Today, cyclists in the UK have never had it so good. Due to the success of the Elite GB riders over the last few years, there has been a massive increase in cyclist numbers across the country. And once a lot of them have gained fitness and confidence they then look to compete. Traditionally this was rocking up at your local club 10 hoping to beat 30mins. Today there are hundreds of sportive’s to choose from, all of them vying for riders hard earned money. In order to gain attention and get a full start list, a lot of race and event organisers are looking to introduce even more interesting events. One of these is the ‘Battle on the Beach’ – a cyclo cross race crossed with a visit to the sea, claiming to be the UK’s most unique cycling event. The race consists of 5km singletrack, 5km doubletrack and 5km on the sandy beach of Pembrey Country Park, Llanelli in South Wales. This year’s event even had a ‘Battle in the Dark’ – a 10km time trial held the night before on a shortened version of the main events circuit. Crazy but intriguing at the same time!
Lining up on this year’s Battle of the Beach start grid was Test Team member, Keith Davies. It was his first ever attempt at the event and was to be a memorable one!
This was the first race for me since CX in October 2015, it’s been a long hiatus from racing due to moving from North Yorkshire to South Wales to start a new job.
The days leading up to race day were filled with nerves, especially as this racing format is something that I have never seen or been part of before.
The race is based in Pembrey Country Park, South Wales. There is a mass start on the beach with approximately 5km of hard pack sand, then 10km of varied single track, forest roads and some sections of soft sand in the dunes. 3 x 15km laps, it truly is a unique event and whilst it is a hard race, I’m hooked and will be back year on year.
Leading up to the event I had been reading forums and social media discussions about what bike to use – CX, MTB hardtail, MTB full-sus, fatbike, let alone tire choice… It is obvious and if it was allowed you need a different bike for each section of the course!!
I rode my CX bike with my winter cross tires, this was ok on the hardpack sand along the beach, but hard going to most of the other areas which include soft sand, next year I will go for the MTB to save my battle worn back.
I got to the start early which meant no warm up, with 800 riders crammed into a starting area you to be near the front.
It was a cold day and very windy, so I was glad to be wearing my Mossa on the start line to keep me warm. The start is on a section of soft sand, so you need to run 200 yards before jumping on your bike and trying to sprint to catch the leading group. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the lead group and was in the 2nd group, this will not happen next year! If you want to race the event it’s all about the start, otherwise, you get caught up in traffic.
I started to work my way through the field on the first lap, felt ok and was happy to press on. On the 2nd lap, I found myself on the back of a small group going into a section of single track through the woods. I knew there was a 90-degree turn coming up in this section and was happy to just sit in and ride the turn at the speed of the group. However, the rider in front of me bottled it at the turn and slammed on the brakes, giving me no time to react resulting in me doing a forward somersault and landing down a banking full of brambles. I was winded and just lay there for about 5 minutes. I finally stood up and realised the brambles were as tall as me, so it was a painful exit up out of the banking and back on my bike.
I raced as hard as I could for the final 1 ½ laps, finishing in 36 position in my category in a time of 1hr 56mins. Not the best start to the 2016 season but a great event and happy to have taken part.
Onwards and upwards, next race is the Welsh Mountain Bike Series on 17th April.