Anything 4 A Ride MTB Club / Race Team
Merida Marathon Crickhowell 50km
   Paul and Graeme up for this one. We thought it would be a good training event for Trans Wales. Back down the M4 again, this time to Crickhowell, just up the road form Abergaveny. We’ve ridden this near this area a couple of times before, but were unsure how the course would be. Up bright and early on the Saturday morning
to get there nice and early to get a good camping spot and do some cycling.
Paul Report:
   The Merida Marathon Series was a new one for me but Graeme had done a couple. An early start of 0500 and off to South Wales. We arrived around 9 and got the tent and kit sorted and had a look around. We were planning to go for a ride, do a skills session and then some drinking. The rain started so we moved into the tent and opened a beer when Graeme pointed out it was only still 1100!! We only had the one before going down to Cycleactive’s skills session and as we were the only 2 there is was all most a private lesson. We did some brakeing control, and manual skills which were actually an eye opener after thinking “Well what can they teach us we don’t already know?”. After the skills course the rain really set in with what appeared to be 30min heavy showers followed by 30mins of sunshine! Strange. After lots of discussion on tyre choice we decided to see what it was like in the morning. We opened the rest of our beers and if you ever see Graeme ask him why he now doesn’t like tinned fruit cocktail!!

   We woke up around 0800 Sunday morning and it was chucking it down, full mud tyres were the order of the day and full waterproofs! As we lined up at the start the rain stopped and the sun came out, maybe this wasn’t going to be too bad? The marathon started with a long road section, Graeme’s plan was to pass as many people along here as possible, and it killed me! By the first off road climb I was dead, a bad start for me!! Then of cause as I was feeling low along comes the rain! As we reached the first proper down me a Graeme didn’t stop and the top and went for it. I was just getting into it when I looked up and thought, “Ohh, that doesn’t look good?” Graeme had just high sided and was rolling off the course, he picked himself up and all seemed okay and off we went. The down was wicked, passed loads of people and just let the bike get on with it! The rest of the race was very cold and very wet with rivers of mud at times flowing down the course. Towards the end it was taking all I had to keep going until we came to another down, Graeme was waiting for me and I decided to really just let it go and see what happened, I flew down and even taking some small drops on the way! That’s the way to cheer yourself up! Wicked!

   I was so pleased to finish and get my t-shirt, and I even got a bike tool as a spot prize. We went straight for the showers, had a bit to eat, packed up and went home! All in all another wicked weekend, roll on the next one! A Big thanks to Graeme who kept waiting for me and egging me on despite wanting to go a lot faster!! Cheers I owe you a beer!

Graeme Report:
   We arrived and got the tent setup quickly in between showers, 1st outing for the BioSpace since it collapsed in the snow in the Lake District. As tradition dictates we cracked open a quick beer after the tent was setup, then went up to register and have a look around the main arena. We decided to try the CycleActive skill school just to see what its like. It was quite an eye opener as we tried breaking and manualing techniques. It was also deemed that my saddle was a tad to high, so I lowered it. This was really good as the next day on the 50km I didn’t get any saddle soreness as I was in the correct position. The hour we had was great and we also got a free Polar Buff just for turning up, bonus. After this as the rain was just on and off, so we decided to head to the offey, get some more supplies and sit back for the afternoon, til the evenings pasta party. Whilst there I read up on the Neoguard and decided it was just what I needed, so we visited there stool and picked one up.

   Morning came round and it was chucking it down. Full mud tyres were the way to go, so it was out with the trusty old Michelin XCR Muds (their 1st outing since Early Dawes). I borrowed Paul’s waterproof trousers and gaffer taped up the leg so it was out of the way of the chain. Merino long sleeve top and my waterproof top was the way to go, however on the start line the sun came out and it started to get hot. We got underway for the 1st section on the road which seemed to go on for ages, so much so we had a quick debag and lost the waterproof trousers. Paul had been suffering a bit of Man Flu the week before, so we took it easy. When we finally got off road there was a long climb up to about 620m along a bridle path. It was pretty easy going, however it had a switch back near the end which almost everyone decided to get off and walk at. It was doable and I managed it, with almost everyone moving to the side to let me past, apart from one guy who just refused to move, even though it says in the rules “If you struggle with a climb or a downhill in one of the MTB marathons and you have to get off please clear the trail straight away so that riders behind you can keep going”. Once past I had a nice clear route to the top, although I had to dab once.

   I waited for Paul at the top then we were into the Downhill section. I took this a bit to quickly after seeing the photographer. I ended up with my back wheel slipping into a rut and not enough grip for the front to get into the same rut, thus the bike went sideways and I high sided flipping the bike and myself down the side of the hill, whoops. Oh well, bit of a sprain to the wrist but nowt else damaged, luckily. We proceeded down the hill to the 1st Feed Station. They had free High5 Energy Bars which were really nice, after falling down a cattle grid and grazing my leg we jumped back on it and before we knew it were at the next feed station. Another quick bar and it was a long slog in slippy deep mud to the bottom of the next climb. It was quite fun though at speed with the bike being very unpredictable, thus I had a couple of excursions into the under growth. I waited for Paul at the next climb as he was having probs with chain suck. However on the next climb it was so cold and raining so hard I had to plod on to the top and wait just to keep warm. I was drenched through and cold, so much for merino being “warm even when wet”. I waited at the top and we then went down to the last feed station. There was a rocky downhill before this which loads of people again walked, but I managed to clear, albeit with more luck than judgement. We didn’t bother stopping so carried on.
   Bit of a trek on the road then the last off road climb, please just move to the side of the trail if your walking your bike!!! We saw a guy getting put into the back of an ambulance with what looked like a nasty injury on the very last down hill section, unsmoove! We came back into Glanusk Estate and crossed the finish line in just over 4 hours.
   The event was great and the camaraderie of everyone was brilliant. The course was so wet and muddy it was just funny. The organisers done a great job and we will definitely be doing some more Merida’s in future. Let’s just hope Trans Wales won’t be that wet!
Race Time
Graeme Spreadbury
Paul Plowman