Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Dave Lloyd Mega Challenge

What a monster of a ride. 220km with just over 5000m of climbing - yep, it was all of that. But I finished with a pretty reasonable time of 8hrs12min (8:01 riding time). Not bad considering it rained hard for two hours in the middle and I punctured at the end. It was the quickest too, not that it's a race ;-)

Satnav blindness

I caught the train to Wrexham and rode 30-odd km to Ruthin on Saturday, using a simple route I'd plotted on Bikely and saved to my Garmin. But I made the classic mistake that owners of Satnavs make: following the directions blindly. Unlike me, the Garmin had a mind of its own and deviated from my planned route to go the shortest possible way to Ruthin. I think I'd set it to "avoid major roads", so my route got overridden, so to speak. I dutifully ignored the road signs, one of which said 'dead end' and instead watched the purple line on my GPS and read the instructions...

"Turn right onto unpaved road"

What? This can't be right! But I continued, because I'd just climbed a hill and didn't want to retrace to climb another one.

It was indeed an unpaved road, but I could see it led straight down between Moel Llanfair and Moel y Plas into Ruthin. A mountain bike would have been fine down it, but a road bike with 23mm tyres? Ich don't think so. So I half walked, half rode down and got into town about half an hour later than I would have if I'd ridden on the road. Such idiocy!

"Turn right onto unpaved road"
© Jeff Jones

You idiot
© Jeff Jones

Fortunately, I had managed to get a room in the sumptuous Ruthin Castle hotel, sharing with Bruce Barnes, one of the co-organisers. I assume he was called that to save confusion. A somewhat disorganised Kirsty made the trip up too. I got there just as the Organising Party (including Mr Lloyd) arrived and learned that dinner was in the offing. Brilliant! There were at least three large shindigs going on, including a medieval banquet in one of the other rooms. That looked pretty good.

A bit of Ruthin Castle
© Jeff Jones

I've stayed in worse places
© Jeff Jones

Dinner involved various quantities of wine and meat and some fun tales from Yorkshiremen Fred and Dave, who were part of the organising crew. Dave became very good friends with the wine waiter over the course of the evening, enlisting Kirsty's help on occasion.

Fred used to be a cyclist, now has a bung leg and is trying to lose weight: "Used to be able to drink 30 pints a day but now 16 pints and I've 'ad it."

I retired for the evening, thankful that Bruce didn't snore. Still didn't sleep, which was a bit annoying.

Kirsty, Dave and Fred at dinner. Absence of food meant more wine.
© Jeff Jones

A tough day out

[There will be a report on this in Cycling Plus 214]

It was drizzling on Sunday morning. Does it ever stop raining in this country? The weather reports I'd been checking said it would clear during the course of the day, so I wasn't too dismayed, although the reports did turn out to be somewhat wide of the mark.

A bowl of porridge and two cups of the finest Welsh coffee was enough to get me going but I waited for 25 minutes after most of the field of 400 or so had left until I started. Meanwhile I got some tips from Dave Lloyd about the descent of Moel Arthur. He advised me to stick to the right because it was too rough on the left. Good advice, although I forgot which one of the many descents it was. I realised afterwards I'd followed his advice anyway. I've had past experience of finding smooth bits of road to ride on...

Porridge and Welsh coffee. What more could you ask for?
© Jeff Jones

Kirsty went for the Welsh tea
© Jeff Jones

Should I wear SPF 60+ ?
© Jeff Jones

The first climb out of town was probably the hardest of the day. The Bwlch Ben Parras averaged 12% for over 2km and included a 27% bend and a few slippery cattle grids. Ouch! At least I was fresh, so there was no thought of getting off. I passed many people just on that hill.

There was lots more to come though. 1000m of climbing in the first 25km, same again in the next 25km. Horseshoe Pass had a great descent but I saw a few overcooked it on the second bend. Here's me going down it. Then it was up to World's End, which I thought was beautiful apart from the savage gradient.

I don't blame people who changed their minds at the second feed zone (100km) and went straight back to Ruthin, doing the 110km route instead of the full monty. Because by that stage the rain had started and it was a headwind for the next 60km on the aptly named "Road to Hell". That was hard work, especially as I couldn't see anyone in front to chase, except the odd person I passed who had punctured on the wet gravelly roads. Actually I couldn't see much at all because of the stinging rain.

Somewhere up one of the hills I passed Nick Bourne, the organiser of the Tour of Wessex. He's a strong rider but he ain't built for hills. I had a brief chat before he let me go my unmerry way. The next I saw of him was when I was leaving the feed zone at Bala, having warmed up with a quick cup of coffee, some malt loaf and a chat with friendly northern Fred and Dave. I yelled at Nick to get some coffee, because it was a lifesaver. I never thought I'd say that about coffee in Wales.

The rain stopped at last and I dashed along Lake Bala, thankful that the wind would soon turn in my favour. I was averaging 27km/h and had only stopped for 5 minutes so I thought an eight hour time was doable. The back of the Bwlch-y-Groes was another steep single lane climb but I could at least enjoy some of the amazing scenery in Snowdonia national park. Near the top I could see a couple of riders just ahead - one at a minute, one at three minutes.

I nearly caught the first guy at the top and followed him down the steep and rather fun but technical descent to Lake Vyrnwy. I passed the next guy on the next climb - Pen Bryn-y-Fawnog - which was the final big one. Much like the previous bloke, he told me he was knackered.

The descent off Pen Bryn-y-Fawnog was very quick and not too technical, although there were a few bends that could catch you out. Alas, when I got back onto the lovely smooth main road, I heard the dreaded 'pss...pss...pss' from the front tyre. Buggerbugritbuggerbugritbugger! It was a bit of glass that had gotten lodged in the tyre. I extracted it, replaced the tube, pumped like mad and was back on the bike in five minutes, only being passed by the one rider.

I caught him again with about 20km to go, just as we were tackling the final few 'stingers'. One of them, Melin-y-Wig, was as steep as the very first climb, just not as long. Double ouch. At the top, my companion stopped to lend another puncture victim his pump. I kept going, as I'd already done my puncture time for the day. I passed another who was waiting for his mate, and enjoyed the final 8km downhill to the finish. It turned out I was the second rider of the 'Mega' home (quite a few who'd done the Mini ride had already finished) and had the fastest time by 10 minutes. I was well pleased with that.

I'd given a 20 minute headstart to Kirsty, but it took me nearly three hours to catch her, so I wasn't surprised when she came in having done 9:17, which was the fastest of the handful of women who tackled the full distance. She was likewise well pleased.

I'm definitely pencilling this one in for next year.


Laura W said...

Have you ever felt like you're just a bit silly for doing things like this to yourself?

Jeff Jones said...

All the time. It's pure lunacy, but it keeps me out of trouble. It's also a good way of seeing some nice bits of the world (that includes World's End).

Neil Davies said...
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