CRC MTB Marathon, Crickhowell 2013
This was the second year in a row that We’d done this event and once again it proved to be a hit, mainly because of the weekend of free camping in Wales that comes along with it.
The MTB Marathon on the Saturday didn’t start until 10am so we had a relaxed morning before lining up with the other riders.
I hadn’t been on a mountain bike properly for ages. In fact, we worked it out and other than one little outing at ClimachX and a ride or two with the Scouts it was probably this time last year at this very event. I was likely to be feeling a little rusty therefore and had opted once again for the middle distance 50km event rather than the shorter 30km that Brad and Pete were doing, or the longer 75km event on offer. I was doing the Road Sportive tomorrow as well after all and had had a busy week thanks to trying to cram in all of my training into the weekdays.
Needless to say, the event isn’t supposed to be a race and I certainly wouldn’t be racing, neither would Jay, Brad or Mike. We started close to the back of the field and headed out onto the road following the others. There’s actually quite a bit of road riding, first into Crickhowell and then along quiet country lanes. The 30km riders then head off in a different direction whilst those doing the longer routes climb a steep road climb (which had lots of people off and pushing) before heading off-road for a tricky and very slippery rocky climb that had everyone off and pushing.
I had left, Jay, Brad and Mike behind me on the road so ended up riding on my own the whole way around. I gradually overtook people all the way around. The course emerges onto the hill tops for a lovely little ride across the ridge on a grassy double track with some amazing views of Welsh scenery. There were a few little showers all day long but nothing too bad and they were actually quite refreshing.
There aren’t very many proper descents though and its a little disappointing from this point of view but I have to say that I didn’t mind that as the only time anyone overtook me was on the downhill bits. I was certainly feeling a little out of sorts over the rough stuff having not been on a mountain bike for so long. I was far too tentative and taking it far too easy, but at least I made it down in one piece even if I didn’t really get to enjoy these sections. I soon overtook those that had passed me on the downhill once the slopes went upwards again though so the descending wasn’t too bad.
I stopped at the first feed station for a top of of my camelbak, a banana and a handful of custard creams and then continued on my way on what turns out to be a very long and not very interesting fire-road climb. It went on for miles before heading off to the left onto a track that no one could ride to the very top of the hill. Here we headed out into open country for a nice traverse across the ridge on a sandy, rutted track with a few little rocks. My inner thighs were beginning to cramp up a little along here so I eased off even more but still kept going at a decent pace and overtook one or two more riders. This section is quite nice and morphs into a pleasant little descent before becoming a steep, bumpy rutted, but very wide descent that no one seems to enjoy. It then heads into the trees for a steep but short singletrack descent with a couple of tight switchbacks before emerging onto a road.
The course then descends quite a way on this road which looked very slippery thanks to another little rain shower so I took this easy as well and then I was at the second feed station. This one was really well-stocked so I made the most of it. Jelly babies were stashed under one leg of my shorts, and I ate a handful of mixed nuts. A banana was stashed in my camelbak, my energy drinks were topped up, I ate two pieces of fruit cake and stuffed a flapjack up the other leg of my shorts before heading off along a nettle infested overgrown trail where I was stung several times. You can’t turn down free food!
After this, it was back onto the road and we were heading back towards Crickhowell for a ride back to the event HQ on the road. I knew it was all road from here so picked up the pace a bit and started overtaking loads of people before crossing the line after almost 3 hours. I was given my official time (I think it was 2 hours 53) and told that I was 23rd person back. Not bad seeing as I was taking it easy and had started close to the back of the field.
Brad and Mike were already back having done the shorter route and Jay arrived an hour or so later having completed the same one as me. A good day out and now the sun was shining properly so we sat around and chilled for the rest of the day.