Just back from Merida number 3. Builth Wells this time and so very sunny and warm. Preps were good and lots of sleep before hand. Felt easy and strong as I moved up to the lead 20 or so group. The usual exemplary course marking was pretty poor this time around, one wrong turn led to a very short detour. Climbing well and smooth though, so no worries.
Seems to be the promise of 'new trails' has entailed a madman or a blind sheep with a strimmer roughly clearing bits of fern, leaving 2-6" grass to ride over. Either that or it is unconsolidated trail over pine loam. Still, I'm figuring this is to get some of the usual end-of-course grass climbing cut out.
Another wrong turn due to dubious markings, after many more instances of markings being vague or needing to slow down to see them. This time me and another geezer headed down a 1:10 road for 1+ km. Then an unsigned junction. Oddly enough I didn't at first think this was all that unusual, but the other guy figured we were off course, and so it was. Climbed back to course, lost a lot of places and kept it charging trying to do some catch up. What followed was a melee of grass climbing or rolling (!) on what at times was undoubtedly sheep track (on steep hill which did not allow for pedaling without hitting the inner pedal, and fern covered tracks which had in essence just been flattened by a quad bike. I estimate ~80% of the trail was this sort of energy sapping crap.
I feel like I have been taken advantage of. Each year under the promise of 'new trails' some useless new non-consolidated trail appears which is anything but weather proof (as proven at the last Rhayader race) and mind bendingly frustrating to ride.
This may sound like sour grapes, but I have been a stalwart at the Merida's for 4 years, and have advocated their benefits. It's time to be honest and tell it how it is: that was rubbish. A poke in the eye.
I probably didn't do too bad, and as resistance training for Wilderness 101 it was probably useful. But the only race that I will do if any next year is Selkirk, because it is on bike trails. Or at least trails. This means it is rideable. The challenge comes from the rocks and roots and technical aspect along with the gradient and distance. Not whether you can keep pushing a gear along grass tracks.
I *am* angry and more than that disappointed. Has something happened to land access in Wales we need to know about? Over the last few years it has been proven that there *are* good trails there...
MTB Marathon need to get their act together.