Another year another cracking Dyfi Enduro. This was my 5th anniversary at the Dyfi Enduro. Not being at a computer when the entries went live I had to rely on a mate to press the trigger in speedy time to grab a golden ticket, auto complete anyone?! This surely must be THE most popular mountain bike event in the UK?

In my five attempts at the Dyfi I can't recall a really wet weekend so we were probably due one. The weather came in the night before but the party wasn't dampened, although I managed a couple of beers, these days the riding comes before the partying unfortunately so it was kindle and early to bed. I did manage a good helping of the Norfolk boys legendary paella to top up the carb stores before hitting the hay, although I avoided the late night port and cheese tradition.

Rain lashing down in the night wasn't a good sign and drizzle and gloom were the order of the day. Not enough to dampen anyone's spirits though, this is the Dyfi after all!

With the National Marathon Champs and Gorrick races happening over the same weekend, endurance folk were spread across the country. The Dyfi always attracts some top riders and with Torq's Alex Welburn in attendance there was no doubt a fast time would be set despite the weather. I even spotted someone in full roadie NFTO kit on the lead out and was told it was an ex roadie elite chap, that along with Enduro smasher and GT rider Dan Atherton making an appearance shows the draw the renowned event has now.

Drizzle at the start line always invokes the to wear/not to wear a jacket debate. I went for a lightweight option from the start but where some went for shorts I went for the comfort and warmth of my Tenn Outdoor leg warmers and overshoes which turned out to be well needed!

The route followed a very similar format to previously although a welcome road climb diversion at one point was a relief from the tough and at time slow going conditions. One thing you can guarantee at the Dyfi is proper hard technical rocky climbs and descents. Full sussers do well here! Caution was needed on some of the slatey descents although having Dan Atherton breathing down your neck is a good incentive to let loose.

As for the ride/race itself Alex Welburn launched off the front once the traditional back road lead out led us to the monster fireroad first climb. Groups of riders formed, huddling together out of the conditions. I found myself pretty close to the front and riding reasonably well on the first climb although partner in crime Gareth Hayes snuck in front as we got to the first descent and I never quite got back on terms the whole ride. The soft, sapping fireroad climbs made it slower going than previous years and extra caution was needed on the slippery slate ups and downs. I was constantly adjusting my glasses to either peer over the top or push them up on the fast descents and accept the 50% vision in favour of not getting welsh mud cemented to my eyeballs. Fortunately ESI grips retain their grippyness even when soaked so I managed to hang on through the rough stuff.

The ride involved a lot of back and forth position wise, I was overtaking at couple of people each time on the longer descents with them slowly crawling back and getting me on the climbs. I was inside the top 10 for the first hour of riding before slipping back a little. The real racing for me started in the last 45minutes of riding. There are two major climbs towards the end of the route and I decided to give it full gas on the second to last. Then try to hang on until the end. I was riding within 30 seconds of about 6 riders either in front or behind. I managed to get to the front of all of these on said climb and make a gap on the descent. Unfortunately the second major climb on the long loop was a lot longer than I remembered and I dropped a couple of places back again before regaining on some muddy gulleyed descent in the woods. It was at this point that I had a major attack of cramps and just as I popped out on to the fire track thinking it was downhill to the end, boom, both legs locked out so I practically stopped as the two guys past me again. I had forgotten the very short but steep and cruel final hike up that leads to the (definitely) final descent. Walking might have been quicker at this point but I just about kept the legs turning and had done enough on the downhill section to make enough of a gap back to those behind. A tough ride to the bitter end.

I didn't really have any major expectations going in to the ride as I was just at the end of a three week block of hard training before a rest week. I'd been feeling pretty fatigued earlier in the week so backed the training off a bit more in the last couple of days beforehand for fear of over-doing it. It's the European Solo 24 Champs at Finale Ligure in a few weeks so that being my main early season target has meant lots of 'training through' races. Not targeting every race to do well so far and focusing on the longer term goal has been odd and a little bit demoralising as I haven't really felt 100%. At the sharper end of things I’ve been discovering that staying there just kinda hurts and perhaps you never feel totally at ease. Nevertheless I had a decent ride and continued to improve on my previous years percentage off the winner's time formula for those stato’s out there. At 17th out of those doing the long ride, I even snuck ahead of Dan Atherton which will be the first and only time that will happen I think! I know this is the one you've all been waiting for so here it is...

Massive thanks to all the organisers and super cheery marshall’s despite the gloom and of course the locals who always make the lead out feel like the Grand Depart!

Words - Matt Jones

You can find timing's for the Howies Dyfi Enduro here - Timing