Mills Hills Audax 2008

A tribute ride to the late Graham Mills which ticks my hilly and hard boxes. I never got to ride any of Graham’s rides but the were legendary among the CTC. This one belongs up there.

I’d entered online with only four days to go and spent the next three days watching the weather forecast  and plotting the route for the GPS. It looked like it was going to be a wet start with good weather later on in the day. This was a ride for the winter trainer with mudguards on.  I’d also been down to Keith at Eureka Sports and bought a Montane Jacket that was light and has arms that go over the wrist when riding.

Ride day, up early and it is bucketing down. Going to the start through Brimstage is flooded, someones BMW is in a deep section with the water lapping around the doors. An Aldi truck is stopped with its hazard lights on. I make the start with minutes to spare.

This ride has been on the cards for months it was a pity only 19 entered with me being number 17. It must be Hills in the title.  Anyway I sign in with Stan and have a look at the Brevet Card. First info is coded into the GPS and it is the maker of the silo.
Selected to do Course and set off only to miss the first turn and head down the HighStreet soon to be stopped by an Off Course bleep.

The ride heads up by Chirk Castle past a set of gates that you wouldn’t want to paint as they are very ornate and massive.  Soon I’m in the granny ring  only to get stopped by a herd of cows moving fields. Once we were at the top of the ridge above the Llangollen Valley you were looking down on mist or low cloud below you. Stans info point has dissapered with only a small silo that is freshly painted left.

From the info point it is downhill to the Chainbridge Hotel this bit is steep and I’m going to need a new set of brake blocks after this ride. Compounded by the front wheel having a dent in it meant the headset was getting a good rattling. New rim next week, whatever I had hit has damaged both wheels, the rear having been replaced I didn’t think to check the front.

The next climb is the Old Shoe, I’ve done it once before and had to stop as I blew up basically. Stoped for a picture down the bottom and remove the Crane Sports Over Trousers. Just one problem I can’t fit them in the saddlebag loop. I have to wrap them around the top tube. This time I tried to pace myself knowing what was instore and I made it in one. Ponderosa was empty with all the fair weather bikers off the road. Next Control is at Llysfasi where Stan is waiting.

The next section is classed as rolling hills. The descents are tricky on this ride due to rivers of water running off the fields and fallen leaves on the tree lined sections. Throw in some gravel down the middle just to make it interesting and you have a descent that is shall we say testing. It’s on one of theses descents that I begin to think this is one ride where you don’t want a “Mechanical”.

Should have shut that thought out as next minute I pick up a puncture by a Church and a Pub. Couldn’t find the cause so a new tube went in. Tempted to go the pub but got a picture of it instead. The good thing was the sun came out. The rider on the flat bar Specialised went past, it must have been one of his first rides as I’ve seen him stop twice and later saw him riding back up a hill that I was going down.

The river at Corwen is in full flow  and has breached the flood plain. Found the Control and had a pot of tea and a teacake. The previous riders had finished off all the cake and I was offically out of time to boot. Card was stamped, a bit of  banter about doing 90 miles, not a bad stop.

Picture of Craft Centre

The run out of Corwen is flat and gives you an opportunity to get the average speed up.  See the Specialised lad again and later find he has called in.

Rewind back a bit to Melin y Rigg here I’ve stopped to take a picture of the descent which is glorious. There once I’ve found the info point it is across the river/raging stream only to find out how the Welsh villages do their shopping. Asda Online of course, I’ve got to stop at a cottage to let the girl through and again the road is awash with water. It is another steep climb out of the village.
With local shops and post offices all closed it’s the only way to exist out in the sticks.

Next up is the small matter of the Hirnant. I’d stopped by the bridge for a picture thinking this was it, it looked steep but I was easilly fooled.

Picture of Climb

Once past this first climb you are confronted with a glacial valley that just rears up. It looks formidable before you reach it. Once past the cattle grid  the ride switched into a HDTV mode, I’m riding slow enough for everything to be in focus, every blade of grass, sheep dotted on the mountainside. Possibly the best section of any ride I’ve rode. The forces invovled in forming this valley must have been immense. I thought I wouldn’t make this in one go but surprised myself. Once you go around a bend you loose the view of what you’ve just climbed.

Next stop is a control at Lake Vernwy. The  ride around  the lake is flat and well surfaced, about as good as it gets. You can hire bikes too from one of the Cafes. The road was awash for a section of it, this meant riding in the middle of the road to stop the oncoming traffic otherwise they were going to drown me in the bow wave.  Tried to sign at the wrong control point which cost me £2 for a smoothie at the RSPB shop. The right control point was 150 mtrs further on and looked closed but wasn’t. I was back in time but not by much. It was a short stop but I was at the back of the ride and the girl at the stop said she heard the others say it was hilly.

Indeed it was, I hadn’t figured on how hard this last section was. Relentless hills is what the routesheet said and thats what it was. Grannyring stuff with me pulling in to let cars past at passing places. Most knew what the score was apart from pensioners in Micra’s who wanted to drive through me on a narrow lane.

I  spent a lot of this ride out of the saddle looking at the front wheel spindle, it wasn’t until it leveled off a bit that you got to see how good the views were. Another factor in the ride was the danger of me finishing out of time. Not having seen another rider since The Old Shoe meant I was nearly the last man on the road.
I was behing schedule at Corwen, 15 minutes up at Lake Vernwy and finished 15 minutes before the close at Chirk.

The Brevet card says 10hours 20 minutes which is a long day in the saddle. It was turning dark by the time I hit Chirk Bank, the Cafe was well closed and it meant the control was in the carpark where we started. Learnt about what the ultimate Audax bike should have, a rack to stow your gear when the sun comes out.
That’s next on the list. Bullet proof tyres too, it maybe me but Conti Kevlar Ultrasports have given me a lot of grief since they went on. Brakes that work in the wet on a 20% hill, I did have a moment on one.

With the above GarminConnect link you can view my track, sections where I have gone off Course and switch to hybrid view.

Garmin TrainingCentre has the total climbing at 10,061 ft or 3061metres

Paul advised me to set up a Flickr account to get the event pictures up on the site so this is it.

More later.

3 thoughts on “Mills Hills Audax 2008”

  1. Well done to everyone who dragged themselves out of bed on Sunday. Heavy overnight rain and a cool damp morning was hardly the most inviting start to a long day in the saddle. Speeds were down for everyone as riders took extra care on wet and slippery descents. Everyone seemed pleased with their day – hard but rewarding was the general consensus. I was particularly pleased by the comment : “Graham would have been proud of that route”.
    Hope to see you next year. We’ll try to arrange more clement weather.

  2. Hi Vicky, once the sun came out it transformed the event. I could have taken a load more pictures but I would have been stopping every five minutes. Being out of time was also a worry as I hadn’t factored in how slow I was going.
    It also clashed with the Cat and Fiddle ride that by all acounts everyone rode.

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