The Epic Cymru 5 day stage race has been kicking off over the last few days. Aidan Bishop is on the ground to report on the racing action - here's what he had to say about days 3 and 4... Day 3 of Epic Cymru is now done and dusted, and it was some day. Everyone left Margam Park this morning, we rode the 52km route over the valleys and ended up at Dare Valley Park near Aberdare… the sight of many Pedalhounds DH races in the 90’s, this place has some stories I can tell you!
4 timed sections today, but to get to them we would cover around 25km, mostly uphill. First timed section was two combined really, where we had a 1km fireroad climb before crossing the timing mat to start a ‘TrailKing/Queen’ section down some nice singletrack finishing at the feed station. Then just along the road was the main talking point of the day, a 10km timed section all uphill! As it turned out we rode up the skyline trail I believe something of a novelty, but tough on the legs to keep balance, grip and momentum to propel your bike up and over the dozens of rock steps that you would usually blast down. One rock section in particular was super technical and I believe no one managed to completely ride it clean.Flat sections of the trail felt like dh sections, such was the relief on your legs. Climbing out of the forest and you still had plenty of loose rocky track to summit, some sections steepening up to really challenge the limits of traction.
With this segment finally over with, you were rewarded with some pretty spectacular views across the valley. From there some nice singletrack across a ridge line and down and along some road parts before arriving at the start of the final ‘Trail King’ section, just over 3km and the finish line would be at our final destination of Dare Valley Park. A pedal to start and picking up speed, but quickly you turned into a climb that went on for longer than I hoped. Once over that and you once again picked up speed down a loose and rocky fireroad, into a deep grassy section with hidden ruts (that caught me out!) and finally a flat out blast down to the line.
All in all it seemed we pedaled up a lot and didn’t get the reward of the same amount of time going back down, but again a satisfying day on the bike. Tomorrow it’s a loop taking in BikePark Wales, should be good.
It’s been over a decade since I was last racing on the hillsides of Dare Valley Park near Aberdare and the likes of Mountain Ash, but today we were all over them! The local inhabitants used to often seem to take a disliking to the hill and set it on fire, that or used to throw sticks and rocks at us whilst racing! So it was not too much of a surprise to me when the previous night’s rider briefing was delayed due to course arrows being ripped down along with course tape. But organiser Matt Page was on the case and rectified it all well and then filled us in on what the day was to hold for us.
A novel start as we were to ride through Aberdare itself, a lead out van leads the entire race as a group, the locals seemed bemused to say the least but all went fine. A pretty long and not so easy climb and we then dropped into Bike Park Wales and down the Bonneyville red trail and the rock garden to the centre café/shop. First section for the day was a timed climb, up the ‘beast of burden’ single-track route, 3km uphill as fast as your legs would let you.
The reward of your efforts then came however as the next ‘trail king’ section was down the red ‘wibbly wobbly’ trail and into ‘rim dinger’ the latter really being do or die for anyone riding xc bikes and tyres, it was now I was glad I was pushing round my heavier cased Mavic tubeless tyres for the event.
A fairly quick and scenic traverse across after climbing out of the bikepark and you arrived at the start of the mountain ash DH timed stage. Sure enough I recognised where I was but when we arrived at the start itself trees were burnt down where we used to line up under forest cover. The track made me smile, remembering most parts from racing there in the late 90’s. Passing the first bus stop where I snapped my collarbone about 15 years ago. Sensibly and for general rider safety a number of gap jumps were taped off, but they left enough open to have a lot of fun clearing, it still is a fun race track.
After here and butt numbing road into fire road climb for some length of time brought you back to the final ‘trail king’ stage from day 3. It’s a hard task to squeeze out the last bit of energy out of your legs after 50km on the bike, but having ridden it you knew what was to come and so could pace the climb in it and let the brakes go more to the finish, personally I took a big chunk of time out of yesterday’s efforts.
So today was much more in the favour of anyone riding suspension bikes for this event, and welcomed by those riding longer travel machines! Results will tell if much time was clawed back in the overall standings though.