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 day 5... The final day’s riding and racing was set to return us from Aberdare back to Margam Park, essentially doing Monday’s route backwards and with this meaning we got to race down the long timed climb… payback time!
Keeping an eye on the weather forecast on my phone last night and it showed 100% chance of rain, thought it would be too good to be true! So up for breakfast with everyone in the main tent and sure enough the rain had started already, meaning today was not going to be a pleasant day in the saddle.
All riders gathered and huddled together under tent and awning cover waiting for our call to line up. After a short delay due to the weather affecting things we set off for Margam. Another nostalgic moment for me as we climbed out of Dare Valley Park and essentially up the old DH course I raced on decades ago in the Pedalhounds races, except back then we walked up where as this time a train of riders were pushing their 1 x 11 gearing up the steep track. After a large amount of climbing and traversing the hill tops we arrived at the start of the first timed section wet through, not many smiles to be found already.
The first half of the section was wet rocky rutted track, mostly of a very gentle downhill gradient but with a bit of a climb also, which didn’t seem anywhere near that steep when we got to roll down it two days previous!? Once we met the singletrack trail (closed off for the race) the timing mat was crossed for the start of the ‘Trail King’ part of it. Fortunately any riders I caught down here promptly moved for me to pass, but unfortunately once halfway down the trail I felt my rear tyre go flat, gutted! I decided to gamble the rest of the day and keep pushing on, thankfully my tyre and rim held strong by the bottom but a lot of rolling speed was lost. Whilst putting a tube in to get me going again, it would have to happen on wet day too, I discovered my error…. I never converted my rear wheel to tubeless, rookie mistake!
Pumped up hard, my wheel was good to go and so some re-fuelling at the feed station and off we went. More re-tracing of the previous route and up a long fire road climb with some singletrack trail in between, a lot seemingly into the wind and driving rain, most wanted the day over by now. Block out the conditions and push on and pretty soon we arrived at the start of the second and final timed section of the day, a bonus being that the finish line of this was the finish of the race, at last. For many riders we had already covered about 10km with our rear brake pads down to the metal so trying to charge down some trails with metal rear pads would be interesting.
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I asked the timing marshal if the section was all DH to which she answered ‘there’s a bit of pedalling’ that turned out to be quite the understatement as we tried to race down a stream with hub deep puddles in places, then a proper climb followed by more climbing before a short technical section to the line. After this 500m and we finished right in front of the impressive Margam Castle itself, and done, the event was finished.
Matt Page was there to welcome riders home with quite the grin on his face, sadistic man that he is! But He and his A Cycling crew should be applauded on their achievement of putting on this event, which overall was a great one. A total of around 215km covered with just over 6000m climbing and over 3 hours of racing, it was quite epic.
The man machine that won through after all that was Jason Moeschler of WTB-Cannondale, followed by James Heaton for Bike Park Wales and Carwyn Davies. Women’s were led by Nicoletta de Jager and followed by Sophie Hemming and Anna Cipullo. In the Trail King/Queen category race, the two that targeted these sections each day won through with Rob Williams taking the win followed by Joel Chidley and James Heaton. Women’s was won by Sophie Hemming and then Nicoletta de Jager and Erica Moks.
Full results here: http://www.actionsportstiming.co.uk/live/epic-cymru-live/
So my first experience of multi day stage racing, and it was worth it. A satisfying day out on the bike each day, meeting new friends and riding new trails together, I would recommend it to anyone who likes to ride as everyone will get something out of it.