Long time rider but fairly new to competitive racing, Kath Ronchetti, steps out of her comfort zone and decides to enter round one of the UK Gravity Enduro at Afan, South Wales.

Words: Kath Ronchetti

Photos: Barry Armchair

OK, so my first downhill race done (Forest of Dean Mini DH), I had already soiled my pants doing that and the clear up wasn’t too bad at all, well I actually had a pretty good time. So next on the list was Enduro. The concept of an Enduro race has always appealed to me more than downhill as it you have more ‘on bike’ time and it just seems less intimidating.

Kath stopping the clock at the finish of stage one.

First off I needed to know what I was letting myself in for. So an ideal opportunity came up when Diva Descent put on a girls only Enduro race at Hamsterley Forest with coaching from none other than Tracy Moseley and Helen Gaskell. I have to put in here before I go any further that this was very much a decision made between friends. Back last year I went on one of the most amazing holidays of my life, a week’s coaching with Tracey Moseley in Switzerland at Bike Verbier. During this week I met five other girls from all over the country and we were all inspired to say the least about riding bikes but we were also all keen to dip our five tens into the unchartered territory of racing. So zoom six months forward and we’re all Face-Twitting like a good-un telling each other to grab a place on the Diva Enduro weekend. End result we all had a blast on the bikes, some of us got a podium (not me btw!), and we all had an insight into what was involved in an Enduro race. Result, thanks Diva!

Next let’s try the real deal. OK mmm let’s start small shall we? Oh no sod it lets enter a UK National race.

So here it was the 1st round of the UK Gravity Enduro series held at Afan, South Wales. I was comforted by the fact that my good friends were going to be there but I still had the shits err…sorry the jitters. Not enough training, I’m going to be the last one down, they would have all packed up by the time I finish, this is going to be painful. I’ve just bought ten energy gels and found out that I don’t even like energy gels. I don’t want to do this! Why can’t I be satisfied with a quiet life and not put myself through these ‘challenges’?! Well I’m glad I do...

Afan collage

You have probably read the race reports, but I think it’s fair to say that it wasn’t the easiest of courses in that it asked a lot of your legs, plus Wales did what it does best and co-hooned it down with the wet stuff a few days before and then decided to freeze. Perfect. So some of the freshly cut tracks suffered a bit (well a lot) and a mud bath is putting it lightly! However, we girls didn’t let it dampen our spirits; we had a job to do, to complete the thing at least. There was a relatively good turnout for the non-elite ladies, 16 of us altogether and we all soon got chatting and new friends were made. I didn’t once feel intimidated, yes nervous but everybody was and we all encouraged and supported each other. The transitions to each of the stages actually made for good chitchat time (well the first few anyway, by the last one I admit I was more ‘internally focused’!) but also they provided an opportunity to pedal away those jittery thoughts.

The five timed stages were a mix of being super fun fast, lung busting and well stage four was just ‘character building’. I have found being against the clock brings the extra out of you. You push harder, you go faster, and you go down things that you wouldn’t normally perhaps because your racer instinct comes out. I think this brings on your confidence, it certainly has mine, because you realise you can get yourself out of your comfort zone, survive and feel good about it. OK I was huffing and puffing at the bottom of the stages (must train more for next one) but I had a whacking great big grin on my face too.

My summary of Enduro? I loved it, once the nerves had subsided (which are to be expected). You’re doing the thing you love, riding your bike in a new place with your mates beside you, then combine that with an opportunity to race each other makes for a pretty rad weekend.

Stage 5 drops you onto the Afan 4X track and into the finish arena.

I must learn from these experiences as despite all my doubts about myself and my abilities I did what I came out to do. To complete it in one piece and finish when the burger van was still serving at least. And I did both. Yes, I was tired by the last stage and I know I have some fitness to work on for the next one, but I had such a great time over the whole weekend. I rode bikes with my mates, made some new friends, had a giggle, had to dig deep (emotionally), pushed myself endurance and skill wise, gained confidence, battled with not so ideal conditions and came out the other end with a smile on my face. I seriously felt like crying (in happy way) at the end just because I did it (and maybe because of slight fatigue too!!).

A good turn out for the girls at Afan
It wasn't about the results this time, it was all about the achievement.

All of us came away having achieved something and had a great time whilst doing it too. We’re currently pricing up flights to Edinburgh to see if it’s feasible to go to the 2nd round in Innerleithen so that must say something! Even if I don’t make it up there I’m definitely up for another and shall very much look forward to it.