What a day, I’ve been building up to this for a while and the weather forecast looked good. It was a bit cold early on as I was packing the bike into the car so I opted for armwarmers for the start of the ride. With 600 riders to book in things were busy at the start. I still hadn’t got anyone to ride with and there were clubs there from far and wide.
The Northend and the Sunlight were looking for a fast time to knock Macclesfield Wheelers off the fastest club so they were out. As it was I ended up going with some CTC riders I’ve ridden with on events before.
First picture is of my riding buddies for the day, second is Peter who led last wednesdays Northend Ride. Pace and Big Phil are the two Sunlight riders. The final picture is of the group going out of Bala. The chap in blue we aren’t going to see much of today as he is about to get dropped off the back as it steepens up only to collect a puncture. Cliff has all the luck but all of it bad.
We do a fair bit of climbing on good roads out of Bala before we turn off to the left. This is taking us to the turn that the route says Engage a low gear. They meant it. People are in trouble right from the turn. Falling off, grinding to a halt, going back down the hill to start again. My lowest gearing is 30X27 and I needed it. Some are already walking and there are a couple of tandems that are on the climb.I meet graham and vicky at the first control on their tandem. It’s a good start so here are some more pictures.
The last two pictures of Allan are on bike shots. Before that Peter is in the middle of the other riders, a bit further on he is giving assistance to the Sunlight. Once back on the main road it’s a chance for groups to reform before climbing up to the summit and entering Powys. This gives Chris and I a chance to test our legs passing some but getting passed by others like the Macclesfield Wheelers.
From the summit it is a very fast descent to Llangynog where the turn is catching a few out. This takes us off the main road and down a lane along the valley.
Took a fair number of pictures on this ride and it was just the usual suspects. The chap in the Gan shirt was riding at around our pace and likewise the Northend chap. We had a fast memorable descent into the village from this junction. I just had to stop to take a picture as I wasn’t getting enough of the scenery. Next up was a drink stop at a garage shop that was getting a steady stream of cyclists. Allan tells theme there are around 600 to follow.
Phil and Gary are the two Sunlight riders here. Chris is inspecting his bike for another chain problem. He suffered a DNF on the Cheshire Cycleway ride with a snapped chain.
One the next stretch is a steady climb that eventually ends at Carno. I get talking to a chap on an old Peugot. He’s a runner and is doing the event on his own as the chap that put him up to it didn’t turn up. His entry cost more than his £12 bike. Going well for a first timer, really well. There was also a Mountain biker at the start who had never ridden more than 50 miles, I don’t know how he fared.
There’s that guy in the Gan top again. Any of the Sunlight care to name the chap on the Mountainbike?. Final control before the Bwlch y Groes was just timed right with a chance to catch up with other riders.
After the control we are heading out to the main event of the day, part of cyclings folklore the climb of the Bwlch y Groes. You know what they say about women and Maps, it isn’t true. On the turn that takes us to the right of the valley is a women calling the Macclesfield Wheelers (some of them) back down the hill. The Garmin has been calling the turns to great effect, faultlessly in fact. It’s a really nice stretch of the ride. I’m taking it easy as I don’t know what to expect all I know its 1000 ft straight up.
Allan and Chris had gone gone on before me as they were descending quicker today and I wanted to get the pictures. You ride through the trees up a 25% gradient to a turn where it all starts. This turn was programmed in to the Garmin as XXXX and sure enough it bleeps and I know I’m in for a hard time.
At the start it isn’t too bad at 10% and I get to take the next picture on the climb!
There are Sunday leisure drivers going up and down the hill which spoils the climb for a few riders as once you stop it is nigh on impossible to restart on a steep gradient. Two cars slowly passing each other nearly spoil it for me and a chap whose wheel I am on but an urgent call to ******* move from him sees them pass but it was incredibly close.
I come up upon Allan walking and ask if he is OK, he is but has been baulked by two cars passing. It takes the shine off the climb for him but it was 20% plus where he was forced to step off. I’ve only got one speed when it comes to climbing and this climb has me maxed out. My heartrate is 170 bpm plus and the climb is about to get steeper. Reaching the Armco is a goal in itself and I don’t want to be a repeat of last year. A girl stops too and I say ” I’m not walking not this far up” and she is of the same mind. We have done most of the climb but the kick up in gradient is just too much. Once the heartrate comes down to something normal I set off again. I used it as an opportunity to take some pictures. Clipping in on a 20-25% gradient can only be done if you ride across the road. The trouble is it’s only 10-12ft wide at this point and there is the risk of a fall if it doesn’t come off.
Well the move comes off and I’m back on my way. The cleat went straight into the Keo,s. I get up to where there is a chap cheering everybody on at the steepest part of the climb. On the bend after I am forced to stop again, 180 BPM and it’s probably wise to stop for a minute than blow up totally. I’m within sight of the summit and was offered a restart from a chap who was on the bend watching us all struggle. I said I was ok and managed to get in the clip again. Not as smooth as last time but I was in.
The final section had me hitting a max for the day of 183 BPM, this is as hard as it gets and there are a group of riders at the top watching the other come up the climb. You do feel you have accomplished something when you get to the top.
Andy sent some pictures of me on the climb that I’m going to cherish for a long time, thanks Andy.
It was the highlight of the ride and you want to stop just to see what you have done.
The whole day has been a fantastic experience and it’s not over yet. There is a descent to do and then the final climb of the Hirnant. At the bottom there is a sharp uphill section that registered 31% on the Edge but it soon fell back and although it is a higher altitude than the Bwlch y Groes it didn’t feel like it at all. Maybe it’s because the gradient tapers off towards the top.
It’s all downhill back to the finish which is just as well as your done with climbing hills. Heading towards the sports centre the Edge give one last bleep “Route complete” and that was it ride over. Handing your card in for signing off your rewarded with a hefty lumps of slate with Wild Wales Challenge 2007 on it, I don’t think it’s going to be my last.
The weather has been kind and made for a memorable ride for all the right reasons. It’s a credit to the CTC and the Merseyside DA. Just remember to get your entry in early to get a ride.
Link to Google Map of Ride opens in new window.
Link to MotionBased map player includes all the ride data. Scary stuff.
The Edge has me Burning 7000 calories on the ride and I was a kilo lighter the next day. 88.6 miles 10,300ft of climbing. One of the highlights of the year. I thought I had a good year last year but this is proving to be even better.
31Aug07 Links repaired to ride map and Motionbased player