UK Gravity Enduro Round 3 - Afan Twelve50 Bikes Race Team Report

With weather and scenes surpassing last year’s round 3 at Hamsterley Forest, the Twelve50 Bikes Race Team headed south to Afan for this year’s third round of the UKGE race series.
Al’s injured knee kept him side-lined once more and due to his operation earlier in the year, Rick had no entry and stayed behind to run the shop. Thankfully Rick did tune in and provide constructive criticism via Facebook once the dust had settled. And what dust there was 

The weekend set up begins

Matt And Josh Scoping Lines

Having raced at Afan in sub-zero temperatures in last year’s series, the preconceptions were settled weeks before we arrived. This was going to be a pedal-y, dull, physical and to be honest, tedious affair compared to the white knuckle ride of Inners last month. To be clear; it was pedal-y, and man alive was it physical. This was a big loop in the baking sun. Dull and tedious it was not. The trail centre hard pack was packed HARD and hard meant fast and loose. Add to that the freshly cut stage four, that dropped from the top of the park straight down to the river without compromise, and you had a race that seemed to claim more bikes and bodies than the previous two rounds put together

Nikki looking fit and fast

Girls got skills

Arriving in different vehicles at different times, the team completed the customary Friday full loop in two or three separate groups. Arriving early afternoon with my mate Tim, a slightly pink and glistening Matthew greeted me, having already rode stages one to three. He warned me of the distance I would imminently have to put under my Mavic Crossmax Enduros. He wasn’t understating either.

Matt Enjoying the limelite as always

Cheri loving her carbon Renthal bars this year

Stage one started nearby but was a long one, with a section of fresh loam sandwiched in between two chunks of the trail centre. I knew this one was going to sting on Sunday morning, straight out of the box. Stage two was at the sharp end of an hour and twenty minute transition but to be fair, was worth the travel. Using part of the new Blade trail it was rocky, fast and described by some as a bike wrecker. Stage three came alongside the camping field and finish arena and involved much pedalling, pumping and hopping to maintain speed. The short transition to stage four brought you back to the arena and sharing the start of stage one, quickly split left and dropped you in to steeps that put a few on the edge of their seats. Stage five finished you off, as it were, with a mixture of trail centre, fresh cut and 4X trails. A short table top to longer step down, practically over the finish line, offered entertainment for the spectators. All in all, a good test of any racer. Sunday was going to be interesting.

Our brave little trooper, wounded but not slowing down any

I can see a pattern emerging

These race weekends aren’t all glitz and glamour and this time we had two major factors to contend with. No chef and an abundance of midges. In Des’ absence we fended for ourselves and a Weber BBQ was still put to good use. The midges were dealt with using copious amounts of repellent and smokey fires on the Weber Fire Pit, to varying degrees of success. In the end, those that had the luxury of a van resorted to sealing themselves in for the night.

RM: Rick "Cap't Shitbody" Minshull
RC: Russell Cosh / Coach
RM: Masters
RC: Veterans “during the war…..”
Years Racing
RM: 22 years racing, with the odd sabbatical
RC: 20 with a 17 year lay-off after my first ever race "the Cheddar Challenge" in about 1994
I say "Mass Start" You say....?
RM: "no thanks" - too many weapons trying to wipe you out and I'm dangerous enough on my own!
RC:  Alarma!!  Any race that starts with this MC Mario tune, or any euro techno for that matter gets my vote
I  say "Racing Blind", You say....?
RM: What, with like a white stick attached to the front of your bike and a labrador?
RC: "hell no" I want to spend  a whole day’s worth of energy crafting lines and tactics for race day so that I can completely miss all of them during the race as I clatter my way clumsily through the sections.
Give me one tried and tested race tactic for success
RM: Tried and tested? Drinking until 1am usually does the trick.
RC: A great team manager, coach and ultimately friend to all
would you rather do a full Enduro with dual ply tyres or a full face lid, with no open face lid to switch to? why?

RM: Full face for sure - we're starting to get some speed up on these here #Enduro races
RC: What are dual ply tyres? Matt and Rick tell me what tyres I have to put on. As for the lid, I'll take open face as full face sends me a bit batty (not as in boy)
Favourite bike component, ever.
RM: The Mrs used to have a Tigger horn on the front of her bike. That was pretty rad. Until she fell off and the squeaker stopped working
RC: Onza titanium cantilever brakes, they were the nuts when I got them by nefarious means 20 odd years ago

As Sunday morning rolled in, the sun was up early. Its searing rays offering no mercy. By 9:00 it was already warm in the shade. Vehicles across the arena were covered in a thick layer of dust. This was going to be a hot one, no doubt. Steve and his team sensibly added time to a couple of transitions to allow people to take on extra water. It was a good job we were at a trail centre with running water, or else it could have been a different story altogether. 

Setting off early in Elite Ladies, Cheri was early to return. Too early! Terminal damage to her bike ended her day after stage one so she set about cheering the team on and washing her smalls, ready for the next leg of her trip in to Europe. I was just glad she didn’t seriously hurt herself.  Dave and Matt couldn’t blame their bikes for their variety of crashes, including big ones on stages one and four respectively.  Both bikes came back intact, although they were each nursing different body parts.

Tis but a flesh wound
 Dave finished uncharacteristically, in 36th place and ended up with a badly cut knee and shin. Good job those sexy legs were freshly shaved, eh Dave? It’d have been a nightmare for the medics to dress your wounds otherwise. Matt placed a little higher in 26th, his crashes off set by the fact that so many others over cooked it in the heat too. Nicole continued her run of form, placing first on the steep stage four but unable to quite replicate this speed across all stages, she finished just off the podium in fourth. Qualifying within the upper half of the field and within my target for the year, I maintained a steady pace throughout the day. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and a slice in the rear tire casing on stage three left me fumbling in the heat with a spare tube at the side of the trail. Happy to have finished the race when so many others dropped out, I fell out the back, dead last.

Next stop Dyfi Forest, North Wales. A firm favourite with all. It’d be grand if the sun came with us, but the trails are rad so it’ll be a good one in any case. I’ve heard a rumour that Mr Stock might even be re-joining us.

Thanks once again to the team sponsors, Mavic, Maxxis, Osprey, Renthal, Weber, PowerBar, Fox and Orange


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