GORE BIKE WEAR Trans Wales 2009
QUICK LINKS 2009: DAY 1 - DAY 2 - DAY 3 - DAY 4 - DAY 5 - DAY 6 - DAY 7
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Sunday 16th August
Day One: ‘It begins…’
Linking stage One
Builth Wells to Llanidloes
Total distance: 91km
The first stage of the 2009 GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales kicked off beneath optimistic skies as the 180 massed riders rolled out from the start town of Builth Wells at 9am on Sunday 16th August. The upbeat character of today’s weather was a far cry from the monsoon of last year and a sign (all and sundry are hoping) of good things to come..
Riders had flocked to mid-Wales from all around the globe, with no less than 13 nationalities and 4 continents represented, including the US, Finland, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, and Holland. Africa is also represented at the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales for the first time in the shape of 28 year old Kenyan Nickson Mwaura, a second hand clothing dealer from Gilgil, near Nairobi – a place that Nickson explains is characterized by rocky and technical riding. With plenty of rocks and singletrack on the menu during the week Nickson should feel fairly at home, despite the relative cold.
Today’s stage was billed by course designer and Builth Wells local John Lloyd as a ‘warm up’; it would ease riders’ legs into the rhythm of things without the strain of tackling one of the time trial special stages – the riders will be unleashed on the first of these tomorrow at the Climachx trail, near Machynlleth.
The stage took riders all of 91km and 1650m of climbing from Builth Wells to Llanidloes in the north, via three passes – Carn Gafallt at 393m, Moelfryn at 522m, and Blanc Du at 422m – and the flooded Elan Valley with its spectacular sequence of reservoirs and dams. With firm going under tyre and a variety of trail deployed for the event’s opening gambit, the mileage was liberally eaten up. A fairly hefty slab of tarmac and cycle path aided progress still further. But the weather was the greatest factor with little damp of greasy spots to slide riders off-trail along the way.
Out of Builth and the trail worked its way towards Newbridge-on-Wye and then Llanwrthwl before ascending to the purple heather covered plateau of Carn Gafallt. From here, riders dropped down an all-too short but loose fire road descent before dropping to the shore of Caban-coch Reservoir, the most southerly of the Elan Valley ’s manmade lakes. The route then hugged the shores of the four reservoirs, steadily climbing, before reaching the windswept lunch stop. Then came the trail of the day: the descent off the top of Moelfryn to the River Wye (Afon Gwy in Welsh).
Gently dropping off the moorland top, the trail quickly became a boulder and gulley strewn adrenaline fest which instilled a do-or-die mentality to plummeting downwards. Rounded boulders embedded in the dirt became inviting kickers over wheel-grabbing (and destroying) trenches; rock slabs became perfect flat banks for railing turns and carving high lines; and loose babyheads kept riders loose and hanging it out until the full-fat 3km descent finally came to an arm-pumped close by the riverside.
Brendan Stevens and Steve Marks, winners of Mountain Biking UK (MBUK)’s GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales competition, rolled into the finish of the day’s stage at Llandilioes rugby club buzzing after their first taste of big day riding in the heart of Wales. “We can’t believe more people don’t do this: we’re loving it,” said Brendan.. “We normally go out and blast for two hours, taking the mick and enjoying all that banter, but today we paced ourselves and finished feeling really strong. It meant we could take in the scenery and really enjoy it. It was stunning.”
Brendan entered MBUK’s competition by text, but when he was called by the magazine to congratulate him on his win, he thought he’d won a bike. “Seriously, I couldn’t remember entering,” he said, “but I enter so many competitions I must’ve lost track.” But he and Steve also won a BOB trailer full of Gore Bike Wear kit, NiteRider light systems, High5 energy drink and gels, Schwalbe tyres, Squirt lube, Buff headwear gear and the loan of two top end carbon Merida FLX3000 hardtails for the event.
Nickson Mwaura completed the day’s stage comfortably and was looking forward to being let off the leash on the first special stage at the Climachx trail. Nickson only arrived in the UK two days before the start of the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales, and his only taste of British riding – up until the start this morning – was a lap of Richmond Park in London. But not only is the event his first ever stage race, but it’s the first time he’s ever ridden a full suspension bike (a Merida 96, courtesy of Merida Bikes) too.
Nickson is here for the tough competition and to gauge himself against it, but above all to learn: to learn how to pace himself for stage events, and to learn the discipline required for stage racing. But he’s no stranger to winning: he’s white-washed pretty much everything he’s entered since his first race in 2003. At home his exploits have elevated him to hero status, something that he takes seriously and selflessly as he’s now mentoring four younger riders, as well as organizing charity races for Kenyan conservation causes.
Speaking with him after the close of the day’s stage, he told the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales team that he’d like to be competitive and win the Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category, but is pragmatic that to finish first, first he must finish. “The cold air was the worst thing today: I’m not used to riding in these conditions. But I very much enjoyed it and found myself faster on the singletrack than other riders but was a little slower on the flat. I read about this event in magazines for the last three years and I dreamt about gauging myself against the other riders and now I am here.”
Asked how he started riding he explained that, “I just fell in love with mountain biking through my brother when I was at school: I wanted to be a conservationist but my mother didn’t have the money for the extra schooling so I thought, ‘I cannot fly in the air, but here on the ground with the dirt and the rocks and the geology I can ride and still be part of it.’ Completing an event is the best thing to experience: winning comes later. But finishing is the greatest. Then, if you’re good enough to grab the win – then you should grab it as no-one wouldn’t like that.”
