DLMC Blue Steel
Nik and I had headed up to Ruthin in North Wales at a relax pace the day before, had arrived at the event village, registered and pitch the van and Claire's tent. Roly, Kit, Claire and Mark soon arrived whilst I played with my bike.
A bit later we had some dinner, chock full of more carbs, we sorted are ride food and wondered in to town, to find Roly and Kit in caffeine overload at their B&B. After a short bit of banter and arranging when to me we headed back to the van to get some sleep. I was amazed at how quickly I fell asleep, despite my excitement.
The morning dawned and I got out of bed and proceed to go about getting ready, eating porridge and drinking coffee, as you do. Soon Roly and Kit arrive, no Mark he was still asleep. Nik was up to see us off and take a few pics. Eventually we rolled out somewhere around 06:15 for a long day in the saddle.
I won't go in to detail of all the climbs and descents but in general it was to be a tough day. I had set myself and extra challenge by only running 39/26 as my lowest gears and with the feared Bwlch-y-Groes rumored to be 27% at it's steepest after 15-25% for the most of it and the equally feared Road to Hell long before this I had to ride tactfully. No charging along on the flat lands where my gearing gave me massive advantages. I had planned how I would ride the 250km with its estimated 5000 metres of climbing and I had to stick to this.
On the first climb I did so and Kit and Roly spun away up the road in front of me. I caught a girl who had borrowed some tape of us to fix her tent and was riding the Mega by herself, great effort.
I continued on up the road, over The Shelf and then over Horse Shoe Pass, so far no issues. The next serious climb would be up onto Worlds End, this was a bit tasty and I settled into a slow and steady rhythm turning the cranks over until I arrived at the top of the hill. A flat TT style pedal due to the wind across the top and down to the first feed stop. Where I caught Roly and Kit and Roly was kind enough to fill my water bottle with Energy Source.
This would become the theme for the day, I would sit at my controlled and enforced adverse gearing pace, whilst Roly and Kit would spin of the front, it would get steep and they would disappear and I would see them at the next feed station and the process began again. This was fine as we had already agreed to ride at our own pace.
We set off again. Eventually the guys road away again, but I would find them back tracking as we approached the road to hell. The climb of Cymau Hills, Treuddyn, Rhosesmor and Moel Arthur all went without complaint.
After meeting up with Roly and Kit, we ended up in a group taking turns (first rider rides tempo at the front, peels of the next takes over, and so on, think Tour breakaway working to stay away). After a while of enjoying these antics I reminded myself of the long and tough climb of the Road to Hell, approximate 8km with some nasty steep bits. I sat up and took it easy again, I got some more food in and then found myself passing the 5 MILES of Climbing sign. I calmly smiled.
After several kilometers of climbing, I saw Roly, dancing on the pedals out of a switch back and I saw the steep section of the climb in front of him. I soon arrived at this myself, up out of the saddle as I found my limit of my gears quickly here. I fell lazily on to each pedal as the crank passed vertical and zig-zag across the road, only straightening for a couple for chaps with a much more sensible gear option. Although finding it slow going I actually felt really good. I plodded on to the top and the next feed station. You guessed, I found Roly and Kit again.
The same pattern followed, but only after sometime together as the guys felt they might have battered themselves if they kept going so hard. We rode along, chatting and discussing the big climbs to come, one in particular Bwlch-y-Groes. After a serious comfort break for Roly, we turned onto the A494 with and found ourselves quickly in a group, thanks to some traffic lights.
The group soon split and then I fell off the back of the front group. I settled in to a rhythm after a few minutes, but found myself in no mans land. I think I had bonk and got spat out the back of the front group that had formed, but managed to to get enough food in quickly enough to recover. This road was quite straight with some gradual climbs and descents.
I settled further into my rhythm and found myself comfortably sat on 42-43kph, I looked for the second group behind me, they didn't seem to be catching me. I kept to my pace as it felt really sound, I looked for the group again, now they were no where to be seen. Damn it, I wanted them to catch me so I could sit in and enjoy a rest, I kept the tempo. At the point I started to wonder if I had missed a turn, I violent through the bike into a left hand turn, greased over some grit on the road surface and started to climb again.
