Fred Whitton Challenge 2015

Fred Whitton Challenge 2015

Saturday arrived, the much anticipated ride was but a day away. I loaded my van with all that was required and set off to collect my two friends and fellow riders. All was loaded and off we set, full of joviality and talk of how we would attack the FWC. We arrived at the hostel mid afternoon and sought our place of rest for the night, met up with fellow club members and then headed off to sign in then later for a meal together. Much banter was had about gearing, strategy and of course the usual mickey taking. Once fed and watered off we went for a final drink or two and then to bed.
We woke/stirred about 5 a.m, some of us slept, many of us did not. To my amazement there were people already leaving as we got up to prepare for the day, we showered, dressed, ate and then off we went. The queue of people arriving was long, the weather wet and faces of the passing riders so very miserable. We looked at each other and began to wonder just what had we let ourselves in for. Needless to say this would not put us off, we parked, double checked all we had was what we needed and headed off for the start/finish line. Pockets packed with food stuffs of all types, bottles filled to the brim with all sorts of magic concoctions to see us through the day…….I was beginning to get a little apprehensive, it was going to be a big day and already it was wet. I was under dressed for the weather as it was and the forecast was horrendously wrong, what could we expect later on?
It was too late now, over the line we went, a small group of us riding together and keeping one another company through the day. We clocked some miles, my mood got better and it seemed like maybe I was going to be okay, maybe my clothing was suitable after all. The rain stopped, the temperature rose. We got to the first noticeable climb, it’s name escapes me, names really aren’t my strong point but we rode it and it was fine, I was warm, slightly wet but warm, it was good. We stopped at the top for a quick top up of energy foods and to wait, eating is so very important, this I had drummed into myself before the outset as I am no lightweight. We re grouped and off we set down the very steep descent, a marshal shouts “steady, there’s been an accident half way down!” This made me nervous, I am already not good on descents on wet or damp roads, they make me nervous! I tentatively descended behind my fellow riders, riding within my comfort zone, I didn’t care if they were quicker I could always catch them up if need be but it was okay, there was no need for catchup. I was glad that was over……but I knew there would be more.
We rode some more flats and some more bumps, there were riders over taking but that didn’t bother me, I didn’t know the route and would rather be slower and finish than blow before the end. The pace was okay with the odd sprint here and there on the flat and the slog up so many climbs, I was enjoying myself, the weather was holding and the day was going to plan. Then came some more long climbs, steep thigh burning long climbs. We took those in our stride, we were used to those, we live in Wales, it’s just like our back yard. This continues for a few more hours, then the wind begins to pick up, the rain begins to fall heavier, there isn’t a single part of my body that isn’t cold and wet. We stop for a short break, then another of our group randomly appears, I don’t know why I was surprised, he does it all the time. We whine about the hideous weather and then continue on together. We hit another thigh burner, not so much that it makes you want to cry but people are already beginning to walk them, this isn’t a good sign when this is literally half way I think to myself. Up we go, climbing and climbing in the pouring rain, again at the top we are warned about the descent being steep and so very precarious, there are straw bales on the outside of a corner, I feel nervous, I’m on carbon rims, I think to myself please don’t melt as I’m almost constantly on the brakes all the way down. I get to the bottom and all is good, I’m there, we are there and everyone is alive and unbroken. We ride off into the now strong wind, the type of wind that makes you wish it would just go away,not strong enough to slow you right down but enough to put unwanted extra pressure on your thighs and sap your energy some more. We trundle on chatting, taking in the utterly breath taking scenery and generally in good spirits despite the weathers best efforts to ruin it, then comes another long hard climb. I ride it at my pace, I loose all recollection of where any of my friends are I just ride, at my pace, in my little world, I see a tent at the top or so very near the top at least and there are many people. I approach and hear the phrase of the day “good effort lad” and someone hands me a kinder bar, within seconds it has gone, then a blue ribband and again it has gone within seconds. I was hungry, so very very hungry, I had run out of food, I was begining to feel it’s effect and knew I needed a food stop and to get warm. I was aware of what was to come……98 miles in it was there, that one everyone talked about, the one people say the pro’s were walking, HARDKNOTT pass it was known as, the slayer of fatigued riders. I had no intention of walking anything, I’m too stubborn but I was beginning to wonder if I would be another one of its victims. We found the next feed station, it had heaters, the feeling was like I had been rescued from a desert island, oh and it had coffee too, it was incredible, a real mood lifter. We met up with more group members, chatted, warmed ourselves and then we all set off together for THAT HILL.
We rode for a few miles, the weather had broken by this point, it was warmer, less windy and above all not raining. Then it came into sight, I had that feeling in my gut, I knew it was going to hurt. We approached and already people were saying they were walking it. I had no such intention, it wouldn’t beat me, no way. There were two of us riding, myself and a team mate, we rode, we encouraged each other, everyone else was walking, people in the way, I was swerving to avoid them but I carried on, we pushed each other, we were determined. I could see the top, I could no longer hear my team mate, briefly I thought I hope he makes it, but then my thoughts go back to me, where I am and how I’m doing. I make it to the top, mashing at the peddles slowly and then there is that feeling, emotional, that feeling like you’ve done something you never thought you really would. I feel truly emotional as I sit back down in my saddle and take it in. I conquered Hardknott when so so many couldn’t. I did it, for me, for my own sense of achievement I did it, and then my team mate comes over the top, still on his bike, still peddling. I almost well up, it truly was an emotional experience for me, we had pushed one another, we had dug so very deep in the reserves and we had done it! It’s one of those hills, the ones you see people doing and you think wow that really must hurt…’s true what you think, they really do hurt, they burn deep within your legs, your arms, they ache like you have been swinging an axe for hours on end as you literally heave yourself up them. You tell yourself not far now, you think of the crest of the hill, you see it, you again tell yourself it’s not far just 50, 40, 30, 20 more yards and I’m there. You can no longer feel the pain in your legs, you’ve switched off from it, you’ve taken yourself to that place in your head where all that matters is the next peddle stroke. I do this thing where I count the peddle strokes, it’s odd I know but it works for me. On a short ride I’m sure it would be much easier but we were doing it on the Fred Whitton, it was a long way in and a lot of elevation had already been gained. That was it though, it was done, the hardest climb of the day had been conquered. My team mate and I descended the other side, it too was incredibly steep. We rode off, one more pass to do and we could relax. The last one was tough, not for very long but the last couple hundred feet, the legs felt empty, not completely but enough that you feel aching as soon as it kicks up a little. I zig zag near the top as the pain kicks in, lessen the angle, take some pressure off my broken muscles. We hit the summit and off we go, again down a slightly scary descent but it was alomst flat from here, nearly home. You feel a weight lifted as you do it, as you know it’s almost done. The ride so many say is horrendous, it’s the toughest you will ever do and it’s nearly over. We get to some flat ground and I turn and say to my team mate shall we put the hammer down, he laughs and then off we go. I lead out, from nowhere I have found some energy, where does it come from, how can we always put some speed on at the end of such a gruelling ride. We switch half way through and he takes some pressure off me, then again I am back on point. We over take absolutely everyone we come to, single riders, groups, all of them fair game, not one person managed to keep up or over take us. I still don’t know how we did it but we did. The finish line was in sight, I hit the roundabout as fast as my legs could push me and there was a welcome sight, another team mate who couldn’t unfortunately do the ride due to injury, I smile, wave and then keep pushing to the line. I was done, I was so very very happy, utterly shattered but I had ridden the entire Fred Whitton Challenge without.
Tour de Môn 2015