With no special stage today the leader board is currently blank, however tomorrow’s stage – all 85km and 2900m of climbing (but with 3100m of descending) of it – will see the first special stage on the technical Climachx trail, and with it the first leaders of the 2009 GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales. As Nickson says, “The real job starts tomorrow.” It’s about to get interesting…
Day Two: Enter the Climachx
Monday 17th August
The second day of the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales saw the riders head into some big terrain with big climbs and huge descents, as well as the first special stage to truly light the competition fuse.
Llanidloes to Machynlleth
Total distance: 91km
Special Stage One
The Climachx Trail, Machynlleth
Total distance: 11km
Today’s linking stage rolled out of Llandiloes at 9am to follow the River Severn towards its source in Hafren Forest before exiting the riders prior to the ascent of Penycrocben at 469m – an open moor which was the site of a Roman fortlet that today merely guards stunning views to the south east. The trail then gently sped downwards towards a tricky rocky chute that spat riders onto a bridge before a short hike-a-bike. Lunch was served at the head of the descent towards the Dyfi Valley to help riders refuel and regroup before charging down a wet and rock slab lathered trail. The descent dropped the riders Foel Fadian at 564m into the Dyfi Valley itself amidst scenery that to die for. “I always forget how good the scenery is here,” reflected singlespeeder Matt Carr, “it could be Scotland or Patagonia.”
The Climachx trail is perhaps one of the lesser known gems on the Welsh trail centre map; lacking the trail blazing history of nearby Coed y Brenin or the well-publicised trail density of Afan Argoed in south wales, it’s often overlooked. But make the effort as the final descent is genuinely one of the finest trail centre descents in Wales. Beginning off a rolling start down some fireroad it swoops downwards on undulating singletrack and into the woods for an extended section of flowing but rockier terrain. Stone slabs and steps pepper the descent as it snakes its way around the flanks of Myndd-Fron-Felen with enough square edges to see one unlucky rider accruing no less than four punctures. For those with full pressure running in their tyres, the descent then careers faster and faster until the bermalicious crescendo that helps them recreate the speeder bike scene from Return of the Jedi. For those with punctures, it’s the rumble of rim on dirt and rock and sketchy turns or a long walk.
Unlike previous TransWales events, for the 2009 GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales the special stages are ran during the linking stage itself so that riders’ flow wasn’t interrupted. They leave the event village in the morning, ride to the special stage, race, and then ride off to the day’s end afterwards. This means that tactics on the linking stage are now very much part of the game: should riders go out on the first part of the linking stage in order to arrive at the special stage with clear trail ahead of them for an unimpeded passage? Or should they go steady and hold plenty of reserve in the tank for when they reach the special stage (but also risk getting caught up in traffic on the special stage itself) and then light up the afterburner? For the case of the first man down the special stage it was both.
Johnathan Pugh was first through on the linking stage and the first to the special stage gate; he then put the hammer down and redlined to the finish some 11km hence, and although he admitted afterwards, “[it was] hard on the climb and I was in the big ring I kept on telling myself, ‘don’t pussy out – keep it in the big ring’, I clicked down about halfway up,” not even the sporadic jet scream of low-flying RAF (Royal Air Force) jets could distract him putting in a time of 25mins 56secs. “I was pleased with that as I couldn’t have gone any faster.” He didn’t need to: he was the fastest on the Climachx stage and two minutes clear of his nearest rival in the Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category.
But unlike other endurance racers Johnathan isn’t on a carbon fibre lightweight rig, he’s on an aluminium 120mm travel Trek Fuel EX that weighs in at the 29lb mark all in – 7lbs or so off racing weight. But such solidity and capability means that he can nail the descents without shirking hitting things hard and flat out. Couple this with 2.5in tubeless tyres and Johnnny feels he can, “more than make up any time on a long descent.” Interestingly, Johnny isn’t the only racer who has swapped a light weight 100mm full suss race bike for a trail bike’s superior firepower: Josh Ibbett of IronHorse-Extreme is aboard an Iron Horse MKIII and Steve Heading of Whyte Bikes is on a Whyte E-120. Josh clocked 28mins 20secs to take second on the day in the Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category; Steve Heading romped the course in a total time of 28mins 03secs to secure the leader’s jersey in the Squirts Lubes Solo Male Veteran category – his time that would’ve placed him second in the Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category ahead of Josh. Proof, if ever it were needed that fast riders are fast, no matter what bike you put them on.
For Nickson Mwaura the Climachx was his first chance to get to grips with British trail centre terrain; for the duration of the linking stage – as he was yesterday – he’d been right up there with the front runners and seen his way safely down the descent off Foel Fadian – although he admitted he didn’t expect to encounter such a severe trail during the event – but the special stage itself saw him struggle with the wet conditions under tyre making things still trickier for the Kenyan. “It was wet and when you placed your tyre somewhere it just went,” he explained, “I came off on the rocks and [I] didn’t have it [mentally] together.” But by the time he rolled over the finish line he’d clocked the 43mins 45secs, roughly 17minutes off the pace to finish 39th overall.
In the Schwalbe Tyres Female Solo category the Italian Marathon Champion Marika Covre (Ideal – Vivibike) put a great effort in with a committed display of flat-out racing, looking confident and assured on the descents until she overcooked it on one of the final berms and lost valuable seconds. In the end she had to settle for second behind a scorching aggressive ride by Rickie Justine Cotter (Cytek). Cotter took the trail by the scruff of its neck to clock the fastest female ride of the day in a time of 34mins 40secs, a clear minute and 21 secs faster than Covre.
