stage two was the one everyone was talking about, a deceptively pedaly start before turning steeply down through some fresh and very chewed up turns – staying on the bike and keeping the wheels turning through the Plasticine-like slop was the challenge here, before some fantastic rutted out turns to the finish.
Stage three caught me out! After a quick pedal across a flatter section all hell broke loose with a massive spread of roots, deep ruts, slime and little drops. Line choice was key through this bit to carry speed through a very short but exceptionally sticky flat section before turning down the hill for more root dodging to the end.
While all of the stages were only a couple of mins of riding at a time they were certainly punishing on bike and body, after each run there was a collection of people poking at thousands of pounds worth of bikes with sticks, trying to shed some weight for the relatively short climb back to the start. I say short, but by the end of the day, the 9th time up the hill certainly felt like plenty, and the faces of those around me told a similar story!
Racing got underway bang on time, and it’s a testament to the marshals and medics that they kept everything moving despite a few spills and hold-ups as riders wrestled their way down the hill-side. With a short transition back to the top, and over 200 riders to get through, the queues were relatively short, enough time to compose yourself and enjoy the chilled vibe and Welsh sunshine.
For some the punishing tracks and ever more sticky mud proved too much, but with so many people coming down the hill plastered in both mud and a massive grin, it’s fair to say a whole pile of fun was had. Next up the WES heads to Coed Y Brenin on the 14th of May, where rumour has it Y Slab will be making an appearance in the race stages. See you all there!
Full Results on Roots and Rain
Big thanks to Dan Struthers Photography for the images. Stay tuned for a video banger later in the week.