VC Melyd Away Day Ride:  Caernarfon, Porthmadog, Snowdonia

VC Melyd Away Day Ride: Caernarfon, Porthmadog, Snowdonia

This weekend saw the first of the planned VC Melyd Away Day rides. The concept of which is simple – as much as we all know and love the roads and scenery on our doorstep – AONB and all – but there is a wider world not so very far away to discover. Sportive if you will – without the cost, parking, or toilets. Ewww.

Rob Taylor organised a great route starting at Caernarfon, taking in a loop down towards the peninsular, Criceth, Porthmadog, cutting across to Nant Gwynant and then exit via Pen Y Pass and a climb out of Llanberis.

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A motley crew of riders made their way from various car parks up through the cobbled town streets to the square beside Caernarfon Castle. Three groups – Clwb Beicio Menai (CBM) in their yellow and green, VCM in their familiar ever so slightly yellow, black, white, and red, and Team Elite in their sponsor emblazoned red and black. In an all but empty square things were looking pretty good – the sun was out – the sky was blue, and the wind was calm…. it was shaping up to be a great day.

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After a foreword by the ride organiser we headed off around 0945 along the waters edge. I had never really noticed before how close to the waters edge the path was along there.

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Someone had mentioned to me that the route was mostly flat for the first 40 miles – and this was mostly true. The odd kick up, otherwise nothing to arduous, and as a result the group stayed together, organised – happy days. This served well for warming up – as it was still definitely Spring… early spring at that… however the down side of this meant the later half of the ride was packed with height.

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Heading down towards Criceth the pace lifted only on the main road, and we re grouped as we crossed the bridge over the wetlands at Porthmadog.

You get a feeling for a hill when people start to comment on it early on in the ride. Road surface. Nature. Expletives. There was one ahead that apparently had been resurfaced which would mean it was a little better. Unfamiliar as I was and a lover of ascents as I am – the fact it is known as ‘Cardiac Hill’ understandable set my mind ‘at rest‘. However – to be fair it was not too bad.

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The segment is named on Strava as Nantmor (and the top ten are now from that one ride), and ended for me at a left turn with Greg stood by his bike looking confused, and announcing his bike was broken. *blink* Okay. On further exploration a post had been involved and the rather substantial alloy outer ring was now bent in far enough to render the inside ring useless, if not so far as to stop the cranks turning. Interesting.

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Various comedy attempts at cave man mechanics involving wood (wood?!), and rocks (mostly slate?!) it was apparent that this needed some proper tools – so with the cafe stop not too far away – down we went. Down steeply – further kudos to Greg for having the minerals to negotiate that without being able to turn the cranks!

A converted church was the stop of choice at Nant Gwynant – up a level from the road with a sign outside saying Caffi Gwynant. Tables and chairs quickly occupied, and a lengthy queue formed. Sandwiches, cakes, food, drinks… it cannot be often you get an influx of 30 cyclists.  As the sun moved around – as did we – noticeably warmer in the sunshine.

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Due to the wonder that is aluminium, the bent back chain ring broke off after a brief discussion with an adjustable wrench – resolving the issue. The ‘ring piece’ (thanks Dan) pocketed and taken away – I hope to be framed at some later date.

The UP began.

Along past the lake and the campsite and then up. Up towards the viewing point. Ice cream van, tourists proper, and rounding the corner as Pen Y Pass ascent comes into sight – diagonally up the ascent in front of us to the backdrop of Glyder Fach, with Snowdon continually inspiring to the left of us. Sheltered from the breeze it is warm here. A paraglider circles and descents into the valley alongside us giving a real sense of perspective to something so large it is hard to get a handle on.

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Waving good by to Phil the Fruit (INSANE enough to ride out and ride back) at the turn for Pen Y Pass and the ascent up to familiar mecca of milling rucksacked souls… before a fastening of zips before the blast down the Llanberis Pass. Walled in on both sides by high mountain you slip in and out of the sunshine – trying not to over focus on the dry stone walls.

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Nant Peris is on you before too long, and then a short ascent before down into Llanberis where we re grouped.

Off again and then up – a road called Ffordd Clegir took us up in a number of steps before becoming a meandering up and down of path like width with great views down hill to Llyn Padarn.

At this point as we ascended … there  it was … the VCM banner. That thing has some miles on it I can tell you. Affixed firmly to the fence at a passing point… Rob Taylor – again. I don’t know about everyone else but at the top of a climb like that it was quite the reward – made me smile. We stopped, re grouped, and had a group photo of those who were still with the group. Not a bad turn out for a Sunday club ride in March.

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Onwards and upwards – and then a glance back… wow. Whether others were looking back also, or just poor luck I narrowly avoided taking down Rob as I pulled over to stop. What a view. Breath taking. If there was a moment where the company, the route, the scenery the weather all clicked into place – that was it for me. What turned a good day out into a great day out. The camera doesn’t deal well with the haze – it just looks bright. It was stunning.

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The decent split the group – which was not to meet up again until the car parks back in Caernarfon. We were done.

What an amazing day.

I am looking forward to the next one without a doubt.

Thank you Darren for your rota slot, Rob for the local knowledge and route, and to CBM and Team Elite for your company.

64 miles and give or take 4,500ft of climbing – around 30 riders – Snowdonia – Sunshine.

Quite simply epic.