Last year’s solo female winner Fi Spotswood returned for her fourth consecutive TransWales event; this time, however, she was competing in the Merida Bikes Mixed category with riding partner Michael Tomlinson (South Fork Racing) and looking for another top podium result. However the Merida Bikes Mixed category looks like being a close-run one as Maddie & Jay Horton (Team Certini) have strong designs on the overall. Maddie & Jay Horton took the early lead in the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales by romping home on the Climachx trail in a time of 29mins 49secs, just under a minute up on Spotswood and Tomlinson who finished in 30mins 42secs.
Solo Results after Day 2 - Download PDF
Team Results after Day 2 - Download PDF
Day Three: ‘The thick of it’
Tuesday 18th August
Three linking stages and two special stages in, the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales is beginning to take shape amidst some stunning scenery and scorching riding…
Linking stage Three
Machynlleth to Cwmystwyth
Total distance: 73km
Special Stage Two
Total distance: 8km
Taking the riders from Machynlleth to Cwmystwyth, some 73km and 2300m of climbing south the third linking stafe struck out through woods climbing up Mynydd Bychan at 493m. The woods gave way to stunning wilderness sprinkled liberally with sheep and stone walls, speared by rocky drovers track that made its way to the river crossing of Afon Hengwm; last year a rope had been thrown across it to prevent riders being swept away by the exceptionally high flow due to last year’s record breaking rainfall. However this year the level was less severe, but the river still had to be negotiated with care.
After some wet feet the trail continued its tumbling way to the stunning Nant-y-Moch reservoir that’s situated in a remote saddle. Skirting its shores saw the riders join the outreach of the natural trail component of Nant-y-Arian’s Continental trail: a superb blend of flowing manmade singletrack together with an ‘out there’ feel. Following it against the flow brought the riders to the start of the day’s special stage at Nant-y-Arian at Liyn Syfydrin. Unlike yesterday’s special stage which favoured the descenders, today’s was undoubtedly one for the climbers.
The stage itself had been reduced by the organisers from the original 25km point to point from Nant-y-Moch reservoir to Nant-y-Arian’s visitor centre to an 8km loop that returned to where it started. This allowed riders to leave superfluous ballast to streamline their racing weight a little. The stage began with a sequence of wide rocky climbs and fast descents, before plunging into carving singletrack that switchbacked down the hillside, and kept on going. And going. It finally came to an end at the valley floor where the only way was up. In this case: two miles of relentless and sustained gradient on false-summit infested fireroad. It was do or die rhythm time. After the summit the trail swung left for one last short but sharp singletrack dash to the finish.
For Phil Marland of the Army Cycling Union, who was using the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales as part of his training for the Cape Epic, the first third of the special stage would sadly put an end to his event.
Phil separated from his bike at speed on an open rocky descent on the special stage after colliding with some wire fencing. He went down extremely hard. The accident happened very close to a marshall point who called immediately for an ambulance as Phil was in intense pain. A fellow rider Tatjana Troll, a doctor from Bristol, stayed with him until the ambulance arrived. He was airlifted to hospital with suspected pelvis, lumbar spine, leg, arm and shoulder injuries. The good news is that the latest news from the hospital says he’s broken his coccyx but nothing else; we all hope that the final prognosis is positive and we all wish him a full recovery.
Jonathan Pugh (Clee Cycles KCNC High 5) arrived comfortably at the special stage start at the head of the field, rested a little prior to revving up for the special stage, and then turned on the gas. But despite his 29lb trail bike weight he opened up a whole world of hurt on the Leg Burner climb to storm the stage in a total time of 22mins 51secs - enough to see him begin to open up a gap of over three minutes on his nearest rival in the Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category, Josh Ibbett (IronHorse-Extreme).
Unlike previous year’s, this year sees no official singlespeed category. But in true singlespeed fashion, this hasn’t stopped the one coggers from having one though. Enter from stage left the unofficial Singlespeed Leader’s jersey that’s been custom made with a permanent marker pen. A really thick one. The rules require the current singlespeed leader to wear it on the trail, to not wash it – ever – and to hand it over to any new leader. The Health & Safety Exec, however, have yet to comment on this potentially biologically hazardous practice.
Currently the Army’s Graham McConaghy is the proud owner of the jersey after outpacing all one really nice speed riders at the Climachx, although today he had to settle for second in the unofficial singlespeed category 3secs behind Rob Holbeche (No Friends No Gears), who finished in 26mins 7secs. The fight would’ve been closer between these two evenly matched riders yesterday at the Climachx had Rob not been the unfortunate victim of no less than four punctures. McConaghy is also right up there in the overall of the Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category after finishing seventh today to cement sixth in the overall with a time of 21:57:33, less than 10mins behind Pugh.
In the Merida Bikes Mixed category the leading pair of Maddie and Jay Horton (Team Certini) looked to put some time into second placed Fi Spotswood and Michael Tomlinson (South Fork Racing), and put it in they did. They pressed their advantage to finish in 25mins 12secs, over a minute clear of Spotswood and Tomlinson. The gap separating the two pairs in the overall is now over two minutes.
Another category that’s showing the signs of a good fight developing is the Schwalbe Tyres Female Solo category; yesterday saw Rickie Justine Cotter (Cytek) take the lead by 41secs ahead of Italian Marathon Champion Marika Covre (Ideal – Vivibike). However, the Leg Burner helped see Covre storm the stage in a time of 26mins 01secs, with Cotter in second in a time of 27mins 55secs. This leaves Covre with a 1min 13secs advantage over Cotter in the overall going into tomorrow’s special stage. But with the course profile being straight up and straight down, it could be the decisive special stage to see one truly pull away from the other. With Cotter’s descending skills in no doubt, nor Covre’s climbing ability tomorrow’s special stage will be a nail biter.
