Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Sunday 2 October, The Autumn Epic

The Beeston CC team at the start
So the last 2 months of 'training' have all been about this ride, an early start to head off to Wales saw me picking club mate Paul up at 05:30 and we were on our way, until about 6 o'clock when the M42 came to a standstill due to a van crashing and throwing its contents all over the motorway, luckily though we were only held up by around 15 minutes.

We arrived in a sunny Knighton just after 8 o'clock in plenty of time to get the bikes out and ourselves dressed to battle the Welsh hills.  A quick catch up with the rest of the Beeston contingent after signing on and we were away.  Five of us left pretty much straight away running over the timing mat that we would not cross again for 96 miles!  The rest of the team were waiting a while so they had some 'tortoises' to catch in their quest for respectable and competitive times.

I rode out of Knighton with Paul and made a concious effort to ride steady until the first stop, saving as much of myself as I could for later in the ride.  As we rode I was slowly pulling away from Paul and dropping back for him, it was at this point Paul rather generously said I was to ride my own ride and he would see me later.  The first climb up Bwlch-y-Sarnau came soon after this and I only saw Paul briefly at the first food stop again on the ride.  That climb was followed by a similar one out of Abbey-Cwm-Hir and across a moor before descending into Rhayader for the first food stop.

I was quite alarmed at how many punctures fellow riders were picking up in the first section of the rides, there seemed to be upturned bikes at the side of the road all over the place, especially after the first cattle grid we encountered which had the leading edged upturned by something, luckily I spotted it just in time and managed to bunny hop over it.

I spent too long waiting here really but I wanted to wait for Paul, check he was OK and let him know I'd be pressing on and to let me know how he was getting on at the next feed stop.

Looking back to the Mountain Pass out of Rhayader
Stocked up and ready to go it wasn't long at all we were climbing the mountain road out of Rhayader, the bail out route turned off just before this pass, but there was no way I'd come this far to avoid the biggest climb of the ride.  This pass seemed to go on for an age, not overly steep but very long and a teasing headwind thrown in for good measure.  At the top of this tough climb though we were rewarded with stunning views and a cracking descent into the Elan Valley.

The Elan Valley was probably my favourite section of the ride, fast swooping roads, switchbacks and rolling terrain made for a lovely ride suited to my style and ability.

Elan Valley
This section was a good rest for my legs and very enjoyable for the mind, I'm at my best cycling at speed, I had changed direction as well so that wind was now pushing me along, of course I knew this wasn't going to last forever, there was much more climbing to be done.

This climbing started again with a very sharp climb up to the second feed station, quite short but bloody sharp, the sweet snacks and bottle filling was most welcome at the top of that one!  Listening to other riders tales of there's worse to come though left me leaving here with thoughts of what the bloody hell can there be left to do?  I was starting to feel a little tired.

I left the second stop and rolled a few km's down, taking it easyish on the flatter bits and eating what snacks I had left in preparation for the last section, again rolling terrain.  As I ride along I spot another cattle grid and people getting off the bikes shortly after, what did they know about which I didn't?  A quick look up the road and I had a good idea.

Glascwm Pitch
Glascwm Pitch was looking down on me, as was a sign telling me 25% sections ahead, time for smallest gear and a lot of will power.  I ground my up the hill, zig zagging at times in an attempt to make it easier, which it did, until I looked up again, slight breaks in the intensity gave me 20 seconds or so to catch a little breath before it ramped up again.  Thoughts of un-clipping were in my mind but somehow I made it up the last ramp.  I have to admit to taking a five minute break once at the top though to recover from this beast of a climb.

At this point I took a look at the ride profile to see what was to come, one more climb, back to the same dizzy heights as this this but nowhere near as steep, this of course meant it would be longer.  But for this in true epic style I had to descend to the rides lowest point, these organisers really know how to kick you when your down...

In all honesty the last climb wouldn't really be that tough had I not had 90 miles in my legs already, but I had and it was tough, I made it though and was rewarded with a fantastic 2 mile sweep down back into Knighton, crossing the line  on that timing mat really gave me a sense of achievement.

The ride was fantastic, I had expected it to be harder and I do think I could have rode it quicker,  but I struggle to judge my energy level and know what I am capable of, I finished with an official time of 7:36:06 (time riding 6:44).  The time spent at the stops no doubt enabled me to ride a little faster when moving but 50 minutes spent not moving is quite a chunk of time.  Very pleased to have done the ride and happy with my time despite doubts of stopping for too long at the stops.

A mention of the rest of the Beeston posse, Mike W came second overall with a ride of 5:05! and we had had 5 top 10 finishers in the various categories, a good day out for Beeston CC, we were also the best represented club in means of numbers, something to be proud of.

Would I go back?  At £26 entry fee, no I wouldn't, the rider support was good I have to admit, but it is a lot of money to pay to ride on open public roads and only get a drinks bottle in way of souvenir/freebies.

GPS Screenshot

Distance = 152.5 km
Time = 6 hrs 44 mins
Ave Speed = 22.6 kph
Top Speed = 66.9 kph
Ascent = 5351 m (35.1 m/km)

Road Bike = 3332.5 km
Single Speed = 102.2 km
Fixed = 26 km
Indoor = 71.5 km
Total = 3532.2 km

Pictures taken by fellow Beeston CC riders Richard B and Paul N

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