Battle On The Beach #BOTH17
BattleOnTheBeach Via BikeParkWales
“Willy Waver”, “Sixtapod”, “BlueBelle” and “Popty Ping” all words that I would experience during my first trip to BikeParkWales in Methyr Tydfil where the squad of 6 Stadium Riders mountain bikers would fill their day with fast flowing downhill trails.
Saul, Claire, Stephen, Aaron, Ed and myself would be the ones who would climb to the top of the downhill sections 4 times each ascending 1,000 feet and then feeling like kids with massive smiles on our faces whist riding back down and every time trying to perfect our line and balance.
I loved the singletrack climb to the top weaving in and out of the forest with a steady climb with no one else around, as others would be using the van lift. This meant the trails were very quiet even though the car park was busy.
After lunch we had another run to the top and picked our favourite line which was the “Sixtapod” as we now needed to head to Pembrey for the BattleOnTheBeach.
We arrived in Pembrey and quickly checked in to the campsite and found a spot, which would be our base for Saturday night.
The Stadium Riders gazebo was erected in quick time and everything including the tent was all set up.
BattleOnTheBeach consisted of a 2-stage event – Saturday evening BattleInTheDark 10km blast along the beach with some gravel and singletrack – with very little climbing you go as fast as you can.
The time of this was as soon as it got dark which was at about 7.15pm.
We all set off in 10-second intervals hitting the soft sand straight away. In the dark it made it that bit more difficult especially when it was my first time.
You quickly hit the hard packed sand and your flying for the next 3-4 miles especially if you decide to run a geared bike. Unfortunately for me running 30-18t Singlespeed Fatbike it would not be the fastest as would be proven on Sunday.
Anyway I went out as hard as my legs could spin me on such low gearing and made it to the end of the beach gasping for oxygen.
The rest of the trail would be a mix of singletrack, gravel road and more sandy trails.
The last climb had me pushing down on the gear that forced the singlespeed tension to loosen and the chain to drop on the climb. I pulled over to the side and put the chain back on and rode on knowing the finish line was near. The chain dropped again so I ran the last 100 metres and managed to get over the line in 34 minutes.
I enjoyed the BattleInTheDark and would recommend it.
As we all got back to camp we laughed and joked about the day and the fun we had at BikeParkWales and BattleInTheDark. The word awesome is sometimes overused but today it was awesome.
The temperature fell quickly on Saturday and Saul had the cooker going with pasta and vegetable sauce. We were ready for this and I was ready for a lie down having enjoyed the day. The tent would be my home for the night and a comfortable bed it was too.
The BattleOnTheBeach would commence at 12noon and the riders would make their way down to the beach. Me, Ed and Aaron went for a spin in the morning down to the beach and took some photos. We headed further down the beach to find that the trail was closed so we headed back aware that we needed to get back to base and sort food etc. as we were getting close to the start time. On our return I bumped into Team JMC and I wished them luck for the event.
Stadium riders grouped together for an official photo by Stephen Smith and we made our way down to the start line.
Ed was “seeded” having done well last year so he was able to get to the front of the riders.
The rest of us were somewhere in the middle just enjoying the occasion.
The horn blasted through the warm Welsh air and absolute carnage ensued. People were falling off their bikes onto the sand and some were even falling on top of each other. Saul and I ran the first 100 meter distance and were soon pedaling on the hard packed sand. I never saw Saul again as he was off with his 34-15t set up.
I could feel myself spinning and spinning at an average 15mph but no more than that. It was going to be a high intensity work out on every lap for 4 miles of the 8 mile course.
I was knackered by the time I reached the turn off at the MOD gates.
The trails turned to thick sand, which the fatbike rolled over with ease whilst the skinny wheels were struggling.
From then on it was gravel, grass, singletrack and more sand.
I kept going having completed the first lap in 56 minutes and now the gaps had opened up and riders were spread out. I got lapped by the Dutch winners and Ed (singlespeed winner) who were flying flat out.
The second lap was 54 minutes and the last lap 49 minutes, which got me back to the finish line at 2.45pm.
It was an impressive event and unique in its approach with the amount of sand you get to ride on. I wouldn’t do it again on the same setup as 30-18t was a spin fest and the effort you put in to try and get the speed blows your heart rate off the scale.
I would however like to give it a go on a geared bike next year so roll on 2018.
A big thank you to my friend Saul Muldoon for the planning and the invite to the event.
I just can’t wait to do it all again.
Pics of me are by Ed Wolstenholme and Stephen Smith