It’s been a long, dark and certainly wet winter in the UK, now going into March nothing much seems to be changing. As we sent Jim down to South Wales to the season opener for the ever popular Mini Enduro, it seemed to be more like a winter race than the start of the UK season. After his long road to recovery from his last Mini Enduro race that destroyed his ankle five months prior at the Forest of Dean, we hoped he hadn’t seen the last of his confident racing.

I have to admit, myself and my friends weren’t exactly buzzing about the first round and my first race back, being held on the pure bike-park stages of the stone-clad Bike Park Wales. There are definitely much more testing and gnarly trails there to be used than the ones selected. But to be fair to race organiser, Chris Roberts, he had to cater to the masses, and the masses did come, with a sell-out race of 350 riders, Chris always pulls the big numbers when it comes to his chilled out simple one-day format. My mates and I (#coreriders) had been hitting the trails hard all through winter, training on the snottiest of natural mud, no matter what the weather brought us. So that is why it was a bit of an odd one to get stuck into the first race, all held on stone tracks, so we just saw it as a good fitness test, especially with one stage holding a big old flat then slightly uphill part halfway through it.

Fast and furious, the Bike Park Wales trails provided  plenty of airtime.
Fast and furious, the Bike Park Wales trails provided plenty of airtime.

Saturday morning saw riders hit the trail, with quite a tough start to the climbs from the trail centre car park, but this soon evened out to the realisation that it wasn’t going to be any massive loop and the going was going to be steady for the day’s transitions. Riders rode up and practiced the four stages in the morning, these being two of the red and two of the blue trails of the park’s many combinations. I had slowly been getting used to riding again after the injury, but it was funny how, as soon as I was in a race situation it all seemed to come flooding back, making me practice with lots of caution and a slight lack of confidence. The trails actually turned out to be pretty good fun, simple to learn, but still gnarly, in the fact that some parts were so fast, that a crash could have been catastrophic!

The atmosphere was buzzing for the day, that usual start of season vibe, where many racers turned up on their new steeds, sporting new kit, some still frustrated having still to wait for their 2016 ride. It was great to see all the racing family again, once we get into it, it’s just like we all saw each other the week before; all of the top competitors hoping to have trained hard enough to better their last season’s performance. The great cafe and bike shop must have made a killing that day, as with the cold (but dry) day, folks flocked inside between practice and racing, some with mechanicals, all with a hunger and thirst for a brew!

Bike Park Wales was an excellent host, with great trails and good facilities.
Bike Park Wales was an excellent host, with great trails and good facilities.

We were soon on the top, the beeps were going in their 20-second succession, my nerves were making me feel tired and negative; I had to get the first stage over without crashing! I felt like a right spanner, body rigid as hell, as I rode off far too steady down stage one and into the trees, ‘I know I rode this faster in practice, relax your goon’ I was thinking! Finally, I got my head around the fact I wasn’t going to crash and ended up having a good day on my bike, feeling strong and fit. The latter stages of the day did see quite a queue further down the grouping of riders, which wasn’t ideal in the cold Welsh weather, but at the end of the day, it seemed like all riders had had a great time seeing in the new season, some testing out their new rides. The timing was fantastic, with immediate results, also running live online for those with 3G to check out as they updated. I was pretty pleased with 9th in my category with a slow start and stacked top Veteran category, but over the moon with a stage win, now I felt ready to take on the new season.

Snow on the hills, winter has not done with us yet!
Snow on the hills, winter has not done with us yet!

Winners were U18 Women- Meg James (T-Mo Racing), Super Vets- Gary Allen, Vets- Chris Blackmore (Bike Motion), Senior Women- Cassie Phillips, Senior Men- Charles Jones (Giant Swansea/Tredz), 14-18- Cai Grockott (BPW), Master Women- Rene Stent, Masters- Phil Blackford (BPW), Hardtail- Tom Dunn (Hot Pursuit Cycles/, Elite Women- Tracy Moseley (T-Mo Racing), Elite Men 1st- Rowan Sorrell (BPW/Orange/Mojo) 2nd- Hywel Silvester (Team Skene) 3rd- Niki Whiles (Marin/Stans)

Big well done to Rowan Sorrell, who won overall, after coming back himself from a nasty injury, riding his Orange Alpine 160 on flat pedals and heavy, non- snakeskin tyres, this really shows the skill of this fella, he was ripping and so, so smooth! Also, it was great to see Tracy Moseley there bringing on a group of her young T-Mo Racing riders like a true pro.

Big thanks to Chris and all the Marshalls for putting on such an excellent event to cater for the masses, I personally look forward to the first round of the UK Enduro at Crychan for some proper techy dirt in three weeks; report to follow.

Full Results can be found here.

Words: Jim Buchanan Photos: Doc Ward

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