Tour de Môn 2015

The blessing and curse of joining a club like VC Melyd is the constant inspiration to push yourself further than you ever thought possible. When I first ventured out with the club as a ‘fat/fit(ish)’ mountain biker my challenge was to finish the Tuesday evening club rides, then it became to finish at pace and need less than a week to recover. Fortunately there is a wealth of knowledge which is freely shared on all aspects from training, nutrition and equipment (thanks all for helping along the way).

Anyway, to cut a long story short I became faster and fitter than I ever thought possible, loosing nearly 5 stone along the way and set a goal to complete a sportive over 100 miles. Whilst to several in the club this is normal, for me this would be a major milestone. I selected the Tour de Mon as the beast to slay; no particular reason, but hey it’s close to home.

So the battle date selected, the terrain familiar, the weather (well it’s Anglesey, how bad can it get?), 103 miles with just short of 4000 feet of climbing. I’ve spent well over a year contemplating the event and at least a few weeks actually doing something about it. As added incentive I decided to raise money for Bowel Cancer research having lost my Father-in-Law, a wonderful Anglesey Gent whose loss last summer prevented me from participating. I also told anyone who would listen that I was entered, so failure would be humiliating to say the least. However, if greater incentive were needed I was dealt a devastating blow just days before the off. My mum, a keen cyclist in her youth had prepped and preened herself and was set to travel to North Wales to cheer me on; but as fate may be she would never make it. Now I had her memory to ride for too.