The weather had been iffy all day, but now it decided it was going to get a bit wet, as I turned onto the A470 it clouded over and started to rain, but now I could see other riders and a bunch of Belgians cruised past in fine form, all whippet like climbing snakes. At the top of this climb the cloud lifted a bit and a long fun descent was further reward. I arrived at the feed station routinely found Kit and Roly, ate a bunch of food and rolled out again.
At the feed station the talk had been about this climb, I had been a bit oblivious to it all and was keen to continue on, I had set myself a road time of 10-10:30 and didn't want too much overtime in the official timing.
We set off and I really did take it easy, riding through the steep sided valley I sensed something big was coming and my legs would need everything in them and soon it loomed there in front of me with a dozen or so riders bobbing up and down on their machines strung out for about. The I saw Kit and Roly, round the corner out of the switch back that starts the climb proper.
I thought I would take it easy and zigzag when I could combine standing with sitting on the easier bits. I came out of the switch back and started up the beast Bwlch-y-Groes. It is said to go through 15-25% for the best part of the climb, with a 27% kick in the groin near the top. My planned attack was working, couple of folk went past, I encourage them on, whilst I was going slow and just falling onto the pedals on each stroke I was not struggling otherwise. My pace was quite comfortable, although very slow. Another rider went past, just as it got steeper, shortly after he had to step off his bike and walk.
I kept riding, I came to the steepest bit, you know it is steeper as it clearer looks it. I fell onto the pedals more, but my pace was now extremely slow. I had to make a decision, step off and walk or fall off. 20 or so meters in to the steepest section I stepped of the bike, walked about 80-100 metres and and got back on, rode a bit further than had to pull out the way for a car, I stuck my hand on a low post, the car past and I continued up to where Kit and Roly had just stopped.
A quick chat them and congratulations all around, we set off again. I was mega happy with my effort on Bwlch-y-Groes and new that the next climb would be difficult after it, but if I could climb that beast as well as I did, then the rest of the hills would go pretty easy, although I knew there was one tasty number left.
We tick the climb of Pen Bryn-y-Fawnog and headed to the next feed station, only The Stingers left, right!
Food, more drink, a shared banana with a stranger and most of the midget gems and I was keen to get going. We rolled on.
Bring on the Stingers, first Bwlch Garneddog, then Tyn-y-Bwlch, Bettws Gwerfil Goch and my personal favorite Melin-y-Wig. What can I say abut this climb, your legs are tired, for the last 10 kilometers the IBS you started ride with is finally having and ill affect and you have about a 25% short sharp kick in the teeth with a rough boot to climb. I bear down on it, it rears up, I dig deeper, it rears up more, I swear and curse at it and then the pedals seem lighter again. The photographer, snaps a shot and yells "Well done, 10 more miles!" I thank him and jest "Hey that's what the guy 10 miles back said".
That's it these two climbs are left Foel Fawr and Clawdd Newydd, then a long fast descent in to Ruthin, that starting point. I charged done the hill to Ruthin, over taking another rider and then trying to pass a black Audi. My legs feel more alive again, so I sprint through the streets of Ruthin. There are some kids about 10 years old, cheering me on (like they have done for all the riders) they scream "GO NEARLY THERE!" and "HIGH FIVE!" I obliged holding my hand put and dispensing 3 high fives in a row. The yell more!
A little climb, no time to change gears, out of the saddle and charge up this hill, swing into the car park past the helpfully stopped 307 and under the finish banner. 11:02 official time, 10:12 road time. Bloody chuffed with that!
I see Roly, Kit, Nik and Claire, and roll over to them. Nik and Claire had done the Mini and turned in some bloody good times. Especially Nik when you consider she is still plagued by a bad case of whiplash from a car accident, she has done a bloody brilliant job.
We all congratulate each other and are really happy we did it and I state that I will be back, with a better geared bike next year.
Next blog, the new bike, it was this or the Alps, not true actually.