Results after Day 3 - Download PDF
Day Four: ‘NiteRiders’
Wednesday 19th August
An epic day in the saddle threw the riders head long into the finest riding of the entire GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales so far, before seeing them hurtle headlong into the darkness for the NiteRider night time special stage that would see thrills and spills aplenty…
Linking stage Four
Cwymystwyth to Cilycm
Total distance: 76km
Special Stage Three
Total distance: 7km
Today was the day that the combined fire power of thousands of lumens of lighting were unleashed on an unassuming Welsh hillside. Today was the day when the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales saw the NiteRider night time special stage at the full on, flat out 3km up straight up, 3km straight down fast singletrack that is Cwm Rhaiadr.
But before the riders faced the darkness, there was the small matter of the 76km and 2100m of climbing that would take the riders from Cwymystwyth to Cilycm. But, despite the distance – compounded by the three long days in the saddle previously – the linking stage took in some of the finest trails the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales has sampled so far, with stunning descents that lasted mile after mile and just kept on giving. For some, this was paradise, whilst for others the toll of three tough days in the saddle together with two special stages made staying on line and on course harder than usual. But all wore grins, howsoever weary, and come the end of the day, all would be over halfway through the event.
Riders left the picturesque campsite at Blaenycwm at the foot of yesterday’s final descent near Cwmystwyth at 9am and, after a brief spin down the valley, struck across the river and onto rocky double track that hitched up into woodland and eventually climbed up towards the picturesque Teifi Lakes. Then came the long, rugged descent from the top of the Bryn Llyn Egnant at around 480m, with its snaking single and double track that continuously dropped away across river crossings and carving singletrack. However, despite being a fast and picturesque trail, this was merely the warm up act to the headline trail of the entire event so far. Next on the billing, following a quick drinks stop outside the ruins of the Strata Florida abbey, was the snaking valley of river crossings hidden in the midst of the Tywi Forest.
Amidst dense rock gardens and huge slabs the trail fled down stream with riders carving lines between the rocky debris and flowing water – sometimes up and over small waterfall steps - while the trail criss-crossed the river, shadowing the water’s descent further towards the Llyn Brianne Reservoir and, at one point, merging with the river.
Then came paradise: it was time for the headline trail to be unleashed on the riders. It was time for the Afon Doethie valley descent: a 5km trail that swept the riders along its sinuous length, inspiring tired legs as they spun through the clefts and folds of the contours, seemingly endlessly onwards towards an ever increasing serotonin payoff. It’s a flowing, undulating singletrack descent wrought from Heaven that flits high above the Afon Doethie river below and gradually, seamlessly makes its angelic way to Nant y Bai below on singletrack that averages about 6in in width. For weary legs and minds the effort of keeping the bike on line and not fish tailing on the greasy sections proved too much and offs were plentiful. But for the committed rider (and those with tenacious tyres) the trail was divine.
Finally the riders hit the tarmac for a gentle spin towards civilisation and the day’s end at Cilycm, although some riders got sidetracked by a cool pint at the local pub and found the last kilometre to the finish line harder than usual. The inebriated few arrived just in time to catch the BBC doing a live broadcast from the event, including interviews with riders, and the weather forecast for Wales.
But come 9pm and the NiteRider night time special stage saw the first rider – Jonathan Pugh, the current leader of the Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category – sprint from the start gate and up, up, up the long and twisty fire road climb. Around 10 minutes up the fire track gives way to steep singletrack climbing before finally summiting and forcing the riders to stare down the barrel of a 3km singletrack super gun. Having practiced here recently, it would take an incredible ride from Josh Ibbett (IronHorse-Extreme) to upset Pugh’s home advantage. However Pugh proved 50secs faster than Ibbett on the stage, who in turn was 2secs quicker than (Jon Bowie, TriSmart).
For Kenya’s Nickson Mwaura this would be the first time he has tackled trails at night – let alone at racing pace – however, Nickson found his groove and put in a time of 23mins 37secs – good enough to claim 11th on the night, just over four minutes adrift of first place. “I’m learning all the time,” he said before hitting the start line, “and I like the climbs so we shall see.” After a tough day out on the linking stage where he suffered a twisted ankle and struggled with the final descent, his night stage performance was a stark contrast and good enough to see him move up from 27th to 19th in the overall classification.
Elsewhere, all eyes were on the Schwalbe Tyres Female Solo category, which had seen the two top riders – Marika Covre (Ideal – Vivibike) and Rickie Justine Cotter (Cytek) – dueling it out and swapping stage wins and the overall lead. With Covre being the stronger climber and Cotter the better descender – save for mechanicals or punctures, which Cwm Rhaiadr is notorious for – it was going to come down to who had the superior night riding skills. In the end, Covre put in a phenomenal climb that would allowed her to hold off Cotter’s rocket-like descending to the finish line to take the stage win by just 8secs.
The closest gap in the overall classification prior to the NiteRider night time special stage currently belonged to the Saris Male category, which saw the pairing of Dan Lewis and Neil Richardson (Royal Air Force CA) leading Andy Jones and Ben Jones (Clee Cycles KCNC) by just 36secs. However, the RAF pairing extended their lead by 52secs following a scorching performance on the Cwm Rhaiadr trail.
In the Squirts Lubes Solo Male Veteran category Gareth Bowyer (Ffasiynau Anabelle Fashions) was eyeing up putting some time into the current category leader, Steve Heading (Whyte Racing) who was, at the start of today, 1min 14secs ahead. However Heading’s endurance and experience is truly beginning to show as he extended his lead by 1min 15secs by pummelling the trail into submission in a time of 20mins 55secs – good enough to place him in fourth in the open male category.
