This was the 3rd of these Mini-Enduros I had participated in, and with the usual laid back atmosphere and no-pressure style format, it once again was something I looked forward to being a part of. Caersws is a track well known to UK DH riders, having held several big national and regional races over the years, unfortunately for me it was one that got built and used after my DH retirement in 2002, so it was with a degree of anticipation that I entered the event. The Mini-Enduro carried the usual format of practice Sunday morning, then racing with three separate stages during the afternoon, there were very slack transitions, with fun being the name of the game. A few of us chose to take the added option of the Saturday practice, with the track being only an hour away from the Shire (that being Shropshire). On arrival we were greeted by the usual chirpy friendly faces of Chris Roberts (the organiser, fresh back from organising a worlds 4X event) and Steve Parr (event advisor and UK Gravity Enduro gaffer). As usual they asked us to give it a blast and report back with any issues we felt needed addressing for the race, it’s great when organisers actually listen and act on racer’s concerns.
The heatwave was still in full swing, but saturday morning gave some much needed cloud cover, making the nice short transition, rideable in 10 minutes, seem like a doddle to get up. Soon at the top, we started to try and blast the top sections of stage 1 and 3, as they met up half way down to share the same bottom half. My truck load consisted of Shrewsbury’s most retro 30 year MTB Super Veteran, John Baker, doing his 1st Enduro, our fast junior rider Vini, doing his 1st ride upon the Empire Cycle, local Welshpool boy Andy Cooper and myself, putting the GT through its 1st race as a 650b.The track itself really did take us by surprise, to say it was full-on was an understatement. It was steeper than an accountant’s bill, rougher than a bear’s arse, with roots more prominent than a crack hoar’s scalp and rocks galore! We had doubles, drops, tables, the lot, and I have to admit (not being too hot on the air skills) it put the shits up me at first. We all were a bit taken a back by the tracks gnarlyness for a short travel Enduro bike, all except Vini the BMX racer who just seemed to crave the jumps more and more, oh to be young again!! But slowly, slowly catchy monkey, as the morning went on we relaxed and got into it. Next up we hit the second half of stage 1 and 3. As we hadn’t seen any of the wet stuff in the UK for what seemed like a lifetime, the dust and dryness of the track was unreal. There was a mega fast shoot, followed by the trickiest section of the track, with a small rock garden, followed by a steep, loose stump section, this had me off, with my biggest Enduro crash to date, leaving me with a corker of a dead leg, ouch! More steep, loose stuff, all with an air of scariness, after which we were shot out into the awesome final half mile of flat out 60kph field section through to the finish arena. In these 2 sections there was literally no pedalling needed, except to gain more speed, after all my training I have to admit for the first time I actually hoped for some padally shit in stage 2.
Well my wish was granted, as stage 2 had a top section freshly cut out of the open hillside with two long uphills to collapse the lungs, these were real tough, but the in-between bits were proper scary fast with a 2 mitre wide loamy fresh steep trail, where speed was collected the less you dabbed the breaks. The bottom half consisted of more fast jumps and drops, one of which was a big drop onto loose rocks, really testing the build of these lightweight machines. We practiced till things warmed up too much, then buggered off home to return the following day.
It was quite a busy affair this time, the field was filling up nicely as we got there and parked up with the rest of the Shire posse, all mingling around the Trailhead (Shrewsbury’s Monner bike shop) there were lots of us there, it seemed like we could be a force to be reckoned with! One Industries, as usual, were present in full force, running Atherton signed stuff competition and fully kitted out to give out all the cool prizes. The sun had got it’s hat on, that was until we all headed up for practice when it came out in full force, touching the 30 degree mark, making hydration so essential. We put in one run of stage 3 to warm the legs up, as most of the riders were banging out all three, after having just arrived on race day, the dead leg was feeling a bit tender, but after lots of cold and heat treatment plus anti-inflamatories it seemed to ease off enough to ride. It was soon a very hot midday and racing was underway, in the heat and with the slack transitions, hardly any riders pedalled up to the stages, most choosing to walk the bikes up to save energy, after all we are British, and if it ain’t too bloody cold or wet, it’s too bloody hot!
Chris Roberts had his usual tried and tested method of timing at the event, and this was the best it had ever run, it would seem now that he has it completly sussed, after the 1st and second stages you could see exactly where you ranked on each stage, as you crossed the line, with stage 3 instantly giving you your overall category result as you arrived, updating it as each of your class riders finished, it really was faultless.
PODIUMS ‘R US
It was soon apparent that the Monners had done good, we ended up with one of us lot on nearly every category podium, bloody marvellous. There were 3 riders in the hardtail category, and on such a gnarly track they all deserve a mention- 1st Daniel Bladon, 2nd Andy Gowan, 3rd Alex Powell. Ladies saw Fay Cunningham take the win from Liz Simmons and Cat West. Under 17’s saw our Monner, Vini down in 5th after leading the 1st stage then crashing hard in 2 and 3, top spot going to Euan Bugler, with James Keen and Elliot Heap close behind. Super Vets saw the best and most satisfying result of the day for us lot, local legend John Baker only went and bloody won his 1st Enduro, with John Owens then Nick Goodey in hot pursuit. Then there was my category, Veterans, I finally after a year of trying managed a podium in 3rd, behind Rich King in 2nd and the big fella and all round nice guy Andy Sadler in 1st (next time Danger Mouse, next time!) Trailhead’s gaffer and the Monner’s central leader, Sandy Plenty managed a respectable 5th in Masters, old skool DHer Joe Finney took the top spot, with Keiron Blakewell 2nd and another Monner John Adams-Martin in 3rd. Seniors saw our mate Andy Cooper haul in a respectable 6th, Joe Taylor 1st, yet another Monner Dan Pardesi 2nd (with a big crash!) and Rob Newman in 3rd. When it came to the big boys in the Pro-Am category it was the unstoppable Lee Kermode with the top spot, yet another Monner James Green in 2nd and Callum Dew in 3rd.
Massive thanks to One Industries, Chris Roberts, Steve Parr and the land owners for this awesome event, I think even the track victims went home with a smile on their face!
Words; Jim Bucannan Photos: Dan Jones and Chris Roberts