I was awoken by the sound of crows squawking at around 6am, and the morning light was making its way through my tent but I didn’t want to get up just yet so got my phone and looked up the Wales500 website to check on the timetable for the day. As I was doing this I thought it may have been a good idea to have looked at it before now and even printed it in a large font for my tired eyes to view easily. The first official thing of the day was rider sign on at 10:00am so I had plenty of time before I need to get my arse into gear, however it was not long before the call of nature got me out of the tent to check out the nearby facilities. Back at the tent I got my JetBoil out to make a cup of coffee and then find some cereal bars for breakfast as unfortunately there was nothing on-site like a bacon butty van.
The two chaps from the tents to the left of mine were getting up now and the marshal that I had met the night before came over for a chat.
After the sign on process we were given our numbers to put on the bike, the trackers so that they could see where we are at any point during the ride and most importantly, some wales 500 stickers to put in the garage as a reminder of this event!
Back at the tent where it had started to spit with rain I covered up my screen and my head with my jacket so that I could clean my screen in order to stick on the number giving the bike that nice little look of a rally bike, which it clearly wasn’t.
I moved my bike over to the area where the scrutineers were checking the bikes whilst I went back to the main building at 11:30 am for the welcome meeting and briefing for the day.
The first bike was leaving at 12:30 and my leaving time was not until 1:15pm so plenty of time still to get thing ready, take a few photos of the first few bikes off the start line and a couple more trips to the facilities to release the nervous tension that was building up inside of me.
Before rolling up to the start line I done a few warm up runs through the slalom cones laid out for us to practise with and went to wait in the start area. It got to 13:14 and one of the start marshals was looking around for the bike before me and said to me that I was soon. Soon after that I get waved up from the start lady and was told go on, you are late, not that it mattered much as it was not a timed event.
I looked down at both my Sat Nav and the GPS app on my phone to see that even at this early stage they were not totally agreeing my course away from the start but it had been clear as to where the previous riders had gone so I was sure I was not going to make a complete fool of myself for at least the first half a mile and by that time I would be out of site of the on lookers. It was only 2 minutes before I arrived at the skills section where I queued up with the bikes that left before me waiting for our turns to complete this relatively straight forward course of tight turns on wet grassy mounds . As I waited there I saw one guy come off when going down a small slope. Once they got him sorted one of the marshals came over and told us to not use the back brake harshly as this is what the previous guy had done locking up his rear wheel that then caused him to lose control. When it came to my turn I got through OK all bar clipping a cone with my foot, but at least I didn’t stop or put a foot down so I was pleased with that. Back to the navigation of this first day of easy road riding on a short 100km course to get us all gently into things which lasted for approx. 2 hours. I got on relatively OK, though the Sat Nav did lose its way at one point which resulted me doing a u-turn until I discovered that I was going in the correct direction after all so another quick u-turn and I was away again just after a group of three riders came past. I proceeded to follow them which gave me a chance to double check my navigation devices and they were at least both agreeing with each other and also with the guys up front so that was a relief.
The rest of the day went OK until near the very end when I found myself back at the skills area which we done at the start of the ride. Just over the hedge I could hear and then see some of the other bikes on the main road. It then dawned on me that I still had the day 1 part 1 map showing so I stopped and closed this down which then revealed that I should in fact be the other side of the hedge where everyone else was. I proceed to make my way around the edge of the skills area and to the entrance where we came in earlier only to see the gates are now closed, but fortunately not locked, so I quickly opened them and got my bike through before closing them and going the final half a mile to the finish.
That evening we went to the main building for a meal followed by some talks from the man himself, Burt and then by Patsy Quick (ex Dakar rider) from Desert Rose Racing and Dave Lomax from Adventure Spec.
Patsy told us a bit about her three attempts at the Dakar Rally where on the third time she successfully completed it and that these days her company Desert Rose Racing not only support rally motorcyclists but as of last year started the Adventure Bike training academy.
Dave told us how when he was first asked by Burt to join one of his rallies he said no as he did not have a competitive nature but eventually Burt talked him into a rally event and what he found was nothing like he expected. Sure there were people there to win and be competitive, but also many people that just wanted to ride their bikes in wonderful places with routes worked out for them, the backup in case things went wrong and a generally really good time. He summed it up nicely by saying that it was probably the safest way of trail riding.
Next came the results which took some time due to technical issues, but they got there in the end. Burt read out the top three places overall first and to my utmost surprise, after day 1 I was 3rd overall and then as he read out the classes results equated to me being second in my class, (over 800cc GPS class). I was gob smacked and went off to my tent with a warm glow and a big smile.I was awoken a bit later by the clashes of thunder from the skies above, followed by lightning flashes and not too long after that the splatter of rain on my tent which got progressively heavier. Oh crap I thought, it is going to make tomorrows riding that bit harder now, and with that thought I went back to sleep.