My plans for the year were changing but coming along nicely. Last weekend was an interlude to enjoy some mountainbiking in Welsh Wales with a few lads from work. A day at Afan Argoed indulging in a spot of cross country (pedalling up the hills and around the tops before enjoying the well earned descents, in basic terms. Normal off road cycling.) followed by a day at CwmCarn where an uplift ticket had been purchased to allow a spot of downhill (basically using a van to travel a mile up a hill to allow a pedal-less experience in plumetting down a pre-made course as rapidly as possible as many times in the day as considered decent).
Setting off at 4.30 Friday morning saw me arrive at the trail centre in good time to assemble my bike and enjoy a cup of strong coffee before the boys who’d arrived the day before met me for us to set off.
Now the others all being young and full of enthusiasm the ride went along the line of 5 idiots setting off shouting “ready” in sequence before pedalling away, much banter about how the climbs were wearing on, much grinding and gnashing of teeth (including mine, it should be said!) about how Mark was so unfit, so hungover and so incapable at riding that he wasn’t going to get much out of the day except to slow us considerably! But plenty of stops saw us reach the first downhill bit where I threw out the challenge to the others that we were to adopt a no pedalling, no braking policy. It seemed to fall on deaf ears as I eased away from the others by staying smooth and loving the rolling, rocky then smooth, predicatable then tricky descent. Mark, predictably enough, said it was a bit short, a bit steep, a bit rough and not what he hoped for. A nasty climb past a wind farm then saw another ace spot of fun. Through woods this time, a made trail of shale between timbers meant I had to dab the brakes a few times where roll-outs weren’t available but generally it was superb and again made the next climb worthwhile. Apparently Mark found it a bit tricky, the surface too lose and the drops a bit large…can’t say I noticed them and the shouts of joy from the other 3 matched my hollers of “Lush” (particular fun bits) and “Cock” (each time I braked) and “Chain” (each time I pedalled). But boy did the climb go on.
A diversion to the normal trail, it went on.
Up an exposed fireroad.
The top saw a bit of advice sought from a local before the best descent of the day. It’s called the Skyline Descent and it is to be recommended. A mix of rocks, roots, smooth hard-packed mud, drops, waterfalls, everything a trail can be for around 2 miles of descent, averaging 19.8mph on my Garmin. Following Dave through the lot for a change (we were well matched for speed and ability on this type of terrain – his pedalling made up for my lack of braking perfectly), he had a collision with a rock that split his chain (a quick repair after a shout of “Chain” to let the others know!) and a root that made him exit his bike “via the front doors” (landing on a rare soft bit of hedge!) and finishing with a set of 2 foot step-downs through water that forced smoothness and made me want a helmet all of a sudden!
A great ride…shame Mark thought it was too hard on his brake hands, too steep, too big…nothing suited him. I think he needs to stick to cars.
Which lead to day two at CwmCarn. A hiccup first thing when tightening my wheels saw my front axle snap (glad it wasn’t last thing Saturday!) before my first run of the day which was a cautious affair following the others to see how the course was.
Gorgeous was the answer. It’s a great downhill track with nothing too big to roll if you don’t want to but massive opportunity for air/drops/scares if you wish to hit things hard. So first run I caught Liam and waited for him to get away again, having a chat to Steve as I did so before having a hiccup when mis-reading a hairpin and nearly t-boning him. “Crash” was shouted…alerting the photographer that I needed a photo. Which he took. Bugger!
Run two was more flowing and fun. I hit the bigger side of the drops, dropped over the road gap slowly after Dave had flown it previous run, landing so far down the hill he used the bushes as a brake at the bottom, and loved the outing. 3rd run saw more speed, more flow and a hard launch of the gap to hit the tiny gully at the bottom at the right angle, giving me loads of speed for the next section.
Lots of crashes were befalling the others (and punctures…3 for Chris until we sorted his rear shock) but I was rolling through well within my abilities. Oops.
Next run was the one where all sections came together. I wasn’t fast compared to the other serious downhillers with massive suspension and full body armour but all but the lines clicked. Overrunning the entry to the road drop allowed speed to be maintained and the bottom (albeit small) berm to slingshot me into the next right hander. It felt ace. A superb rear wheel-locked slide into the bridge entry near the bottom felt ace. I was loving the day.
But Ben and Liam wouldn’t drop the road section, taking the side run each time. So I lead them down and stopped them before it to try and show them how easy it could be. They’re well able to do it, so I showed how easy it was to drop in and roll out, hoping they’d follow. Unfortunately I also wanted to hit the next bend as hard as before.
So I straighlined the descent to gain speed…and messed up my line for the corner and the small berm…and flew out of the top of the berm…and had the bike lead me into a fence…and didn’t quite get rid of the bike…and ended up with a fence pole right in my chest.
Laying there shouting “Crash”, followed by Ben and Liam asking if I was ok illicited and answer along the lines of “I’m breathing”. I felt bad.
A system check revealed a very painful chest. A few prods allowed me to convince myself I was just winded despite the surging stabs of pain that accompanied them so, before I could decide otherwise, I begged them to try the drop, saw them refuse, so flowed down the rest of the track to the bottom to see if the others were waiting.
They weren’t, but a van was. So, being stupid, I climbed on, thinking I’d see how bad I felt at the top. Ah.
Still…only one way down. And loads of adrenaline along with a few boys who wanted to follow me (my protestations that I didn’t know where I’d have to stop were ignored!) so they didn’t hold me up saw my smoothest run yet. It had to be…I was, to be fair, in a world of pain but loving the drops!
Every big line was used, the road drop was hit again to make sure it wasn’t going to worry me for years…all I sacrificed were the jumps at the bottom where I checked my back brake on entry to keep the wheels low, level, smooth but probably as fast as when hit high. Shame that’s the run the photographer got me again! Still, at least I look smooth.
And this run all the others were at the bottom. And somehow I talked myself into another run. Chasing was fun again. Dave had another off but his line through the big berm at the bottom was hilarious! He was fuming at nearly falling just before it and losing his flow and speed (hence why I was an inch from his wheel) and he went right up the side, pulling back on the bars to manual (a wheely with no pedalling) all the way around. Fantastic!
Unfortunately, by now, I couldn’t do any more. Still better than Mark, who didn’t even get his bike out!
I simply broke my bike down, packed it up, headed for the accmodation, showered and joined in for a subdued pint and a meal (Chinese in Wales…to be recommended!) before aching for the rest of the evening!
An uncomfortable night lead to a sore morning; a late arising, some of the boys heading for a cross-country loop, us others popping into Cardiff for a look at it, a bit of lunch and then the drive home.
Where my ribs came into their own.
Unfortunately I have in fact broken them. I can now breathe properly (couldn’t walk without hurtng on each intake of air until Wednesday) at normal activity levels and can raise my arms and go about life almost normally. But I can’t pull doors open; steering the car is a left handed affair. An outing for a paper on the bike today revealed I still can’t get puffed out or breathing hurts. Sleeping is ok…getting up is impossible. I can’t sit straight up (stomach muscle usage brings a world of pain); I can’t roll out of bed (Cathy won’t swap sides and I can’t roll over them!), so a shuffle until I fall off the edge is all I can manage. It’s like being 300 years old, I swear!
So Juneathon is a little on hold.
I’ll do all I can when I can but, really, recovery is the focus now. Shame I’ll miss Crisis and the Hamstreet 10k as a minimum of hoped-for events.
But at least the weekend was the best for years. And we might well have a further go nearer the autumn.
But with fewer broken bits.