On Sunday, we made our annual pilgrimage to Machynlleth for the 12th annual Dyfi Enduro. A mountain bike event like no other. The course is tough, but rewards hard work with some of the best (if occasionally terrifying) descents and singletrack sections around.
For Ade and I it's become a bit of a yearly battle for the title of "fastest howies rider." In 2011 I beat him for the first time but the result was questionable as he'd dragged himself round suffering from some kind of manflu. I was left hungry for a more honest win. In 2012 we battled it out within sight of each other the whole way around but I wasn't able to close the gap and finished 10 minutes slower.
This year, with us both feeling equally unprepared, we rolled out from the start line through town and into the hills. With 800 riders jostling for position, I soon lost track of where Ade was in the pack, but knew he was ahead. I kept my head down and pushed on at a steady pace.
The miles passed. The uphill ones slowly, the downhill ones fast. I was losing hope of catching up until 2/3rds in, I rounded a bend and reached the feed station. Ade was there. My spirits lifted out of my tired feet. Maybe it's possible after all! I hurried to fill my bottle and grab a banana before heading off. Just ahead.
Now the mood of ride changed. For one thing, I had Somewhere Over The Rainbow stuck in my head after Ade had let me know it had been on his iPod. I pushed a little harder up the hill, trying to get a feel for how his legs were holding up. The gap opened a little but now cramp began to rise it's ugly head, snapping at our legs each time we slipped a wheel or dabbed a foot down. .
On the climb before last, I looked back and couldn't see Ade. I thought this was it. Turning into the last descent I was faced with a mire of rutted muddy tracks, I lost my wheels more than once and had to fight building cramps to keep things going in the right direction.
Dropping out of the descent onto the last bit of fire track, my chain came off. As I was trying to get it back on, I was passed by Ade. Laughing. I jumped back on the bike as quick as I could but with only 800 meters to go I knew there was little chance of closing the gap again. I finished 30 seconds after Ade. The closest honest gap yet.
Elsewhere in team howies, Chris had a great first time at Dyfi - finishing 7th of the short course riders and 4th in his category while Hazel rode an anonymous ride after forgetting to attach her race number before setting off.
At the end of the day, we all got what we really came for. The event mug to add to the collection. Post race brews never taste better than in those Dyfi mugs.
And what do I have to say about Ade's mirth while passing me with my chain woes?
Not much. I'll just let this video do the talking.
And here's a lovely little edit of the weekend from Will Sanders.
A big thanks to Jon Brooke from rightplacerighttime for the photos of the weekend.
If you rode the Enduro, he's probably got some snaps of you too on his website.