The Italian stallions of Fulvio Damian and Elvo Del Puppo (Ideal – ViviBike) have been leading the Ergon Veteran's Male category since the first special stage, and have been enjoying an 11min lead over second placed rivals David Rielly and Steve Partington (Isle of Man Fire Service). Come the darkness of the night stage they turned their canter into a trot as they took the win by a clear minute over second placed David Rielly & Steve Partington (Isle of Man Fire Service). They now lead by over 17mins in the overall classification – the largest margin in the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales.
In the Merida Bikes Mixed category Maddie and Jay Horton (Team Certini) looked to extend their winning streak to three in a row over second placed rivals, Fi Spotswood and Michael Tomlinson (South Fork Racing). However Spotswood and Tomlinson had other ideas and – despite Spotswood saying later that she, “couldn’t find the flow on the descent,” and rode “safe to finish” – the South Fork Racing pair did enough to take the stage win over the Hortons by a clear 30secs. This would see them close the gap in the GC, but they still need to pull back two and a half minutes. With the final special stage tomorrow on Brechfa forest – a trail that Spotswood won on last year – it’s certainly possible, although the Horton’s will be revved up to fully reassert their authority on the final and deciding special stage.
Tomorrow sees the riders head 70km and 2700m of climbing south towards gthe small town of Llansewel. But at roughly 50km in the riders will also be let loose on the fourth and final special stage at Brechfa that will – barring any major mishaps on the two following linking stages – settle the overall titles for the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales.
There’ll be drama and plenty of adrenalin on the distinctive Brechfa trails that blend classic singletrack with new school berms, chutes, table tops and rollers. Smooth and fast riders should dominate over the 10km stage that will be a fitting climax to the competitive side of the event. Once done, riders will then (finally) roll into the day’s end Llansawel for a very well earned pint. We’ll drink to that.
Solo Results after Day 4 - Download PDF
Team Results after Day 4 - Download PDF
Day Five: ‘Warring with Attrition’
Thursday 20th August
Tough weather conditions and the fourth and final special stage makes an already tough day even tougher; but tempering the grind was some inspirational riding wrung from the dark heart of Brechfa Forest itself…
Linking stage Five
Cilycm to Llansewel
Total distance: 70km
Special Stage Four
Total distance: 10km
“That was hardcore today,” said one rider after finishing the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales’ fifth linking and fourth and final special stage. “Bloody hard,” he continued, “but there was awesome, awesome singletrack. And lots of it.” The elation was compounded by the shear brutality of the conditions today as the fair weather bubble finally burst early on this morning, but also by the fatigued legs and aching bodies.
With the NiteRider night time special stage meaning a late finish for all the previous night the beginning of today’s linking stage was put back to half nine – perfectly in time for a fresh loosing of the wet stuff. But given the highs of the previous day’s (and night’s) riding, it was going to take some serious amounts of the wet stuff to dampen the riders’ spirits.
The linking stage rolled out of Cilycm and quickly headed up hill and into the trees. The wet weather made the going considerably harder than previous days and, as with all bike events, it was the back markers who had to contend with the chewed up trail left for them by 100s of pairs of tyres. With tough climbing made even tougher by the conditions the day descended into a real war of attrition for the already weary riders. However, nothing good ever comes easy and despite the soggy conditions, the trail eventually took the riders into the heart of the much anticipated Brechfa forest. And it didn’t disappoint.
Built by downhiller and skills coach Rowan Sorrell, Brechfa’s Raven trail (graded black) is a new school sensation: riding it is like surfing with huge carving lines, pump and jumps into berms, steep switchbacking turns and massive table tops; most of which is all rollable. Course designer John Lloyd made much use of the Raven trail as the linking stage wrapped itself in knots to make the most use of the unique trails hidden in Brechfa Forest. For some, the technicality of the Raven proved too much and too intimidating, but for those who grabbed the riding by the throat and refused to be cowed it was a skills expanding experience as they pushed back both boundaries and perception of their abilities, and reaped huge serotonin results for their troubles.
After the natural highs the Raven brought the riders to the fourth and final special stage; but in contrast to the full-on riding of the Raven, the special stage made use of part of the green route. Characterised by fast and pumpy singletrack that became more difficult the faster you rode it, the green route climbed from the off up fire road before dropping back on itself along undulating singletrack and a sequence of bermed turns, before another fireroad stretch flowed into more singletrack. It continued in the same vein for 10km with short sharp climbs blended with ever increasing singletrack descents. It was a tough proposition with headwinds and sporadic driving rains to contend with. To aid the riders through the final test Terri and Carl from Squirt lube were on-hand at the start to clean and lube chains for smooth shifting. They were also loading up riders with enough jelly beans and babies to launch a diabetic space rocket into orbit – something that went a long way to helping a lot of very tired and weary riders through the section, and back to normalcy afterwards.
With this being the final special stage, the organiser’s will be announcing the results tomorrow night (which will be included in tomorrow’s report); however, tonight has seen the presentation of the NiteRider lights night time special stage and the confirmation that although Johnathan Pugh took the win in the Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category he wasn’t the fastest rider on the night: that honour fell to Dan Lewis (Royal Air Force CA) who clocked 19mins 35 secs – 16secs quicker than Pugh; however as Dan is racing the Saris Male Open category together with Neil Richardson, his ‘win’ awards him indefinite bragging rights rather than genuine silverware.
By the time riders finally arrived at camp for the night at rugby club the strains and stresses of five relentless days of big riding was showing; some riders broke down on the line after completing the stage, whilst others quietly crumpled obliviously into their sleeping bags.