So when the alarm sounded at 5:00 on Sunday morning I was filled with anticipation and dread in equal measure. I threw my kit into the car and checked and double checked the bike ready for the 7:00 start. If I’d known it was that early then maybe… well it was too late for that! The weather forecast was, oh yes Welsh, rain and or sunshine possibly at the same time so I packed for all eventualities. It was great to see fellow VC riders on the start line, Richard’s sage voice of experience gave encouragement. So after the inevitable faff I crossed the start line, we were off, and whatever may be will be.

The first part of the tour was around South Stack, one of the most stunningly rugged coastlines in Britain. The climbs were short, but sharp, the atmosphere jovial. I knew very quickly that the Aero wheels I’d bought from David were a good choice, the bike felt felt great, quick, stable and bags of stopping power. The confidence boost was incredible and I started to make progress up the field. However, having been humbled in the past I was ever mindful of the advice from ‘Wardy’ our triple ironman and started to take on fuel. I’d prepped bars, drinks and gels and as the terrain flattened out through Treaddur Bay I started the munch and drink that would see me through.

As I approached RAF Valley for the ‘flying mile’ I was adamant that I would not push hard; but the reality was that once the timing gate bleeped I couldn’t help myself. I’d push a little and it felt great! I hadn’t anticipated the cyclocross section escaping the airfield, but there was the feed stop. Gels, snacks, Mat’s favourite Bananas and a free inner tube, well it would be rude to refuse! A quick pit stop and off again.

Rhosneiger passed in a blur, but as we climbed towards Aberfraw the weather demonstrated just how bad it could get. The golf ball sized droplets were unusual and as the first hit me it felt like I’d been hit with a water bomb. In the seconds it took to pull over and don my rain mac I was already soaked, but hey it was warm(ish) rain. Riding through Newborough through what would later be described as ‘biblical rain’ was and experience to say the least.

I was fascinated by the interesting, yet eclectic bunch of riders attempting the ride, I was also equally fascinated by the bikes. A favourite was a classic Cove titanium Hummer with original Pace carbon forks. Now I’ve ridden across Menai Bridge plenty of times in the past, but surrounded by dozens of others was something special.

Onwards and forwards. I caught up with club from Trevor and we settled into a chain as we approached Beaumaris; the blessed relief from the wind was very welcome. Another short rest, this time passing up the free inner-tubes and I was off again.

We had been encouraged thus far been encouraged by hundreds of people cheering us along. Though I felt sorry for the kids sat under a tree in the rain; though to be fair they looked like they were loving it! Though it was great to be cheered by family as I rode through Llangoed, having tracked my progress on the internet.

The cheering and constant clang of Chain Reaction’s Cow Bells was fun, but being cheered on by name as Dave from Prestatyn in Llanddona was nice (our names on the board instead of a number a nice touch) and recognition of the VC Melyd kit.

I met a friend shortly after Benllech who was riding for the same charity and he was in a bad way; I was feeling surprisingly good. However, the next 20 miles would challenge that. I began to suffer, I was hurting. My legs, my arms, my unmentionables. Standing, sitting it made no difference and having only slept a few hours I wanted to pull over and sleep. The headwind was strong and then Noah returned. Getting to the 85 mile feed station took all of my reserve. Rider after rider retired, every few hundred metres a car would be loading up bikes and riders, but many more endured. We rode on in silence through rivers of water, wind and rain. Eventually I made it to Llynon windmill feed station. Feeling sorry for myself I stopped and rested, but thankfully the rain was also stopping. Fuelled up by the army of volunteers, this time provided by the youth firefighters it was time to tackle the last 20.

The surprise came as I approached Valley again. I knew Holyhead was close and more importantly getting there was flat! I felt a second wind building. The rain had stopped and my pace quickened. I could do this, I’d make it. However, there was a problem with my Garmin. I’d downloaded the route and faithfully it’d given me turn by turn prompts, but now for some reason it was saying straight ahead instead of right to Holyhead. Oh, that’s because we were going straight ahead. Never mind, I was feeling great and pushing it. Not even the return of the rain again and the realisation we were going back up South Stack was going to stop me now. I pushed harder. As I descended the final hill to Newbry beach I was greeted with my very own fan club, a drenched soaked gaggle of kids, wife and friends cheering me through the finish.

I felt great and although I knew the inevitable aches and pains would follow I was elated. I was also really grateful for the additional pledges while I rode (thanks all) and found that my original £500 goal had been reached.

