Varying degrees of “the forecast said…” went from full on winter bike – through longs and arm warmers to summer kit. Bikes were unpacked, fettled, bottles mounted, and cars locked.
It was looking pretty busy – and there was due to be quite the group – and with a variety of abilities too. However the initial plans to get going at 0830 were scuppered by registrations not being permitted until then. Which is fair enough. Hell – those have to be the least early-morning-pre-sportive-toxic-toilets I have ever had the displeasure of using… this bodes well I thought.
Returning to sign on at 0830 to find a queue, and the rest of the group [club moto] gone.
We queued, grabbed a snack for the back pocket, and headed on our way – at this point lagging a good 20 mins if not more.
This year the event was reversed (so said the documentation). “Hoorah!” thought I, as we had the Crimea Pass to descend – with next to no wind… that is a fabulous start to any days riding. Alas, and that is the 40ft high hewn from marble, with lights around the outside like a dressing room mirror type of ALAS – this did mean we had to climb out of Ffestiniog in the first place. Climbing from 750ft to 1200ft immediately, on cold legs on gradients averaging 10% peaking at 16… the winning was strong here. There was no “check me out” – there were just people suffering – just at different relative speeds. Pain, burning, discomfort.
The winding descent through the glorious views of the Crimea Pass next, speeds winding up to 50mph, and yet still that curious sensation that there seemed to be more downhill due given the amount of up going the other way. None the less its not every day you find yourself keeping pace with cars, and paying super close attention to where the dry road is (especially with Lord Gary’s graceful roundabout exit so very clear and present).
Off at the bottom before the bridge, with our first introduction to what the signage for the route looks like…. it was going to be an interesting day. PAY ATTENTION. Through to Betws-Y-Coed to the note of tourists, day-trippers, and adventurers alike as we negotiated the traffic and pedestrians before the climb kicked off up up up past the falls, Ugly House and a great view of Moel Siabod… sticking out all “mountain shaped” from behind the tree line… all of it… no clouds… rarity – what a great day.
First check point spotted. Lady in the lay-by with a high viz vest on. Stop, unclip, remote check sheet from bag, sweat perfusely on it, squiggle, and on… stopping again before too long with a cleat malfunction… Justin has broken the nose off of his Look Keo cleat… great. It looks ridable… and gives me off the hook for sprinting for signs 😀 … silver linings and all that!
Onwards… its a slow drag – but nothing too uncomfortable – Capel Curig and on to the turn into the Ogwen Valley… water looking rather cold and foreboding. Usual suspects Tryfan, Pen Yr Ole Wen, Y Garn, Glyderau…. sense of progress is dulled in the presence of such huge lumps of scenery despite the apparent purring of big ratios and tyre noise. We are passing more than passed – things are good.
The curiosity of other clubs – jumping onto their train for a break. Confusion as front riders drop off the back expecting to drop X places and finding themselves X+1, +2, +3, before dropping in a whay back – “… this was not the train I was looking for”. Random changes in speed, and a decision to just drop this and move on. … to much needless excitement and chasing through the bend towards the coast and downhill.
Caught sight of some more Melyd riders along the route – so we must be making good time.
Second checkpoint, try our best not to get caught up in the group ahead up a climb, then FAST descent and then a left. Camouflage sign strikes again – fair few riders heading back to the turn.
Water! Refills, check in the box, a view of a stream, huge boulder, stone bridge.
Time for another snack, quick chat with Sarah and Sally and then off again.
Cursed with the group ahead.
A chain brake on a climb and a car just about stopping in time. No one hurt, just some pride and some paintwork.
Scenery changing again, open and climbing to enclosed and flat then into, the world is starting to get greener again.
Heading what now feels to be back. We are over half way. The route peppered with reasonably short lived steep inclines.
Progress along what is now becoming a meandering valley floor, accompanied by the occasional steam engine – all feeling very flat if not downhill. Large smiles. Villages come and go.
Another large climb and this must be just about it now, it cannot be that far to the finish now?
Downhill and a check point, opposite side of the road, looking suspiciously like just a car in a layby. Another last minute manoeuvre. To the extent that others overshoot and some poor bloke comes to a halt before falling off.
Muttering something about distance to finish and the joy that was the last climb to myself… someone who was either more local… or bothered reading the route properly said there was another bigger one to come. Yeah, sure, its like a handful of miles now?
….aaaaaaaaand there it was. Unwelcome, and unforgiving, a final climb. David and Flossy making short work of it exchanging pleasantries as they went past.
Slate spoil creeps into site, we must be almost there now… as the dark clouds start to gather behind us.
Turning back into the car park to be greeted by other club members and this years KoM Darren, and refreshments. Cannot be bad.
For those who entered enough in advance, a T-Shirt, and for all a commemorative slate coaster… very apt.
As the bikes were stowed in the car, and we got changed – the occasional spot of rain gave way to a downpour for 1pm – right on schedule – usual service resumed.
So what of the event? Well I for one thought the route was great… varied, and great scenery – the sustained mid forties descent *almost* makes up for the rude reality of that climb straight off of the start line. After getting home the Strava comment theme of the shock of that first climb, and the unwelcome climb to finish.
The Great Bits:
– Distance is great;
– Route is great;
– Scenery is great (you are getting the picture here);
– Smaller event but well attended – a lot of clubs meeting up and heading off together;
– Supporting a very worthy local charity;
– Pretty much a Snowdonian Who’s Who of scenery – tick, tick, tick;
– Its on our back door.
The Not So Great Bits:
– SURPRISE! Keep your eyes open for signs – there is no day-glo here despite being distinctive;
– Check points – combined with the above, and tend to be on faster sections of the route;
– First rider off time is the same time as registration opens;
– There is no snack stop – water, yes, food no, cost down, its a charity event after all – just be aware of this;
– I have a *sneaking* suspicion there was a fair amount of height gained above what it was advertised as.
Sally took QoM, and Jason and I are quite content with our 23rd and 22nd respectively given the lack of urgency on such a lovely day : )
Advertised: 64 Miles / 3,957ft Climbed
Loged: 62.9 Miles / 5,419ft Climbed
The real acid test – would I do it next year – well… most are a bit “Meh, I enjoyed it, I’d like to but I am not driven to do it again… you know?” … but not this. Be it the spirit, the group I went with, the weather, the amazing scenery… I will be waiting for the entries to open for next year… count me in.
— Written by Anthony Hogbin