It was certainly a tough day all-round but the camaraderie of the assorted riders who at the beginning hardly knew one another, and yet now are close friends, helped to ensure that every rider came through to the end, come what may. With the finish in Builth Wells now firmly in sight and just two day’s ride away – and with no special stage to really wring the legs of the final ounce of juice – the rider’s have now firmly broken the back of the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales.
Tomorrow will see the sixth linking stage take the riders 71km and 2400m of climbing to the smallest town in Britain, Llanwrtyd Wells (and also home to the World Bog Snorkelling Championships) and within genuine spitting distance of journey’s end. The GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales is almost home…
Results after Day 5 - Download PDF
Day Six: ‘Almost Home’
Friday 21st August
The penultimate day of the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales saw the riders head to the smallest town in Britain, Llanwrtyd Wells, with some tough climbing and technical descents along the way to bring the finish line of the seven day challenge finally into view…
Linking stage Six
Llansawel to Llanwrtyd Wells
Total distance: 71km
The penultimate day of the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales proved the weather pundits wrong; billed as being wetter than a duck’s feet on Ullswater the rain that had lightly drizzled the campsite over night never delivered the full-blown monsoon deluge we were promised. By lunch time the powers that be up above were definitely smiling on the riders as sunshine and blue skies dominated for the remainder of the day.
The riders left Llansawel rugby club at 9am and had a spin along the black top before climbing into Caeo Forest on their way to conquer the moorland fell of Mynydd Mallaeh at 448m. The going was tough and soggy, “like riding on a sponge” said one rider afterwards, and contributed to stringing the riders out significantly. However, the scenic rewards were massive as the wilderness of mid-Wales was laid out clean and crisp for the riders like an Imax landscape with shafting light beaming down from above.
Coming off the top riders picked up speed and clicked through the gears as gravity assisted their descent. The open and grassy trail meant riders could really let off the brakes and carve some lines like a racing lawnmower on speed. With grins tattooed onto faces, the course then dived into the woods and onto the 3km snaking singletrack descent of Cwm y Rhaiadr that formed part of the NiteRider night time special stage on Wednesday night.
A spin up the lane took the riders back onto some heavy going along the Afon Doethie before crossing it and striking upwards on rocky double track that got steeper as it neared its summit just short of Llyn Brianne Reservoir. A quick singletrack sojourn with a slight drop off at its end brought riders onto the banks of the reservoir itself, before a gentle spin to the lunch stop. After refueling on High5 and turkey and stuffing sandwiches – or Woodpecker cider if you’re a singlespeeder – the trail took the riders upwards and into the woods once more; and continued going upwards; and more; and again – in the vertical sense of going up – continuously and for a bloody long time.. Finally the monotonous fireroad gave way to a rolling climb that undulated between dipping up and down through roller coaster water splashes before finally turning downwards through a steep and very rocky descent to the water stop where riders finally pulled up with the unmistakable pinging of cooling rotors.
From here the course headed up once more to summit out in Irfon Forest at 468m before entering the ‘duck pond’; so called as it rolls through rocky troughs of standing water amidst single and double track the undulates slightly, with enough depth of water and hidden obstacles to tip even the wary rider into the muddy waters. After a quick fire road descent the trail dived off camber into a root infested singletrack and up a steep chute of a climb before the final swan song into Llanwrtyd Wells and a very well earned pint at the Neuadd Arms.
With the results of yesterday’s final special stage at Brechfa announced this evening, that – as we reported yesterday – made use of part of Brechfa’s green route. Characterised by fast and pumpy singletrack that became more difficult the faster you rode it, it climbed from the off up fire road before dropping back on itself along undulating singletrack and a sequence of bermed turns, before another fireroad stretch flowed into more singletrack. It continued in the same vein for 10km with short sharp climbs blended with ever increasing singletrack descents. It was a tough proposition with headwinds and sporadic driving rains to contend with.
The toughest competition of the entire GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales has been in the Schwalbe Tyres Female Solo category where Marika Covre (Ideal – Vivibike) and Rickie Justine Cotter (Cytek) had been battling tooth and nail for stage wins and the overall lead, where valuable seconds truly meant the difference between first and second place. As in the previous special stage – the NiteRider night time trial, where Cotter crashed on the downhill and handed Covre the win by just 8secs – Covre was again victorious on the power course where Cotter was convinced she’d been ripped to shreds on. The truth was that the final result was closer than ever with Cotter just 3secs adrift of the Italian marathon champion in a time of 21mins 49secs; a fact that would certainly be keeping Cotter awake.
In the Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category Jonathan Pugh (Clee Cycles KCNC High 5) took the win once more in 18minis 17secs, however Josh Ibbett (IronHorse-Extreme) who’d consistently been Pugh’s nearest rival dropped off the podium for the first time to allow Jon Bowie (TriSmart) to take second in the special stage in 18mins 48secs, followed by James Sanford (Bike RLC).
The final overall GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales results will be announced and presented at journey’s end at Builth Wells tomorrow, some 62km and 2000m away. With the weather report looking decidedly rosy with blue skies and sunshine, the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales should be finishing on a real and genuine high, and we’ll be rounding things up in style. Stay tuned.
