Welsh 2 Day Enduro 2009
Photos by Ben and Tony Falconer
The Welsh 2 Day Enduro has been attended by West Glos riders since its inception and part of its charm is the Lakeside start and the timeless atmosphere that pervades this event - the TT of enduro, if you like. Yet this year there were a few surprises.
Surprise number 1 - Church Farm was back! After a nine year break, the special test returned at Church Farm, Crossgates. Hell in the wet, enduro heaven in the dry. Vess was worried about some of the ditches, and tried a spot of water divining (see pic)
Surprise number 2 - West Glos riders getting stuck, before the event even started. Ant bellied out the Haines transit in the deepest roadside ditch in Powys (see pic). Good job Tony's Disco was on hand to heave it out.
Surprise number 3 - I finally got up to speed. But only on the final check of the event.
Having not ridden for a year, all I could think as I was zapped by seemingly 450 after 450 in the Irfon Forest was "I wish I'd entered sportsman". Day 1 was very dry, and made for 4T's. And anyone with a modicum of talent on a 2T!
Surprise number 4 - only 2 riders on my minute. Gav Bailey was forced to pull out (but still came second veteran in the following Sunday's Mercian H&H, won by Steve Biddle) and another was a DNS. So me and 371 Ryan Martin left the Lakeside at 9.42am on Thursday. He was quite quick, and much quicker than me. And on a "bought on Saturday" KTM 250. I was on a "two careful owners" 03 Gas Gas 200.
Heading in to the Church Farm test from Llandrindod, he craftily pulled over before the start and I thought he'd use me as a tortoise for him, the hare, so I got cracking. Waved off by Celia Walton, who has officiated at W2D tests, with her late husband Simon for many years, I really enjoyed the test. Spurred on by Jim Delahay, Steve Venn and Dave Mason, I gave it a big handful and nearly highsided it. And Ryan didn't catch me. Not long after, he did though, as did about a dozen others on each tight check. Having not ridden the Gasser since last year's Powys, I really wasn't up to speed. I thought I'd run late in the Irfon but clocked in with several minutes to spare. Very surprising.
In fact I didn't lose time until the last tight check of the day, which ends at the Abbey cwm hir test. The clock there was running fast. Looking at my watch set at the start, I thought I'd made it in with about 30 seconds to spare. But the clock on the check was running at least 2 minutes fast and enduro is a hard sport. Nevermind. (So, should I enter that as excuse No.786 Ben? ed.) It worked to our benefit the next day though, as the same clock was used at the start of the check, which bought us a bit of time at the other end (in fact, that clock was a minute fast, meaning on day 1 we lost out on 1 minute, not 2). Day 2 changed at about lunchtime, when the rain fell, and all of a sudden, it was a 2T day. I even passed the odd stuck 4T.
Strata Florida was a total joy, and for the first time, Ryan didn't come past me, as I told him I'd tool through for an 18 minute ride in the 22 allowed. Brilliant.
Knowing we'd have to get a wiggle on in the Irfon, I gave it the lot, and Ryan didn't have to pass me. Nailing the Gasser every which way, we thought we'd be in time but in fact dipped out by 3 minutes. Despite that, it was a great feeling to feel more at one with the bike. Gav, Drew and Guy were predictably at the snottiest spot, a deep rut which when it stopped one rider, stopped the lot. That's what probably lost us most of our time.
This check was cleaned by Ant on the four popper Sherco, as he let it rip following a four minute loss earlier. A broken throttle cable caused that, and thanks to Gavin's KTM cable, he stayed in the event.
Perhaps he'd stretched it a bit during an epic battle with Mike Allen at the Rhayader test, with block passes aplenty. West Glos were well backed up by fuellers - Gav, Tony F, Drew, Guy (who retired on day 1), Aaron Wells and Nathan Etheridge - who went well beyond the call of duty.
Staying in the Severn Arms, another nice surprise was Ray Morse, longtime Wyegateer. In fact, he probably rode it when a Bultaco was still a handy tool. One Bulto entered this year (see pic), a beautiful example ridden really quite quickly by Ian Spence of Trials and Tribulations. Sadly he didn't finish but he only dropped a minute on day 1, and was quicker than me on four out of five special tests! A mega ride, once he'd got it started. There's an art to it, as you'll see here.
