A lone rider sits on the hillside staring out across the valley. Above the huge blades of a wind turbine rotate in continuous monotony driven by the howling wind and unaffected by the driving rain . In the forest below all appears calm but look carefully and on a hillside in the distance a battle for survival is taking place, a hill so steep its un-rideable even by the best, riders roped up by marshals, helped by each other forming teams working together to beat the harsh Welsh environment. Its not the hardest event out there, there are worse , a lot worse but extreme it is and made worse by the horrendous wind and rain, and a test of stamina and determination for a rider only in his first full year of competition.
Ben leads a pack of riders up a slippery slope
We had arrived on that Welsh hillside the day before and Ben had undergone several challenges to give him a grid position for the main race, one flat out speed test on fire roads and one technical test on a hillside littered with rocks and adverse slippery cambers. Despite a couple of offs on the technical Ben get 44th place which puts him on line three and as the total entry is only 58 he is effectively on the back grid. That night the wind howled and the rain torrents and the camper rocked all night like a boat on a turbulent sea.
Ben on the rocks !
By morning everything was sodden but the wind and rain had eased and by the start just after 10am there was even a hint of Welsh sunshine! The race starts, and from a standing start the riders are faced with a hillside of rock steps with water gushing down it.
The first hill !
There is a chicken route and most riders opt for this unwilling to ruin the day with injury or broken bike within sight of the start. The event is three laps, with lap three being no help on the hill . When the winner crosses the line after three laps the check points close an hour later and your position is based on the number of laps completed at that time. Its lonely at the start, with only the occasional pro coming through to complete a lap whilst the rest fight it out deep in the woods.
David Knight wins, in a time of 2 hours 27 mins. We await the rest and slowly they come through. Ben arrives tired but pleased to have finished a lap, his time 2 hours 45 mins. There are only 5 riders who do 3 laps. At the end he says " never again" by the time we get back to the van he is already talking about trying to do 2 laps next year !