Solo Results after Day 6 - Download PDF
Team Results after Day 6 - Download PDF
Day Seven: ‘The End’
Saturday 22nd August
After seven days, four special stages, over 500km (312miles) of riding , and 14,500m (47,560ft) of climbing the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales rolled home into Builth Wells. For the winners, the spoils of victory, but for all finishers the deep satisfaction of taking on this behemoth of a challenge and defeating it…
Linking stage Seven
Llanwrtyd Wells to Builth Wells
Total distance: 62km
The final day of the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales dawned bright and early for the riders after a particularly cold night under canvas. The dawn brought with it the warming rays of the sun and the promise – upheld through the day – of blue skies and sunshine. With riders waking their weary bodies after six relentless days in the saddle it was enough to know that 62km was all that lay between them and finishing the mammoth challenge that is the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales. At journey’s end the final standings would be announced and the odd beer quaffed in grateful celebration. But before the celebrations could genuinely begin, there was the small matter of pedalling the remaining distance home.
The linking stage took the riders up from the off and back into Irfon Forest, following some of the same trail that brought them to Llanwrtyd Wells yesterday, and around the flanks of Crugwydd at 455m, and then Bryn Mawr at 446m. The riders then dropped downwards before being confronted with the major test of the day’s stage: the moorland climb up to Carndu at 537m that hoiked them up to the final slab of soul affirming wilderness of the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales. Then the endorphine reward for the hard effort as riders charged headlong down the long and super fun descent towards the Elan Valley’s Caban-coch Reservoir.
The course then eventually looped southwards and into Gorenoeth woods for a finial singletrack flurry before rolling the remaining kilometres back into Builth Wells and a well-earned chilled beer and a GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales custom Motion finishing jersey – worth £50 each – on the finish line. “That’s a real technical performance jersey,” explained Alex Metcalfe from Gore Bike Wear, “that the riders have been receiving really well.”
However, the final kilometres saw riders really wind it up to finish with the throttle fully open so they could finish in top gear (or, for some, to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible) and even the Squirts Lubes Solo Male Veteran category winner, Steve Heading (Whyte Racing), said on finishing, “It was hard – I’ve been following Johnny Pugh and he made me suffer…”
Nick Beauchamp, aka The Bear, was the final rider home to Builth Wells just short o the 6hr cut off at 3pm to rapturous applause after a very tough and grueling week. Asked, ‘How much growl have you got left in you?’ He replied, “Not a lot.” Nick had been ill for a few days so making it home safe and sound was a genuine achievement.
But for all riders, the finish line was the end of the journey, where the hurt and the suffering could finally be shut off and overcome, and where memories of proud achievement and exhilarating riding could be lived for perpetuity in hi-def. And nothing could ever take that away from them.
“I thought this would be a breeze this week,” explained Jay Horton (Team Certini), who, together with his partner Maddie, won the Merida Bikes Mixed category, “but aaargh! That was hard. I really admire the guys at the back. It’s super tough.” Maddie concurred over a cool bottle of beer, “It was a fantastic week,” she said, “The Doethie Valley descent that just seemed to go on forever was just fantastic.”
“It was wicked,” agreed a happy Josh Ibbett (Iron Horse-Extreme), “it was good fun and a good social too – like a week with your friends.” Asked how he thought it compared this year against last year’s super wet TransWales Josh answered: “The camping’s been really good: the organisers took on board the feedback from last year with good campsites, great showers, and the food was proper food – not slop – it was all really good.” Josh finished in second in the Schwalbe Men’s Solo category in a total time of 50hrs 02mins 32secs.
The overall winner – and fastest rider in the entire field and overall Schwalbe Men’s Solo category winner – was Jonathan Pugh (Clee Cycles KCNC High 5) who was the only rider to go sub-50hrs with a total time of 49hrs 56mins 55secs.
In the Schwalbe Women’s Solo category, the epic battle between Italian national marathon champion, Marika Covre (Ideal – Vivibike), and Wales’ own Rickie Justine Cotter (Cytek) saw it’s climax on Thursday when Covre beat Cotter by just 3secs. The final result after seven days of riding mirrored this 1-2, with Covre becoming the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales Schwalbe Women’s Solo category Champion for 2009. She did it with an overall time of 50hrs 17mins 47secs. This meant that – after an 8sec margin (despite Cotter crashing on the descent) in the NiteRider night time trial and a 3secs margin in the Brechfa forest special stage – the decisive blow had been dealt by Covre when she tore the gravel off the Lung Buster climb on the Nant-y-Arian special stage to finish by 1 min 24secs clear of Cotter by the end of today’s final linking stage. Congratulations to Marika and commiserations to Rickie for a fight well fought.
The Merida Bikes Mixed category was won by British marathon champion Maddie Horton and her partner Jay from the second placed pair of Fi Spotswood & Michael Tomlinson (South Fork Racing). The Hortons won in an overall time of 50hrs 07mins 41secs. However, the success story in this category were third placed brother and sister pairing of Theresia and Werner Baumker (Team Charl '77). The south African pair had only been mountain biking since May of this year and Theresia had never even raced at night up until this week. Despite carrying a knee injury she and her brother made the podium in every special stage and finished in an overall time of 50hrs 27mins 52secs, some 20mins off the time of Maddie & Jay Horton.
Marika Covre was not the only Italian to take the win in this year’s GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales: the pairing of Fulvio Damian and Elvo Del Puppo (also of Ideal – ViviBike) dominated their Ergon Veteran's Male category by finishing in an overall time of 50hrs 08mins 52secs – some 27mins ahead of their nearest rivals, David Rielly and Steve Partington (Isle of Man Fire Service). Graham Denny & Shane Dickenson (Cytek) finished third. But Fulvio Damian and Elvo Del Puppo are not strangers to the event as they have also competed in the TransScotland as well as previous TransWales’, and have become something of minor celebrities along the way.