Historic bus enthusiast Andrew Weddle caned his twinshock KTM 125 under the watchful eye of his ace mechanic Bob, until it nipped up. Scraping the mud from the engine fins, he cooled it down and made it to the finish. Sadly Celia Walton's son Arthur didn't, seizing his mighty 850 Wasp at Pontrhydfendigaid but he'll be there next year, as will we all, we hope.
If you fancy seeing what Enduros were like many years ago (a bit like the Weddle Bus) watch this clip from S4C for the black and white section a few minutes in. ed.
Wednesday - Scrutineering and walking all 3 Special Tests.
As we turned right off the main road towards the 1st Test, we saw Ben and Tony coming the other way, so I pulled over to have a chat. BANG!! The nearside front wheel of the Transit had dropped into an open drain with nothing but fresh air under it and the sump resting on the kerb. Good job Ben and Tony stopped, and a good job they were in a Discovery and I had a tow rope! Even with a Disco it still took some pulling out and the front raised a foot or so before the whole thing gradually pulled backwards. No one took the mick of course and Ben wasn't interested in taking any pictures or anything, not! I just had to put up with Mike A shouting "watch that ditch!" on every bend for the rest of the day.
Thursday - Day 1
At 9.04 Mike Wells KTM 250EXC, Mike Allen KTM 450EXCF, and myself Sherco SE2.5IF left the start line, with Pete Neal's Gas Gas 200 still sat in the park ferme due to his wife Angela being taken ill. 1 minute later Vess KTM 525EXC left the line and we were to ride together pretty much all day in the over 40 class. Guy Calderwood on the Sherco 4.5I was the next West Gloser at 9.34 with Ben Falconer Gas Gas 200 away at 9.42.
The Church Farm Test at Cross Gates was the first sign of off road we were to tackle and unlike previous years I can remember, was very enjoyable (arm pump aside)! Mike Wells was first off, and I started straight after hoping to keep him in my sight. I saw him waiting at the end!
When we reached Test 2 at Abbey Cwm Hir we had settled in a bit and there was more grip than it looked on the grass. The next check - Troed-yr-Esgair was fast going through mainly gravel tracks with some single track easy going, and I managed to drag a stick into the rear chain guide which locked the back wheel and would not pull out or break off. I ended up having to lay the bike down and take the guide off to get it out. This all happened next to a muddy splash which coated most of my kit in grey mud each time a bike went past, but I was soon back on and riding as hard as I could to make sure I didn't loose time, and thankfully I had a couple of minutes spare.
We dropped into the 3rd Test at Cwmythig Hill and were warned by Nathan and Aaron doing our fuel, that the grass was slick. They weren't wrong and I followed Mike A in with the aim of trying to catch him. I couldn't close the gap on the grass and the more I tried, the nearer I became to losing it. Towards the end of the Test the grass turned to dusty track with berms and jumps, and more determined than ever, I managed to gain on him. I passed him by taking the inside line through a right hander, and just as I was thinking "job done", the 450 came straight back past me; he was having none of it! We went around the next left turn neck and neck and approached one of the jumps. I stayed on my right line which was flatter, leaving Mike to hit the jump. From where I was it looked like he was doing a Stadium Cross event and when he finally landed, we went around the next berm touching bikes! I started to consider we were going to fetch each other off in the red mist, but I couldn't give up now! As we approached the last but one right hander I cut inside as before and Mike took the berm, and as it was up hill out of the bend I knew what I had to do, and much to Mike's disgust, I managed to block him out of the turn preventing him getting his torque down. I went though the finish line with him virtually sat on the back of me, sounding off that I had cut him up; I told him I knew and was very sorry.
Vess suggested at the start of this check, that as it was now much slacker on time than it used to be, we should easily stay on time by "Trail Riding" it nice and steadily. I set off behind Mike W, and watched him hit one of the first water splashes fast enough to almost form a rainbow. I then carried on as Vess had suggested in my own little bubble "Trail Riding", until the sound of a fully cracked open 525 scared me to death on the outside of a bend and disappeared into the distance. It was Vess "Trail Riding"!
