Kona 100 03

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Updated 30 June 2003

The Kona 100 MTB Marathon, Rhayader, Mid-Wales, June 1st 2003

The Kona 100 Enduro has grown from being a once-a-year event to being a whole series, each one of the three events located somewhere in deepest mid-Wales at intervals of about 6-8 weeks.

Andrew and I made the trip down from up North, Andrew having decided that as he couldn't do the 24hr race with us at the end of June he wanted to do something "epic" to make up for it. The race village was tucked away in Rhayader and we arrived on the Saturday afternoon to set up our tent, sign on and enjoy the free pasta party. Sunday dawned bright and sunny, the promise of a warm day. We joined the other 800 or so people lining up on the start line including a few faces we recognised from Beastway and several riders I knew from the singletrackworld website. Circling gracefully above us, watching proceedings, was a lone red kite.

At 10am we were led out of the race village by a police escort and a lead car for the 8 or so miles of neutralised road that would take us up onto the moorland above Rhayader. There was the usual jockeying for position behind the car but Andrew and I both got a reasonable start up near the front. The course was a 2-loop route, riding out on a mix of tarmac and fireroad to where we joined the first loop. This was about 25 miles in length, at the end of it, riders doing the 60km "fun" route were directed right; we were sent left to hook up with the loop again. We came to the first feed station, two-thirds of the way up a steep fireroad climb. I was riding with a bottle of energy drink and a full 2ltr CamelBak of water, which in the hot conditions was going to be nowhere near enough for the 100km. My plan was to ride at a fairly steady pace and stop at alternate feed stations to top up with water and energy bars. The plan began well but then I hooked up with Andy Dickson, a rider who can regularly be seen at the front of the Masters field in Beastway races. The pace was quick but at least we were among the first people on the course and there were no queues of riders through the singletrack. I let Andy go after 10 miles or so and continued at my own pace. The tracks were mostly bone dry and the weather was excellent which made things a bit easier. I reached the end of the first loop and we hit tarmac again, through a tiny village that gloried in the name of Bwlch-y-Sarnau. The road led me back to the start of the steep fireroad climb up to the feed station. Here the course doubled back on itself and I saw Andrew, who at that point was about 5 miles (20mins or so) behind me. We had a brief chat, then I left along another bit of fireroad while he continued the climb around the extra loop. By this point the heat and exertion was starting to tell on most people and I passed a couple of riders who had clearly gone off far too hard at the start of the race and were paying for it now. There seemed to be far more hills than I remembered during the first loop but I was still maintaining a steady pace. I reached the final singletrack descent through the woods and, having ridden it on the first loop, knew what to expect and went haring down it, skipping the bike over the ruts. I jumped the ditch at the bottom and saw a mate who'd failed to make the bunnyhop and had pinch flatted as a result. He was annoyed but otherwise OK so I left him to it and headed off, beginning to ride faster now that I was only 10 miles or so from the finish. I reached the road section in company with a rider on an almost identical bike to mine. We turned off, heading downhill to Rhayader and discussing our respective bikes when we turned a corner…and the road rose dramatically upwards. I could have cried, all along I'd been under the impression that it was downhill all the way home from the end of the off-road. All thought of technical bike talk dried up, I locked out the suspension and we both crawled up the mile long 1 in 8 listening to the gears grinding and our harsh breathing. After what seemed a lifetime, the gradient finally eased off and then it really was downhill all the way home. We both hit the low 40's on the 2-mile descent and, tires skittering on the tarmac, made the turn into the race village and through the finish. I'd completed the 62 miles in 4hr53 mins (4hr33mins actual riding time).

I expected to see Andrew not too far behind me but he limped into the finish almost an hour later having blown up his rim on the final tarmac downhill. He'd stopped to sort out the mess and take off the knackered tire and tube, then ridden the last 2 miles very slowly on the rim alone. In spite of the wheel destruction we both agreed it had been a fantastic event, well organised and the superb weather had really made it enjoyable, giving us some amazing views of the Welsh countryside.

62 miles, mostly on fireroad and singletrack with about 15 miles on road and a total of 7500 ft of climbing. An epic by anyone's standards! The remaining two Kona 100 Marathons are on July 6th at Builth Wells and September 21st at Corwen.

James Lyon

 De Laune Cycling Club © 
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