For the event’s first ever Kenyan participant, Nickson Mwaura, the whole week has been a huge learning experience: it’s been the first time he’s ridden in Britain, as well as been on a full suspension bike, or been night riding. It’s also been the first time he’s done a multi day event and, despite the weather differences between Wales and his native Kenya, the sunshine today meant that, “[he] felt so much at home in the sun. This week has been totally different to home but I have really enjoyed it.” He’s also adjusted really well to the Teflon conditions on the technical trails and his special stage performances have improved markedly. On the final special stage at Brechfa who notched up 11th fastest in a time of 21mins 23secs: enough to move him up to 15th in the Schwalbe Men’s Solo category general classification. Outstanding considering his position in the first special stage was a relatively lowly 39th.
Alex Metcalfe, Gore Bike Wear’s man on the ground for the duration of the event, also saddled up and got into the saddle to tackle the challenge of 500km (312miles) during the week, as well as loaning out Gore Bike Wear clothing to riders to try. “I found it really good,” he said at journey’s end in Builth, “I did find it tougher than I expected though as switching from a linking stage to a special stage was very tolling on my body as the change from gradual work to harder, faster work was hard to train for.” That may be, but Alex’s decision to participate was fairly last minute so, in truth, he’d done absolutely nil training bar his usual evening and weekend rides. This lack of preparation was to hinder him towards the end of the week, although making it through all four special stages and five of the massive linking stages on no preparation is a fair testament to Alex’s ‘can do’ attitude (and stupidity).
“The atmosphere was superb,” he continued – from day two onwards it became cameradarie so much so that the drinking stations became meting places and the lunch stop became a place for a chat .You’d make friends at the dinner table; you’d share parts, advice, stories and really muck in together. It was a different atmosphere to any event I’ve been to.
“But the shear epic scale of the event takes more toll on the bike and body than you can ever expect, so people who are happy with their shorts for their normal riding came back limping, jackets that were fine in the woods were not fine on the mountains. During the course of the week,” he explained of Gore Bike Wear’s ‘Try B4 U Buy’ concept, that let riders test out jackets, shirts, vests or gilets during their rides before handing them back to the Gore Bike Wear team to wash; if the riders liked them they could buy a box fresh version to enjoy. “We’ve had a lot of riders borrow kit from us – particularly the gilets and our waterproof shorts as riders had previously been suffering from wet seat inserts after numerous river crossings and arriving home with saggy shorts.” Although the weather had been generally fine during the event itself – prior to the massed riders setting out on their epic journey – a fair amount of the wet stuff had already landed. This meant that some mud and standing water was to be found in places, and the only thing worse than the bonk is a wet, clammy, and gritty chammy.
“But for me, the lowest point was after the special stage at Brechfa – I’d blown big on the special stage and used my all. The 15km ride back was possibly the toughest 15km of the event; for those who must’ve blown it was 8km of hell and then 7km of holding it all in. So when you arrived back at the campsite some were pumped up from the awesome singletrack while others were just crying for their bed and a sleeping bag. I was one of them.” Alex eventually pulled out after day five due to severely inflamed Achilles tendons and sore knees, not to mention his developing John Wayne swagger.
Gore Bike Wear were also supplying Gore RideOn sealed cable sets for riders to aid their slick shifting through all the muck and the mire, “For me,” says Alex, “it’s been a real test of Gore RideOn cables here but it’s great to go out every day knowing your gears are perfect after pressure washing it and after all the grind, muck and paste of riding day in, day out; the only people who haven’t benefited from the Gore RideOn cables were the singlespeeders.”
Asked to summarise the event Alex thinks for a short while, rubs his sore Achilles tendons, and replies: “It’s been a great to be involved as these riders really are our target audience for Gore Bike Wear; it’s been great spending time with them in their natural environment day in and day out, experiencing the best and worst of British weather and terrain.” After the interview finishes, Alex saunters off to hand out more beer to the steady flow of riders coming home, to shoot the breeze and welcome them
to the end of their GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales experience.
The Squirts Lubes Solo Male Veteran category was won by Steve Heading (Whyte Racing) in 50hrs 01min 14 secs – over 5mins clear of second placed Gareth Bowyer (Ffasiynau Anabelle Fashions), with Jonathan Edwards rounding the podium out in third.
In the Saris Male category the forces had been battling it out all week, with the RAF pairing of Dan Lewis and Neil Richardson flying higher than both Andy Jones/Ben Jones (Clee Cycles KCNC) and the Army Cycling pair of Brendan Kay and Simon Gough. The RAF took the win with 2mins 20secs advantage over the Jones’, and over 10mins on the Army Cycling pair of Kay/Gough.
The one horse race in the Buff Headwear Female category also came to a close today with Joy Bringer and Camilla Edlin (BAD By Association) crossing the line to finish in a total of time of 51hrs 00mins 16secs.
“You see all the young guys in videos doing super man seat grabs,” explained MBUK’s competition winner Brendan Stevens, “but look around here: there’s 180 folks who’ve ridden 300+ miles across Wales – these are the hardcore guys.” And he’s not wrong: from hardened endurance racers; normal folks who wanted to realise their dream of achieving the challenge of the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales; to riders who’d recently broken bones and battled to recover in time; to Kenyan Nickson Mwaura who’d never ridden in British mud and gloop, and Theresia and Werner Baumker who only started mountain biking in May and never ridden – yet alone raced – at night until the NiteRider night time special stage – all can say that they came, they saw, and they conquered.
Solo Results after Day 7 - Download PDF
Team Results after Day 7 - Download PDF
FULL - Solo Results after Day 7 - Download PDF
FULL - Team Results after Day 7 - Download PDF