And here is the view from Vess 'Trail riding'
The rest of the day was really good going and the Wennalt Bank check was particularly challenging with lots of single track with ruts and stutter bumps. Each time we joined a fire road, we were back in the woods again for more punishment, and after about 2/3 of the check I was questioning how much longer I could keep going, but the white flags eventually appeared with just a few minutes spare.
Friday - Day 2
We have definately got better at drinking less alcohol the night before riding (although we still need to work on Friday night), and it was even possible to enjoy breakfast without pushing it around the plate. I didn't ache as much as expected (maybe all that digression cycling is helping), and when we arrived at the Lakeside we could see Pete's gleaming Gasser between all the other "hanging" bikes. Angela was better, so Pete was riding with us on Day 2, and when he headed off across Wennalt Bank, it was obvious he was enjoying it. There were 2 Special Tests on Day 2 and having completed Abbey Cwm Hir without too many mistakes, it was time for Cwmythig Hill. I made sure I kept with Mike A's 450 speed on the road to follow him into the start for some more banter!! I set off committed to reeling him in before the slippery grass, as I couldn't catch him on it on Day 1, and just as I thought progress was being made, I went down in a big pile on one of the berms. The rest of my test was pretty average and I rounded it off by stalling just yards from the end.
Safe in the knowledge that there was enough time to remove jammed sticks in my chain guide on day 1, I set off at a fairly steady pace to conserve energy for the Irfon Forest. Not far in it started spotting with rain, until about half way through, when it emptied down. In no time at all, there were riders strewn everywhere trying to get up stoney climbs etc., and I soon became aware that I could loose time. Trying to up the pace, I carried on until several turns from the end, when my throttle cable broke. Luckily Pete pointed out a way to the end of the check without having to do the last climb, and I came in on time.
The next 10 miles or so on the road check leading to fuel at the Rally School, were covered with mixed emotions, as I thought it was all over, but hoped there might be some way of finding a cable and making it fit. Riding in pouring rain with your left (clutch) hand controlling the fuel injection body was "interesting", and when I reached Drew Gavin and Guy, the other West Glos riders were still there. Mike W (who was just about to go) said he had a spare KTM cable strapped to his own throttle cable, and was prepared to risk loosing time if we helped him take off the seat / tank etc. to remove it (Top Man!!). Just as we got it off, Gavin realised what was happening and announced he had a spare in his tool box anyway. This enabled Mike W to get going with his spare in this back pack, and Gavin set about attaching it to the Sherco. At this point it began to hit home that I might be able to get going again, so I gave my Roll Offs to Drew for a service while I had some food. 5 minutes later and I was up and running and lost just 4 minutes as I arrived at the top of Strata Florida!
Having ridden Strata without any problems, all that was left was the Irfon Forest to get through, and although it hadn't been raining for long, it was a different check to Day 1! I had nothing to loose now and rode as fast as I could through to the end. I just came in on my minute and was pleased to have not lost time.
A gentle ride back to Llandrindod and a wave to all the locals watching us come in before that final ride around the Lake and into the finish check felt so good. Roll on the Powys! Thanks to Mike Wells for being such a top bloke risking time, and making me try harder to stay with him, and Gavin, Tony, Drew, Aaron, Nathan and Guy for helping with fuel.
There was a good club entry this year - Anthony, MikeW, MikeA, Pete, Guy, Ben and Myself - this year all staying at the Severn Arms. There was more room in the Hotel this year so I was promoted from the caravan out the back into the inner sanctum and a proper room shared with Mike Wells. Gavin, Aaron, Nathan, Tony and Drew were also in attendance doing the essential refuelling duties.
On Wednesday we had the usual tasks of scrutineering and sign-on, followed by the test inspections, Abey-cwm-hir, Cywmythig and an extra for Thursday only, the old test at Church Farm, Crossgates. Stories from those who rode a very recent Hare-and-hounds here just reminded me of the slippery wet nightmare that was this test, last used several years ago. There was nothing too scary to find, although mental notes were made of a few dips, ditches and muddy spots. Scooter the dog got a good walk.
