Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Bearded Man Black Mountains 3 Day

(A Bearded Man Earlier today).


I'd heard loads of really good feedback from last years BM3D so was really keen to sign up for the 2012 edition. With that in mind I looked to prepare as best I could for a weekends racing. In fact my preparation was so efficient that it wasn't until I arrived at the race village just outside Crickhowell that I realised I'd left my kit bag in Bristol. A crazy drive back home ensued and I arrived back at the site with under half an hour to spare to get ready and ride the short prologue route.
                                    Race Village

The prologue was 2 laps of a nice little out-and-back loop with some nice little bits of singletrack and some fast muddy descents. Riding on the adrenanlin of my Bristol-Crickhowell-Bristol-Crickhowell road trip I managed to complete the course in an eyeballs out, back end and front end all over the place style in 38:20 about half a minute behind Matthew Duggan in the singlespeed category.

Stage 1

Day 2 saw the field line up ready to tackle just over 70km and over 2300m of climbing. Actually I hadn’t realised how far and high the route was until after the event. Had I taken the time to read the route description I may have reconsidered riding the event on a singlespeed. Actually I’d have just reconsidered riding the event.

However as much as mine and my fellow riders legs would soon be protesting all 200 of us rolled out behind a police escort towards Crickhowell and some serious climbing. I ended up hanging on to Aiden Harding (Singular) for the day and almost turned myself inside out climbing up the killer climb (for me anyway) of the Hermitage which bisected Mynydd Llysiau and Waun Fach mountains. Although it tends to be the pain induced climbs that remain etched in my mind I feel I would be doing the stage and the event a huge injustice if I didn’t highlight the amazing views and fast techy descents through Wales’ finest singletrack that (climbs aside) were the mainstay of the BM3D.


I managed to finish the day in 4:06:52, the same time as Aiden, and just under a minute down on Matt Duggan (who incidently had missed the start and produced a storming ride to pass nearly the whole field on his way to the finish. He passed me like I was standing still. Which judging by the way I was riding on the day is a fair enough description).

Back at the race village in the Glanusck Estate we all swapped stories of our day over the FREE BEER supplied by one of the many event sponsors Tudor Ales. If the days riding hadn’t won me over the post race drinks had me signing up for 2013 even before 2012 had finished.

Day 2
With a slightly heavy head, and even heavier legs I lined up for Sunday's stage. We'd been told in the briefing that even though this stage was longer it would be 'easier' then yesterday's. I wasn't convinced and told myself I would err on the side of caution and start off steady. So with only a couple of minutes of the stage start I was as suprised as anyone to find myself riding with the front group. I managed to roughly maintain my position until the first big climb of the day. This took us up and above the Tal-y-Bont resevoir which if you took the time to have a look around provided you with once again another amazing view of the Welsh countryside. By this point my memory is a bit of a blur although I do remember a bit of a slog of a road climb followed by a long, long descent which saw me once again attempt, and fail to hold on to Matt Duggan's back wheel. Actually this was a theme that would be present for a large part of the day. I'd seem to be ahead on the climbs only for Matt to bridge across and pass me on the technical descents. None of which helped in my ongoing, and largely futile, efforts to shed my xc 'Jey-boy' image.

Me at the feed

Finally Matt and I arrived at the feed to be told we were somewhere in the top 10. Pretty chuffed with ourselves we set off on the first part of the climb which would lead to the 'Gap Route'. We'd all been told that this would be amongst the highlights of today's ride. Sat at home a couple of days after the ride it's hard to convey what it was about the 'Gap Route' that was so enjoyable though those amongst you who have ridden it will know what I'm getting at, and those of you who haven't I suggest you get out there and ride it, or better still sign up to BM3D 2013.

The only slight dissapointment was to be on the descent when our route was blocked by a huge flock of sheep. I asked the farmer if we could get past, and warned him about the 200-odd riders approaching, and he suggested we do so but to drop down the hill a bit to not spook the sheep. What followed was the farcical seen of around 10 mountainbikers mincing through a hillside of bracken travelling at the same speed as a mocking flock of sheep. Eventually Matt, being a local (sort of) and well versed in the management of sheep rode through the flock. The sheep didn't scare and we got through and off the mountain in one piece.


There then followed a crazy little section which consisted of babies head rocks hidden from view by bracken and brambles. It was the sort of trail section which could have seen the onset of a sense of humor failure. However these events breed a sense of 'we're all in it togetherness' which just saw us laughing the whole way through.

By now I knew I was well in the top 10, but also knew there was around 10 km to go and several geared riders pursuing. Matt had also managed to distance himself from me on the last section so I was left to chase him down luckily with the assistance of another rider. After a couple of km we managed to catch Matt who told me he'd lost his pedal on the climb of the 'Gap'. By now we were all driving hard to get home in as quick a time as possible. After some time I turned and was suprised to see that Matt wasn't there. I did what any decent minded person would do and attacked as hard as I could all the way to the line in a time of 4:09:22 and in 6th place on the day.

After a short while Matt rolled in after his pedal had fallen off once again on the run in to the finish. His time was 4:11:18 which meant I had some how won the singlespeedcategory by 30-odd seconds.

The Black Mountains 3 Day is a great event. It somehow manages to combine the laid back atmosphere of a smaller event with a slick organisation some larger events could learn a lot from.

Photography courtesy of Ed Rollason and Charlotte Knee

Thanks once again to my amazing sponsors:

Niner, Ergon, Stan'sNoTubes, Loco Tuning, Rotor, Geax, Topeak

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