Brecon Beast

Kit Updates
4th September 2012
Preparing for Australia
26th September 2012

For yet another event it was a late decision to enter the “Beast”, this time it was on the day before that I decided it might be worth it, seeing as it is so close to me. I’ve entered a few times before but was never that excited by the route. In 2011 they changed it to include more off-road so when the forecast was looking good I made the 25 mile journey to Brecon on Sunday morning ready for the 80km event which was far busier than I remembered, with over 600 entered!
All my riding from now until October when I head to Australia will be on my Felt Edict bikes, although I have changed it from the usual spec by using a 650b front wheel (more on that in another blog!). I’ve not had much distance on the bike since May so I need to spend as much time as I can now getting used to it again, the Beast would be a chance to get some fast mileage done.
Lining up just before 9am ready for the off there were lots of people I knew including some quick riders. The first section was on the road and behind a van at a very slow speed, perhaps even the first 10km or so. By the time we were let off I am sure everyone was quite warmed up! The pace went up right away with local rider Ryan Bevis taking to the front. I was quite happy to stay behind him and was happy with the pace. Along some fields, then some back roads and tracks before we started to get to the first big climb, over Mynydd Llangorse. By now there was just 4 of us at the front and once the climb became technical and the 3 others started walking I moved ahead with just Ryan following. I made a small mistake on a section of singletrack that allowed Ryan to get past. Soon after it turned really steep and I was walking too, very slowly as usual! I lost contact and the gap went to about 45 seconds at one point.

Pic: www.gigali.co.uk

After some fast moorland riding and finishing off with a short rocky section we hit a road. The gap started to come down pretty quickly and after a couple of miles I’d got back in touch. After reaching Talybont-on-Usk we joined a long, gradual and very bumpy track. The full suspension Edict was brilliant along here, allowing me to keep a really smooth pedalling rate throughout. After some fireroad and off-road tracks we hit a steeper track where the intensity went up and I struggled to stay in touch, loosing about 20 seconds. By now I was running out of water, the first feed station seemed very early due to the slow start so I didn’t stop and with it being warm my bottle was almost empty.

Pic: Roy Bevis – http://roytheboyphotos.smugmug.com

I managed to make up the gap on the next fireroad and we carried on for another 5km or so together before the next steep, rough climb where I dropped off again. I was feeling strong, but lacked the top end fitness I needed to really push on the steeper parts.. This time I wasn’t able to catch up, the climb stayed rough and kept going on and on. I knew this part of the route including a section of uphill track on the “Brinore Tramroad” that I’ve tried to clean many times but never made it, this time included! Maybe with a 29er it would be possible! Along a 4×4 track I was all out of water and gasping for a drink and I’d also realised that my saddle pack had dropped off meaning I had no spare tube or co2. As the track got rougher I was conscious of not having spares so tried to ride smoothly. Coming up behind a rider on the shorter loop I was following his line but missed a small rut and managed to get my front wheel caught which threw me off. I was a little shaken but nothing too bad and most importantly I didn’t hurt my delicate right thumb so I carried on but it did start to feel like the day was falling apart!
Soon after I finally reached a water stop and was able to fill up which I really needed, then a nice rocky descent and on towards a reservoir where two marshall who seemed to be clueless pointed me down a track that turned into a dead end after about 200m. I later found out that Ryan did the same, so maybe it was part of the route!! A section then followed the reservoir along a flat track, although a few strange things happened – first a couple shouted and waved me right down, at first I thought they were marshals but just as I came to a stop they just kept walking. I carried on then a few hundred meters later there was a quad bike right across the track. Another hundred meters or so there was a sign pointing left but it seemed odd. I followed it up for a few hundred meters before deciding it wasn’t right and coming back down. I figured someone had moved the sign and that maybe the locals didn’t want the event coming through?
Finally back on track it was all road and fireroad for a while before we reached the “Gap road” climb. Just before the climb started there was a long stretch and I caught sight of Ryan ahead. He saw me too and upped the pace. I knew that the rough track up to the Gap was my last chance, he is good downhill and I wouldn’t be able to close the gap. I pushed hard on the climb but couldn’t make up the ground. Reaching the top there was no sight, so I headed down and just took my time. A puncture down the track was a very high possibility and with no spares that would be a disaster. I’d not ridden the Gap for years but it doesn’t really change. Very rough, rocky and lots of pedalling until the final section where it gets steeper and very fast.

Pic: Roy Bevis – http://roytheboyphotos.smugmug.com
At the end it was almost all road back to Brecon, down a very steep narrow lane then some up and down sections before one final off-road descent ending up on the outskirts of the town. One final road climb to go and then into the sports field to the finish. A couple of minutes behind Ryan at the finish but I was still feeling fine and could quite easily have kept that pace up which to me was a real positive, with a 24hr just 5 weeks away it is all about endurance!
I have another 3 and a half weeks of hard training left before we leave for Oz! The focus is on long days riding, both road and MTB. I have a couple of events left, the next is in 2 weeks time.