This has become two very expensive days out on my bike!
The last time I did the Welsh was in 2005, so quite a while ago really. The miles of road work put me off doing it again so when some of the lads at the club decided they were going to do it this year it was a case of "why not? it's been a while".
The online entry was real easy to do and even the facility to ride with or near your friends worked so it was all looking good. I entered early this year and boy did it come round soon! This year really does seem to be flying by. When the rider list finally appeared we were all together apart from Si who was 8 minutes ahead. With the slack road checks we knew we'd be seeing him plenty at the checks and fuel stops so that was good.
The Welsh is an odd event in that you have to have someone fueling for you. There are three fuel stops and unless you've got a oversize tank you need them. Although we had helpers coming down with us it was decided to use Jock for the refueling. You pay your money and he's there with your fuel, water and food.
I drove down on the Tuesday night to make sure I could park with the others. When I arrived it was pretty quiet and Heather, Andy and Andy has got the best spot, right by the start. After a bit of liquid refreshment in the camper it was off to bed.
All that was planned for today was this: Get the fuel to Jock. Put the bike in Parc Ferme. Walk the tests. Chill out. Not a big list by any stretch of the imagination. When you signed on you get a larger sticker with your number on it. Whilst fitting it to my bike Andy pointed out the oil on the floor by the front wheel! After a bit of a clean with a feeler guage that minor problem was sorted out, thankfully!! The rest of the day went to plan and by bed time I was fed, watered and ready for the off.
My start time for the day was 10:08 with Matt on my minute, one Andy in front and the other behind. Wheeling my bike down to the start I wondered if there'd be a repeat of the Langdale and it'd be reluctant to start. The simple answer is very bloody nearly! It took a good ten or so kicks to fire it up but at least it was running. Riding over the 20metre line I pulled over and warmed it up a touch.
Now the Welsh is a big event and if I was to give you a full report you'd be here for some time reading, and me even longer writing! So I'll condense it all a bit.
A few miles up the road is the first test at Church Farm. Very muddy, very slippery and fell off once. The sportsmen were stopped from doing this test as they were killing it and couldn't get round. I did ok though so off we went to the next test. This test too was very wet, muddy and slippery. Again I got round without any problems so the day was going well. The middle section of the day was just miles of tracks, lanes, forest roads, public roads all racking up the miles. Most of the checks are easy on time but we knew the Abbey check was tight. All in the forest with some nasty snotty going only a small number of people cleaned it, all our group lost just three minutes here which was pretty good going.
More road work and tracks and it's the third test at Abbey Cwm Hir. A nice open test on a hillside this one, great for watching. Pretty muddy but not as bad as the others I did ok and passed the rider in front. After this it was back into the forest for more off road going. After the recent rain everywhere was pretty wet and as we'd done Strata Florida earlier in the day we were all well soaked. I'm pretty sure it'd been raining at some point too but seeing as I was already soaked it didn't really make any difference. As we left the test the first hill was blocked. Just one deep rut and people not hitting it fast enough to get through. After pulling the rider in front of me through I carried on having only been stuck there five or six minutes. This hill was cut out shortly afterwards and time penalties not counted. All that was left now was the final two checks and another test at Church Farm. I was sure it'd not be in as it was so trashed in the morning and we'd had rain since then. Plus it was supposed to be used again tomorrow. But I was wrong and in it was. Slithering around, sometimes pointing in the right direction, it was my worst test and I knew it.
When we got back to the start area we had twenty minutes to check the bikes and do any work. Now only half an hour into the day my exhaust had broken at a weld. Poor fitment (not by me) had stressed it and a clean break was the result. The bike was running fine if just noisy. I couldn't fix it so decided I'd look in the morning after starting. My rear wheel bearings had started to go as well. Hmmm, not a happy camper.
The overnight rain just kept coming. Although it'd eased by morning it was still coming down. After the reluctant start on Thursday morning I was wondering how it'd fare after being sat in the rain covered in mud all night. First kick it fires up, go figure. I knew I'd have to nurse the bike a bit with the bearing on it's way out but did try to bodge the exhaust. It worked a treat for the first two miles but was back to how it had been by the time we hit the first off road bit. Day two is in reverse with changes here and there where the course doesn't work going the other way. I was going alright and enjoying the riding. Riding with Matt on the same minute was good fun and we had a laugh. Despite the road work there's a lot of off road. Some long sections purely made of forest road but it wasn't as bad as I remembered. Strata Florida had been cut out as the river crossing's were just to deep. A long road section took us to the fuel stop. We managed to drop two minutes here as we were too busy eating Welsh cakes and chatting. Oh well, we were never going to win anyway but it did piss me off a bit.
By early afternoon we were on a long check and pretty spread out. A rider passed me and we both ended up in a bit of a hole. After getting out I set off only for the bike to die. I tried the ususal stuff but ended up having to push it out of the forest. Fortunately there was a forest road which was downhill where I emerged fromthe trees. Bumping the bike it fired up but didn't sound good, after a few seconds the noise and smoke went but I'd already decided to call it a day. Trundling along I got to the check and handed my card in. I had to follow the course which was mainly road back anyway, so with a bit of encouragement from the marshal took my card back a carried on. Sure enough it was easy tracks and road with only the final test being true off road on my way back. Though I did manage to flood my bike in the only river crossing left. Not the only one busily kicking away on the far bank it finally got going again. My final test was a bit of a shambles, just getting round was my aim. I fell twice but got round without breaking anything and rode back to finish. A poor end to a frustrating day.
Despite my bad Friday I got a finish and wasn't last! The bike however took a bit of a beating. The exhaust is now welded up but cost £40. My new tyres look very used. The engines out as it's making a funny noise. I've ground the life out of my new chain and sprockets. An awful lot of additional expense for two days riding. Would I do it again? I reckon so but with a few extra bits taken and I'd save some money for it to soften the blow when it finally comes around. I must have spent £100 in fuel alone.
I've yet to see what the outcome of the engine strip is but I'll have been paid by then so it's coming out of next months money.
The other guys all did alright. Si was too knackered after day one and didn't ride the second day. All the others finished and had good results. If it hadn't been for my problems I'd have had a great time, for me they just cast a cloud over the event but then that's racing for you. Gotta take the rough with the smooth.