Big Welsh weekender (Sat) – 16th February
The annual Godiva Trailriders ‘big birthday’ ride, this year was at a new centre called Antur Stiniog, in Blaenau Ffestiniog. This place is an old slate mine, part of the LLechwedd Slate Caverns, that has been developed into an uplift based downhill trail centre. With 4 trails, grading Blue (Drafft), Red (Wild Cart), Black (Black Powder) and Black+ (Y Du) it promised to be an interesting day. Add to that, the fact that me and Lump were going to head south to Machynlleth on Saturday night. Stay over, and head to Nant-Yr-Arian, West of Aberystwith and ride the big Syfydrin trail on the Sunday, meant the weekend was looking like a corker!
A 10am first uplift meant a 06:15 start, and as we approached the Welsh border the sunrise was stunning. Lump’s GPS was set to shortest route and had us take some real wierd obscure route, but the views were stunning. We arrived at just gone 9 and were the first of our lot to get there. Into the Antur Stiniog portakabin, to sign in and sign the mandatory disclaimer…. Yes, I know it’s potentially dangerous, Yes, I’m aware I’ll be riding off the side of a mountain, Yes, I’ll wear a helmet, etc, etc, etc and Yes, I agree that the operators of the uplift service cannot be held responsible for and damage to me or my property….
Right, lets get kitted up and get up that bloody mountain! Soon the rest of our crowd were on site, some keen to go, some fannying around, probably a bit nervous. I must admit I was a little apprehensive, but also eager to get on with it.
Soon it was 10, and the bikes were loaded onto the trailers behind the two minibuses. Inside was what can only be described as aromatic! Now I’ve done a few long mountain biking road trips, and the smell that develops in a car after a few days can be quite strong. The combination of sweat, and mud has a distinctive aroma. Inside the minibuses, months of transporting riders up the hill meant the smell was taken to a new strength… especially when you also added in the smell of… FEAR!
The Transit Minibuses turned North onto the A470 and trundled up the hill, working hard to pull 18 riders, a driver a trailer and 18 bikes. If that seemed like hard work, it got tougher as we turned of the road and onto a roughly graded track that climbed steeply around the mountain. I would not buy a second hand Transit off these guys! Soon we were at the top. The grey cloud that we could see from the car park now surrounded us! Everyone headed for the easyest trail the Blue. With about 50m visibility the first run of the day was ‘slow’ to say the least.
Down to the bottom, queue up, load bike, into minibus and back up the hill! Kind of repeat that 8 more times, before lunch! I’d been getting more confident in the Blue run so on the last one before lunch I tried the red… a bit steeper, and a bit more technical…. but I certainly wasn’t out of my depth. In the mean time, bike wise there was carnage going on in the GT clan, some people were having a puncturefest, and Matt even managed to destroy his rear deraillieur. He was lucky, as just as I was about to shut the toolbox I took, I saw a spare rear deraillieur in my spares box and threw it in on the “off chance” . The borrowed spare kept him from spending the rest of the day sitting in the car in a sulk! He owes me several pints for that!
A lunch of Soreen malt loaf, Sports Mixture sweets and some Rice Crispie squares got the energy levels back up, although the break also made me realise what a pounding my legs and arms were taking.
Load bike, into minibus and back up the hill…. by now the cloud was well and truely clearing as the drivers had said it would. I decided to warm back up on the easier Blue trail… It felt terrible, I’d lost my rhythem completely. I seemed to be bouncing off every rock! My legs had cooled down and couldn’t absorb any bumps, so I was bouncing around all over the place. Halfway down I got a mouthful of half digested malt loaf…. Ugghhh! Somehow I got to the bottom, and queued up. I’d worked out I just needed to get warmed up again, so off we went back up.
As I was unloading the bike at the top I heard a familiar rattle…. I’d snapped a spoke in the rear wheel….. damn! The wheel was out of true, but not too bad. I’d put some spare spokes in my tool box too, so that was a relief. I just needed to get the bike down the hill. Looking round, the minibus had gone so there was nothing for it than take it nice and easy to nurse the bike back down.
A quick spoke change and wheel truing session and I was back in the bus. The running about sorting the bike had warmed me up and I was keen to get riding again. Now the top of the mountain was cloud free, and the views were spectacular…. but no time to stand around, there was riding to be done!
Several more runs down both the Red and the Blue followed, and I got to the point where I really didn’t know how many I’d done. I wanted to to do the black run, and intended to do it towards the end of the day. The uplift finished at about 4, and at just about 3.30 I found myself in a bus with several GTers. This was probably going to be my last run, should I do the Black? Everyone had lost count of how many runs we’d done, and we sat in the bus trying to work it out. I somehow came up with 12…. OK, so I’m tired, I’m intending to ride down the hardest trail I’d have been on all day…. and it was run 13….. I’m not normally superstitious, but as we trundled up the gravel track I had a voice in my head saying “Don’t be ‘kin stupid, you’ve not come off and now you’re thinking of upping the ante on run 13!”
Fortunately I listened, and took a nice easy ride down the Blue again, I was tired, and this was my last run…. I came out of the trees at the bottom and there was the now familiar yellow minibus and the driver standing smiling. “Just one more?” “Oh, go on!”
I climbed in and it was just GTers on the bus, as we drove up we decided we’d ride down one after another, but taking it easy. A great way to finish a superb day. A group photo taken by the driver of “the riders that just didn’t know when to stop” and we were off. Back in the car park it was all grins, and “That was superb, we’ve got to come here again”
I’ve no doubt, we will be back!