I 100% put me being at Valley’s Xtreme on Mr Paul Bolton! I was training with Paul at Toro Trail in Spain and after two days riding he told me I should enter Valley’s Xtreme. My response was laughter – “like I’d manage that”. But with persistent persuasions Paul had me sign up for the practice day.
Valley’s Xtreme has a great set up where they open a portion of the track up on the Saturday allowing riders to either ‘have a taste’ of the race or a practice pre-race. We had nothing to lose trying it, so my husband and I rocked up with the goal of making just one lap. Valley’s, based at Walters Arena in south Wales is known for it’s gnarly terrain and challenging obstacles so a lap would be an achievement in our minds.
What we didn’t expect was to make three laps and finish feeling absolutely buzzing… Let’s just say after a little chat with other riders…we jumped in and signed up to the AM race the following day. Yikes, I didn’t sleep too well thinking about the obstacles I’d be trying to navigate in the morning.
What have I gotten myself into!
This is a solo event to find the ‘King or Queen of the Valleys’ in a gruelling battle around a ten mile track at Walters Areana. Riders quality for their starting position in a 1-mile prologue on the Saturday afternoon. This prologue is a series of man-made obstacles from huge metal skips, large plastic waste pipes, boulder beds and tyre pits. This course then becomes the start of the main race, forcing riders to tackle them all again. There is an AM race followed by a PM race where the afternoon adds tougher sections for the expert and pro riders. This year saw Paul Bolton taking home PM “King of the Valley’s”
For more photos please see: https://valleysxtreme.com/gallery/
As my first hard enduro event I was expecting to be among a small handful of women. However, to my surprise I was the only one. It saddened me that more women were not out there enjoying it. The buzz from the crowed when they see a blonde ponytail is mega. With the body weight and strength to bike ratio hard enduro is certainly more of a challenge for a small lady than a big guy but it’s still achievable. I also think the Husqvarna TE 150i is such an ideal bike for us smaller riders that I hope more will start to join in. [see my YouTube review]
Gnarly, wet, snotty and tough but in all the right ways. If you’re looking for a challenge to push yourself to the next level…this is it! I finished with such a high of satisfaction it was like I was on drugs. Happiness drugs!
My goal was to make Bronze [see below on how finishing works]. I rode steady and within my capabilities, I didn’t race. Looking back, I wish I had raced as I think I could have given a lot more, but in my first ever hard enduro I did not want to burn out. I was chuffed to make 1.5 laps, placing me into Silver. I’m blinking proud of myself completing silver and taking on all the challenges. And I didn’t come last! A respectable 48th of 81.
Finish definitions: Bronze = 1 lap, Silver = 1.5 laps, Gold = 2 laps. To put it in perspective, only 19 riders finished Gold in the AM race.
I was like a bubble of ecstatic energy on the finish line! I could barely believe I made it around. I even described it as the best day of my life [bar our wedding of course…but I have to say that]. There is a level of satisfaction that extreme enduro gives like nothing else. It’s so physically and mentally demanding. You’re riding with 100% focus on such tough terrain. It’s like nothing I’ve done before. I was buzzing like a bee! I was also covered in sweat and mud, and massively graving a big burger from the burger van to refuel.
I’m now 100% addicted to hard enduro and as a result… I’ve entered the RedBull Romaniacs in the IRideWess hard enduro series, I’m going to do the ACU Michelin British Enduro Championship [BEC] and the British Extreme Enduro Championship. I’m now riding a 2020 Husqvarna 250i, upping my game slightly from the 150i as I start to train harder and hit more extreme conditions. Let the training continue!
More than just dirt bike riding and racing, I’m on a mission to prove that nothing is impossible if you want it bad enough. See more about my story plus read about my life changing accident, which started it all.
You can find Vanessa, The Girl On A Bike over on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, and www.thegirlonabike.com.