Riding in cold and seriously muddy conditions Dan took 6 out of 6 stage wins to smash the first round of the UK Gravity series in Afan Forest, South Wales.
On Saturday evening a stacked elite field took to Stage 5 for a seeding run that would contribute to the overall times for Sunday. A flowy start to the trail was soon rudely interrupted by a long hard pedal before it descended through some muddy turns and into the 4X track. Dan rode a strong stage taking fastest spot by 2.2 seconds from last year’s winner Neil Donoghue.
By Sunday morning the temperature had dropped to just above freezing leaving the trails unpredictable with sections of ice causing many riders issues, Dan had no problems though and claimed stage one by 1.6 seconds from Neil.
A long transfer to stage 2 kept the riders on their toes before a relatively flat 4 minute stage. Dan showed that his new training programme with coach Alan Milway is definitely paying dividends as he pulled a full 8.9 seconds clear of Neil and considerably more from the rest of the field.
Stage 3 was the longest of the weekend, the trail alternated between flowy singletrack, fire road linking sections and fast undulating downhill which took in the infamous ‘wall descent’. This trail most closely resembled enduro stages on the continent with a decent drop in elevation and duration of over 6 minutes. Again Dan took the fastest time with Neil 5 seconds behind. No-one from the rest of the field managed sub 7 minutes leaving the overall to Dan and Neil with just two stages to go.
With a freshly cut trail and serious rain immediately before the event stage 4 was always going to be a bit of a lottery but Dan showed pure class as he took his 5th stage win by a huge 13 second gap, once again it was Donoghue claiming that second spot.
But as always with Enduro its not over till the very end and Dan still had to negotiate stage 5 again, this time with the trail riding a bit faster than Saturday night’s seeding. He bettered his time by 7 seconds and put another 2 seconds into Neil Donoghue, cementing the win with all stage wins and a 34 second winning margin.
Third spot went to Sam Flanagan who came strong despite a crash on stage one. He was 1minute 15 seconds back on Dan.
Dan said “It was great to be battling Donny again, we battled when we were riding downhill and now he’s keeping me on my toes in Enduro. Of course we were both battling the weather- one of the biggest challenges for everybody out there was some really tough conditions.”
He will now have a good break to settle back into training before the season begins in earnest with the lead up to the first round of the World Series in Punta Ala, Italy in mid May.
All Photos: Doc Ward