Team Parcours' Athlete Louisa Jackson Takes On Gritfest

Team Parcours athlete Louisa Jackson recently took part in Gritfest – a two day stage race in the Welsh Mountains, and part of the ever growing Gravel Earth Series. Gravel racing and adventures is really taking off, allowing riders to escape into countryside less travelled and spoilt with incredible views and at times wildlife, and at times go truly off grid and escape. Louisa’s experience at Gritfest, may make you add another race to your bucket list! 

Louise also lives and travels in her Peugeot Boxer Van – follow her on Instagram @jacksonlouisa94 for her adventures.


Gritfest is a two day stage race in the Welsh mountains, which is part of the Gravel Earth Series. With three timed segments each day it was a great way to race hard but also have a chance to take in the stunning scenery. 

Setting off from Dorset at 4.30pm after work on Friday, we were inevitably going to hit the traffic on our drive to Wales. A drive that should have taken around three and a half hours took us just over five and a half! Arriving at dusk we were greeting by drizzling rain and swarming midges. Very typical Wales! After a quick walk round the camp to stretch our legs we headed straight to bed, smug that we didn’t have to assemble a tent whilst getting bitten by the locals!

Whilst our Peugeot boxer van, is notoriously slow and quirky in a typical Peugeot fashion, it is incredibly handy having our house on wheels with us wherever we go. Set up for full time off grid living and remote working it makes for a very comfortable weekend of racing. 

Day one consisted of a 65km course with just over 1710m of climbing. A day of undulating timed sections with a fair amount of technical climbing. 

The first timed section came around 10km into the route and straight after a long steep off-road climb. An 8km section of rolling fire tracks with some punchy climbs and a downhill finish. The second timed section was another 8km, but this time a steep technical single track climb followed by long and fast downhill finish. 

The third timed section was the longest of the day at 14km with 390m of climbing. With a climb straight out the timing gates it felt longer than it was, however we were rewarded with the most beautiful views on the finish line. From the final stage we had 15km of off road tracks and country lanes to get back to Basecamp. 

After day one I was sat in 12th, a minute and a half from moving into the top ten. With a strong plan for regular fuelling and how I was going to ride the timed sections, making up the minute and a half felt achievable and a realistic goal. 

Day two was a shorter course of 57km with 1360m of climbing. There was more focus on the downhill and much faster rolling timed sections. Rain overnight made me cautious of the descents and corners, but until you were out on course nobody knew what they would be up against.

I found myself riding the first two sections on Sunday alone, which mentally was quite tough. Without a group to work with, and naturally keep the pace pushing, stages four and five were a case of counting down the kilometres and keeping my head down! The final timed section of the day was mainly downhill, over rough and bumpy fire roads. After hitting a patch of rough gravel on a downhill swooping corner, I felt my chain drop. Chain back on and I managed to catch back up with a group for the final push to the last timing gate.

With so many people having punctures, or fairly major mechanical issues throughout the weekend, I am confident with my set up moving forwards. I am however waiting for a chain guard to arrive which should mitigate my chain bouncing off over rough ground in future races. Reliability is key, and for this reason I have also been running on ever so slightly heavier and more durable tyres by Teravail. 

Eventually I finished 11th, 6 seconds off a top ten finish. I can confidently say putting my chain back on took me longer than 6 seconds! Racing against some of the top female gravel racers has put fire in my belly and made me really excited for the rest of the season.

The Welsh hospitality is second to none, I was taken aback by the support the locals showed to over 300 cyclists taking over their sleepy village and surrounding area. I would highly recommend Gritfest to anyone wanting a true British gravel racing experience. Just remember to pack insect repellent! 

My set up:

Orro terra c with the Parcours Ronde team edition wheel set. Teravail Rutland 42mm tyres in front and back.