Merida 100 04

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Updated 8 June 2004

The Merida 100 MTB Marathon, Rhayader, 30/5/04

Formerly known as the Kona 100 and before that, the Schwinn 100, what used to be a once-a-year event is now a 5-event series, 3 rounds in Wales, one in Scotland and one in Austria (!) to tie in with the World MTB Marathon Championships.

The first round of the 2004 series returned to the scenic town of Rhayader, tucked away in the mid-Wales hills. Andrew King had planned on doing it too but problems with his bike (like a cracked frame…) put paid to that. The only other De Laune member there was Cliff. The weather on Saturday was superb; I was hoping for more of the same on Sunday but was woken up at 4am by the rain drumming on my tent. However, by the start of the ride at 10am the clouds had disappeared and the sun was shining once again. I got a fairly slow start (not wanting to go racing off and then die a death later) so I was tucked in to the top 50 or so out of the bunch of almost 1000 mountain bikers as we followed the lead car up the first 10km of tarmac towards the off-road. That was the last I saw of Cliff as he vanished into the throng behind me.

The road climbed, gently at first, then more steeply, spreading out the mass of riders as we approached the forest. Fireroad climbs and some superb technical descents on narrow singletrack seemed to be the order of the day here and the rain the previous night had served to dampen down the dust nicely. I was ticking along at a reasonable pace; I wasn’t particularly trying to beat my time from last year. The course had some of the same bits as in the previous year but in different orders and, in a couple of cases, we rode the tracks in the opposite direction too. On one section of fireroad along a ridgeline, there was a sign pointing off to the left saying “Danger, extremely steep descent, expert riders only. Easy route round (1km further), straight on.” Talk about red rag to a bull. I was straight off down the technical route, very tight switchbacks through the tightly-packed pine trees, off-camber roots but all amazingly dry…the thick pine forest had stopped the track getting wet. I cleared the descent without even putting a foot down which kept a smile on my face for another few km.

Out of the forest after 50km and there was a 20km loop to be done twice to make up the full distance. By this time my back was really beginning to hurt, a combination of a recently pulled muscle and the fact that I’d been doing a lot of crit racing recently. Halfway round the 20km loop for the first time and several things happened all at once…the course was unbelievably dull and boring with a lot of fireroad climbing, it began to rain and my back had gone from being ‘uncomfortable’ to ‘bloody painful’. The rain, although light and short-lived, was just enough to coat the fireroad with a layer of liquid mud, which then sprayed up all over me and the bike. I got to the end of the loop, rode past the feed station and turned right, back down towards Rhayader, instead of left to do the loop again.

Twenty minutes later I was back at the campsite and my name was put down for the 75km loop rather than the full 100km. A lot of other riders were already home, some of the fast boys had completed the 100km in the time it had taken me to do 75, most of the rest were fun riders on the short 50km option. I still had a great time and I’m actually quite glad I hadn’t done the full distance as it would have turned an enjoyable event into something approaching purgatory. My back was still slightly stiff two days later. I came over the line in 4.18.40 to put me in 5th place in the Open category (out of the 200 or so who had done the 75km option).

Cliff meanwhile had hung on in there and done the full 100km, coming into the finish in 5.59.43 (beautifully timed there Cliff!) and placing 138th overall and 65th in the Masters category.

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