By Dan Atherton with Gill Harris, photos by David Evans
Last weekend Dan Atherton of GT Factory Racing, oldest sibling in the Atherton family and famous for his world-class bike handling skills across loads of different disciplines rode the grass-roots Dyfi Enduro, held in the Dyfi Forest, starting at the Machynlleth town center in Powys, Wales. And it hurt him bad! In this blog Dan talks about his increased respect for cross-country riders and the most hellish thing he’s ever ridden.
“First up, let’s get it out there; the Dyfi Enduro isn’t enduro as I know it! A timed, gravity enduro is an entirely different beast. This one’s been running since way back in the day, 14 years to be exact and when it started the new, Enduro World Series style enduro wasn’t even a thing yet. So I guess the organizers are right to stick with the name. It’s an endurance event and people know what to expect, in theory anyway because whatever they’d called it I don’t think it would have prepared me.
I really wanted to be part of this because Dyfi is where I live now and it’s become a real community focus with all the shops putting bikes with number plates on them in the windows and thousands of people flooding in. But it’s also cool to ride with the guys I see riding in the forest every day, the trails go right past my door. I guess a big part of me also wanted to do it as part of my training, it’s hard to replicate the intensity you need for racing when you’re not in a race situation, you always go harder and faster when you’re in a race.
Here’s another thing. It’s not technically a race, billed as a non-competitive, mass-start event. Not a race but when you cross the start line, the clock starts too so of course I had to try and race it! And trying to race it meant it was the most hellish 3 hours, 14 minutes and 33 seconds of my life. Because I’m a racer I made sure that I was there early enough to get a good starting position and I came off that start line racing, but after 40 minutes, maybe an hour, it became irrelevant whether there was two riders ahead or 22. Every ounce of me wanted to catch the guy in front, every fiber wanted to do better, but at that level of exertion that kind of motivation slips away; pretty soon it was all about setting a rhythm that I could cope with to get round to the end.
In an EWS enduro you can expect to ride 35 miles and ascend 6, 230 feet, the same distance and climbing as this one, but the transitions in EWS aren’t timed so not only are you riding the climbs at approximately 25 percent of the speed of the Dyfi climbs, but you also have a 5-10 minute rest to chill before each downhill section—five minutes to let your heartbeat settle makes a big difference.