Next on the agenda was the small matter of a birthday celebration back at the pub. Teresa and my sister Helen also turned up to help the party along (and bump up my hotel bill!). I think I managed to reduce the potential hangover with an early start and early escape to bed.
In the morning we came down to breakfast to be greeted with the news that Pete had had to rush off to hospital with his wife at 3 in the morning. Never heard a thing! Thankfully Angela made a full recovery and was back later on Thursday.
Breakfast was nibbled - no-one seemed to have a particularly good appetite - hangover? nerves? The good thing was there was no rain, so the potential horror of a wet Crossgates test was receding.
From the start, the course went straight to the Crossgates test.This turned out to be a very enjoyable ride around, it's just that there was no warm-up at all before going into it. I wasn't the only one riding back up the road afterwards shaking my arms and wrists to try to get them working properly again! There followed some road work to the lane up and over the Saith-maen moor and onto Beulah for a drop of petrol.
The long Irfon forest check turned out to be most enjoyable with the dry going and plenty of grip. Even made it to the end check with quite a few minutes to spare. A bit of road took us then to the Strata Florida check. This is a rough and rocky track, and the organisers give enough time so that this can be ridden at a sensible pace. So I said to Ant and Mike. I left the check a minute after them and proceeded to catch them about half way up. I didn't expect to catch them as I thought that their natural competitive nature would have had them racing each other. They must be getting old if they're getting sensible! Gavin fuelled us at the rally school before the road that took us to the next forest check. Not sure of the forest name, but this was all around the wind farm on Cefn Croes, which is where the Hafren club run the Tarenig rally. Plenty of good going in here but the dust on the forest tracks proved to be a bit of a problem. Ant had to stop to remove a stick from his back wheel which appeared to be made of some sort of hard indestructible rubberwood, and I had to remove a similar bit from my chain guide just after we exited the check. Tony was waiting with fuel to make sure we got down the road to the next test at Cwmithig.
The test was another good ride in the dry, followed by another road section to the check going into Wennallt bank. Time is always tight in here, but the dry going again helped enormously to get to the check at Abbey-cwm-hir on time.
The final test of the day proved to be just as good fun as the earlier two and was followed by the final few miles in the adjoining forest.
Back at the lakeside 20 minutes were allowed for maintenance which for most included an air-filter change due to the dusty conditions.
Shouldn't really complain about dust at the Welsh?! The forecast for Friday was for rain, but we soon forgot about that after a few beers back at the Severn Arms. Dry conditions make the riding easier but we were all still knackered, so an early night was suitable for most (ie. before midnight!).
As Angela was feeling much better, Pete joined us for the second day. The course was reversed as usual, Abbey-cwm-hir, Wennalt bank, and then to Cwmithig. At least it stayed dry for us as both these tests can get particularly slippery when wet. It was only when we got amongst the wind turbines on Cefn Croes that we met the first of the rain, which rapidly turned into a downpour. Unfortunately we started to get mixed in with the sportsman stragglers, which resulted in queues on a couple of the steep hillclimbs causing many to loose a few minutes on this check. Ant also managed to break the throttle cable on the little Sherco. At the rally school, Gavin applied a bodge-tastic repair using a spare KTM throttle cable which was strong enough to enable Ant to finish. And he still had a fair way to go. Strata Florida was a bit more slippery in the wet, but the worst was to come in the Irfon forest. What had been excellent grippy going had turned into a gloopy quagmire. Still, it wouldn't be the Welsh without a bit of mud! A few more minutes were lost but not too bad, and the last bit of forest via the 'secret check' was perfectly ride-able now the rain had stopped.
Back at the lakeside, burgers were scoffed, photos purchased and we all relaxed our aching bodies. That evening, large quantities of Wye Valley 'Stinger' were downed. Some of us only made it to about 11pm before retiring, while a couple of others kept going, encouraged by the landlord, until 1:30 in the morning. Ant was summoned to bed by Ruth, and Mike Wells managed to drop his alarm clock down the toilet (ask him how!).
All in all a thoroughly good few days.
I managed to capture a few video clips before the mike shorted out and killed the batteries (filled it with mud).