Wednesday, 12 October 2011


Mates-/rat-/ghetto- races are nothing new. However, with the growth in true enduro events (not those 100k loops in Mid Wales) the realm of competition has been opened up to those other than all out DHers and XCers. Nowadays people are recreating the Megavalanche magic in their own backyards*.

Having grown up in Bridgend it wasn't until a chance meeting with a couple of the local riders last winter that I came to realise the quality of riding just north of the M4. Throughout the year, come rain or shite, the boys from the Garw Valley MTB Club meet every Wed evening. Such is their enthusiasm that the recently re-opened pub from which most rides start appears to be trading off the bikers' need for beer and chips.

The club's first race - the GarwAvalanche - was to be run off Mynydd Caerau, a mountain just one or two valleys over from Afan Argoed. It is also close to the Bwlch – South Wales' very own alpine style mountain road and training ground for the likes of Geraint Thomas, Nicole Cooke and Big Mag. Anyway, word spread through Facebook of the plans for a Le Mans style start followed by a 20-30min decent with a little bit of climbing thrown in. I convinced a few of my riding buddies in Bristol to make the trip. So to did of few boys from Gwent. A turn out of ~30 for the first edition wasn't bad considering the dank weather. After a couple hours ride/push (plus removal of any eye-gougers from one of the newly cut sections of woodland singletrack) we made it to the trig point.

With my lack of racing since Margam I wasn't confident of a high placing. However, I have been working on my drinking in the intervening months - Ideal seeing that the running start was preceded with the downing of a can (I went for Strongbow figuring the higher alcohol content over the Carlsberg should loosen my limbs in readiness for riding my rigid singlespeed).

One of the quirks of this form of racing is the widely tapped courses. Sometimes this can lead to some imaginative line choices (see video below). Other times it can lead to complete wrong turns (as was almost the case for a couple of the Bristol boys who nearly ended up on the wrong side of the valley when approaching the finish). Coupled with the heavy mist up top it was quite a site to see thirty frothing and burping bikers darting across the moors.

Much credit to Alex Betts and Matt Pinches for the choice of route – there was a nice mix of rocks, loam, roots, grassland, tarmac, steep, tight, fast and techy. My race all but ended with a puncture after the second rocky chute. Rowan Sorell won, clearly not feeling a top ten at the recent Trans Provence in his legs. He won a neatly engraved slate. Last won a neatly engraved wooden spoon.
Long live boozy racing.

*Literally in the case of Garw resident Matt Pinches.


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