Enduro racing may be what most would call a mixture of XC and DH, but it’s name came as a derivative from a much more time established discipline, one that tested rider’s grit years before #duro or even the internet was thought about; we are talking about racing known as Endurance. In the dictionary the meaning is- the ability to endure an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way; basically that is what this racing is all about. We sent Jim to The Dyfi Winter Warm Up to do just that and give it his all at this well-established event in the heart of Mid Wales.

I have done a handful of these events before, this one included, but never had I tried before, just happily plodding around with my mates and blasting the downhills just to see how many of the tail enders I could overtake, or sometimes annoy! This year was different I had decided to go for it, actually, give it my all and see if I could be competitive in this type of racing. Could I cut the mustard or would I be hitting that wall with a bang as the legs give up the ghost on one of Dyfi’s notorious massive fire road climbs?

Dyfi WW


I wanted to do this thing right and not have anything to blame for a poor performance, originally I had planned on another plod round, but best mate Coop (my lift sharing partner for the event) had informed me he was going for it too, to test out his performance after training harder than Rocky Balboa ready for his Pro 2016 enduro season. Unlike Coop I hadn’t trained, unable to properly after coming back from my ‘foot pointing the wrong way’ injury back in late 2015. I had been riding three times a week, though, so I wasn’t exactly feeling unfit.

The Bike I would ride was my current long term tester, the fantastic Vitus Escarpe 29er. This is a great all-rounder if not a tad heavy and over suspended for such an event full of XC bikes! A couple of changes were made to the bike for this event, the standard trail tyres were pumped up higher than usual to 32psi front and 29psi rear, as was the pressure in the suspension, 90psi forks and 270psi shock. Also, I opted for a water bottle instead of a pack bladder as I knew drink stations were on-route if needed. I even fitted an oval 32 tooth Absolute Black chainring for the big climbs, as to whether these offer an advantage or not is still out there, but anything psychological is worth a punt!

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The day before I was nailing the fluids all day and avoiding too much caffeine, so if I felt I was going to struggle then a caffeine gel would make a bigger difference on the day. Also, I gorged down on an early massive carb and protein meal on the evening prior to the event and got a good 8 hours kip that night. Morning time saw me picking Coop up at 8.30, where he had the biggest bowl of porridge known to man waiting for me.

And We’re Off

The weather was nuts for the time of year, usually hovering around the ‘just above zero’ mark and wetter than an otter’s pocket, this year we had a bit of drizzle but it was an amazing 10 degrees, so I ditched the waterproof, opting for two race tops instead. It was a real sight to behold as 280 riders all headed off down the main road for a few kilometres before the first of the many climbs began. Copp and I gave it a bit of legs down the road, overtaking lots to get to probably the leading 10% of riders; lots of whom were clad head to toe in lycra on XC bikes.

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The first climb was ok, I was unusually feeling pretty good, not suffering my ‘first-hour blues’. Coop was gone, only to be seen again at the end, I was on my own, steadily doing my bit, not wanting to blow up too early. I actually surprised myself on that first lap how easily I managed it and how fit I felt, the long Dyfi downhill offering up a chance for me to reel in the more XC riders in and churn them out the back, only to be caught and overtaken by some on the following climbs, as I muttered under my breath “fuckin fit bastards!” This was a new type of racing for me and I was enjoying it, who’d have thought!

Putting In The Effort

The second lap came up surprisingly quick “bollocks to the drink/food station” I thought, as I nailed past it at full speed, I was on one and stopping was the last thing on my agenda, although at the top of the next hill a quick piss stop was performed as fast as poss. Half way into the second 13k lap and the technical climbs seemed to take it out of me a bit more, but not too much, my ankle was really not happy about the short steep walking bit, where I had to tread so carefully. Nearing the end and I managed to eat my snack bars on the move and decided to get my caffeine Guarana gel down me at the start of the last lap. This was now needed, as I felt myself starting to flag a bit, my legs were starting to moan, but my stubborn mind told them to get fucked!

Dyfi WW-2

I ploughed on through, riding now a lot on my own, interrupted by the odd short chat with people up some of the hills. I decided I now needed to go into what I call ‘enduro mode’ head down, big breaths, ignoring the back pain, the now very tired legs, all social chatter now gone! On the last time I did this event I was lapped by the fastest of riders on my second lap, this time, it was me doing the lapping of lots of other riders when on my third lap; it was killing me, but a cruel part of me made me keep pushing on, even secretly feeling a bit smug, as I knew no-one could lap me now. The end was not far now, then came that last climb, a huge climb up the final fire-road. It hadn’t really seemed that long on the previous laps, now it seemed like I was climbing Everest, legs getting weaker by the minute and lungs blowing like a cheap hooker! I was overtaking a lot of folks now, but the back legs were going!

I finally got to the last DH, I hit this a lot steadier than before, feeling a bit weak and less confident, especially as I had all but lost my rear XT brake. Eventually, I rode down the last fire road to the end, I felt exhausted but also exhilarated to have known I had given it my all, only stopped once for a call of nature and even managed it on one 750mm water bottle. I even managed a respectable 21st/280 finishing the 35k in a time of 2hrs 52 mins. I loved it but hated it at times, I am definitely hooked and certainly will be doing more events like this in the future.

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Big Thanks to the organisers for putting such a fantastic event on, if you would like to participate yourself next year then check out britishcycling.org.uk.

Words: Jim Buchanan Photos: Peter Lewis/Mark Wood Photography/Jim Buchanan

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