Rob “Box” Cooksley wins round #2 at a wet and windy Coed Y Brenin, North Wales.
Fetish bikes UK Gravity Enduro
RD2, Coed Y Brenin
28/29th April 2012
Words: Aidan Bishop
Photos: Barbara Sztyk
With the recent deluge of April showers saturating the country, the 2nd round of the Gravity Enduro series looked to be incredibly lucky if it wasn’t to be a wet one. Coed Y Brenin was the venue for it, one of the oldest and most established trail centres going, I for one was looking forward to sampling its wares as I have never been yet heard plenty about it.
So the journey to north Wales was made and fingers were crossed that by some miracle we might just not have to ride and race in the rain! I (and everyone else no doubt!) was pleasantly surprised to be in the presence of some sunshine throughout the day and largely dry trails, whatever the weather did on race day, at least we didn’t have to endure two days of cold and wet riding. Same format as always, seeding run on what would be stage 5 gridded everybody for Sunday’s race and counted towards your overall time, so no one could afford to hold back.
Aidan Bishop on Saturdays dry seeding run.
The centre certainly lived up to its reputation in my mind, a very polished and impressive layout, all trails clearly signposted and well maintained, it was going to be a good day in the saddle. The stages turned out to be requiring some serious strength and fitness if you wanted to be on the podium here, many 5 minutes plus so judging your sprinting effort would be key, it looked like I would be putting the switchable travel feature of my Jekyll to full use here.
Stage 1 started well, flowing nicely. Had a couple of rocky and tricky climbs in it that would have you dabbing if you weren’t on the ball, and went on long enough to really tire you out, as an opener this was tough and the 4 minute mark was the target to lead the pack.
Stage 2. Plenty of tree stumps to avoid from the start with some rocks mixed in for good measure. Out onto fireroad for a long time, reminiscent of downhill racing of the 90’s. Rolling pretty fast onto rocky singletrack again then starting to point down through some rocky trails which were rough but fun and could have caught you out easily if you weren’t careful. Breaking 4 minutes and you’re flying.
Stage 3. The long one! Over 7 minutes of effort here. Starting out with some flowing stoney trail before following along a lengthy section of fireroad again. Turn right and up a short climb and along more trail before joining a section of trail paved by continuous rock slabs, an impressive amount of work must have gone into creating these sections. Cross another road and you still weren’t done, already beyond most people’s limits and you had to hold on down more singletrack strewn with rocks and roots to the finish, a real test of fitness was required to nail this stage.
Some fun trails were taken in on the transition stages, even in the rain!
Stage 4. A long transition stage got you to the top where the start was undulating rocky trail where it was important to be smooth and keep momentum. You then joined a gravel coated man made berm, table top and roller section before a tight hairpin welcomed you to a singletrack section made up of consistent corner after corner. Out of here onto another fireroad, across a bridge and a proper uphill faced you, too long to sprint out of the saddle so a constant effort up here and try to maintain the effort over the top and keep it going until it started to point down again. It did this in nice style, following a trail down the side of the hill with rock drop offs all the way down and some high speeds if you had the nerve before a couple of hairpin turns and finish. Close to 5 minutes was very fast here.
Stage 5. After a long but fun transition stage along some great section of trails including, ‘lurch’ and ‘uncle fester’ you arrived at the start of the final stage, which was familiar to everyone from Saturday’s seeding. A nice flowing established trail before a fresh taped section of very muddy and subsequently very tough part before a painful sticky pedal along the edge of an access road before the loop was completed. Sub 3 minutes was good here and plenty of close time gaps were seen.
Seeding time and everybody made their way to the start line. In the elite field it seemed a few Scottish names weren’t in attendance, like Crawford Carrick Anderson, Gary Forrest, Chris Buchan and James Shirley to name a few. Alex Rafferty threw down the power to set the fastest time with a 2:30 with the next 10 riders or so being separated by the next ten seconds, I had ridden to a satisfying 4th place so was happy.
Neil Donoghue in seeding, consistency makes him an overall contender.
Sunday, race day and sure enough the forecast was correct and it was wet and windy, time to fix the Neoguard and every bit of wet weather gear you had, so most layered up on clothing, packed extras and headed out on their loop.
First stage and I think everyone was glad to get racing to keep warm! I nearly overdid it on one of the first corners getting used to the wet conditions but stayed on track, cleaned the tricky climbs and crossed the line, checking behind me for one of the Shucksmith brothers, the elder Phil seemed to have gained time on me and my 20 second man in front, Neil Donoghue stayed out of sight so I felt I had lost time here.
Stage 2 was a tough effort down the fireroad into the wind and rain, but finishing cleanly I checked the gap behind which had opened up, to Phil Shucksmiths misfortune he flatted. Rafferty came through strong. Everyone very wet and very cold waiting for their start on the monster stage 3. An unusual sighting of 12hr/24hr enduro specialist Matt Page was seen here keeping warm up and down the road before the line. I set off, keeping a good rhythm. Onto the fireroad it was head down and battle through the wind and rain again, toward the end I could see Neil in front, this was a positive sign for me, I kept a good rhythm along the paved rocks and drew closer to finish not far behind him, this put me in a positive mindset for the remaining stages.
‘Box’ rode his 29er to victory, will others follow?
The loop crossed back past the trail centre toward stages 4 and 5 here so most took this opportunity to change into some dry clothes or gloves if they could. Arriving at stage 4 and there seemed little queue, we then discovered many riders couldn’t face the wet and cold any longer and hadn’t showed for their starts so we were able to go when we wanted to, result!
A near moment of going over the bars on the beginning rocks but keeping together and spinning up the climb before descending to the finish and it was one more stage to go before that holy hot shower that awaited me!
A good ride and chinwag with the aforementioned Mr Page on this transition about the various disciplines of our sport and the debate on wheels sizes and we lined up with the rest of the elite field who seemed to regroup for the final stage. The final stage came and went fast, the final muddy section before dropping onto the pedal to the finish caught me out this time and had me on the floor, I scrambled back to my feet and on the bike for the final pedal to the line. Elated that I could now go and get a hot shower and warm up again!!
T-Mo feeling the cold, a puncture on stage 4 put her out of contention today.
The rain didn’t let up after the race, so no surprises that most people were on their journey home by the time podium presentations were held. A number of people were huddled out of the rain checking the timing screen and speculating who had won, but it only showed individual run times and not the overall result. Judging roughly it appeared it would be close between Rob ‘Box’ Cooksley (opting to run a 29er Intense bike) and fastest in seeding Alex Rafferty.
A small crowd gathered under the sign on tent for the results, I had finished 4th in Elites and overall, so a pretty solid result which should help me climb the overall rankings. Results are as follows:
1st Rob Cooksley
2nd Alex Rafferty
3rd Ralph Jones
1st Helen Gaskell
2nd Sarah Newman
3rd Anja Rees-Jones
1st Sam Flanagan
2nd David Mirfield
3rd Christopher Keeble-Smith
1st Matthew Pritchard
2nd Andrew Devine
3rd James Richards
Elite top three, Rafferty, Cooksley, Jones
1st Richy Lewis
2nd Peter Roberts
3rd Marcus Jones
1st Rob Cooksley
2nd Alex Rafferty
3rd Ralph Jones
4th Aidan Bishop
5th Neil Donoghue
Next round is at the end of May up in Hamsterly forest and is filling up fast by the looks of it. Fingers crossed for better weather there, but I’m looking forward to it either way. Big thanks to Cannondale, Mavic, RRP, CrankBrothers, Giro, Gopro, 661 and Maxxis for their on going support.