Welsh Cycling Annual Awards.

Welsh Cycling Annual Awards.

It is that time of year again – nominations for the Welsh Cycling Awards.

In previous years we have been nominated for a number of awards, and come away with fastest growing club, and coach of the year.

It is your turn to put forwards the names of people who have made a real difference to you.

Take five minutes and follow the link on the Welsh Cycling Awards page and name names – push forwards the people you think are worthy of recognition.

Volunteers, officials and coaches who go the extra mile to make a difference to our sport here in Wales will once again be recognised for their commitment and contribution to the sport of cycling alongside Wales’ elite cyclists at the 2015 Welsh Cycling Awards.

There will be 13 awards on offer, including Lifetime Contribution to Cycling to recognise individuals who have made a significant impact on cycling in Wales. New for 2015 will be the Go Ride Club of the Year, recognising the growth in provision for young people to get into cycling in Wales’ accredited Go Ride Clubs.

Cycling clubs and members are invited to nominate their cycling champions who will be awarded at the dinner on Saturday 7 November at Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel and Spa, Cardiff.

2014 saw Tudor Thomas of Bynea Cycling Club, recognised for his years of dedication to cycling through his role as commissaire and as a volunteer in Wales with the Lifetime Contribution to Cycling accolade. World Champion Manon Carpenter received Elite Cyclist of the Year for her continued success throughout the season winning the World Cup series and World Championship title whilst Abergavenny Road Club claimed the Club of the Year title for the second time.

Anne Adams-King, Chief Executive Officer of Welsh Cycling is pleased to see the event continue to grow,

“The 2015 Welsh Cycling Awards is a fantastic opportunity to recognise people from all corners of the cycling community in Wales who dedicate their time to developing our sport and providing opportunities for everyone to enjoy cycling in Wales.

The awards ceremony is also an exciting opportunity for businesses to engage with cycling and it’s rising stars in Wales as well as hear about the terrific work done by the people at the heart of cycling in Wales, the clubs, the volunteers and the coaches who together inspire Wales to cycle.”


  • Race Official of the Year

  • Race Organiser of the Year

  • Club of the Year

  • Go Ride Club of the Year

  • Volunteer of the Year

  • Coach of the Year

  • Colin Thornton Award for Junior Performance

  • Paracyclist of the Year

  • Club Cyclist of the Year

  • Elite Cyclist of the Year

  • Outstanding Performance if the Year

  • Lifetime Contribution to Cycling in Wales

Do you want to recommend someone for an award? Sure – no issue – you can do the process offline – or you can use Welsh Cycling’s online nomination form.

NWCR Circle Of Hope 2015

NWCR Circle Of Hope 2015

The FWC was looming. I had two centuries under my belt this year – a chunk of climbing, and this was going to be my last chance to get miles in my legs before The Daddy. The NWCR Circle of Hope is an event well attended by the club – and there had been a fair amount of ‘who is going / how are you getting there?‘ in the weeks leading up to it.

The 100 route takes in a some great scenery, through North Wales and Cheshire.

Come the morning the sky is dark, the rain is hammering down, and one by one we the Facebook thread increments with “not going” responses.

A group of three of us ventured over to Hope, windscreen wipers busy as we rolled into the school car park. Seeing another club member, we did the obvious thing, drove over to him, while his head was in the boot of his car, real close, real quiet and sounded the horn. Oh yes. He was pleased to see us.

The discussion turned to what we thought the weather would be doing – and “the sun will dry us” became the quasi-religious mindless chant for the day. Sure, we were going to get wet, but the sun will come out, and as long as we stay warm it should be fine.

Bikes out, clothing decisions, pockets filled, good to go. Not too cold – but wet.

Registration, and the wonder that is ‘Sportive Toilet’. Emerging eyes watering in the rain, Strava started, and off we go. No numbers, just coloured tags on our bikes and bright hospital bracelet style tags for food stops.

It was ‘orrible. The rain was still falling. The winter bike was the right choice for the day.

The ride started off with a slow climb, as we ascended the rain lightened, but was replaced by drizzle, as we headed up into the low cloud.

Heading up to the roundabout at the turn for the Horseshoe Pass was the first time we knew where we were, and as we descended towards Corwen – the cloud started to clear, and moments of sunshine.

The turn back took us back alongside the Dee. The river valley kicking up and down, the narrower back road still wet, muddy, graveled, but it was a lot better than driving rain. The sunshine certainly lifted our spirits.

Air Cadets in their crisp packet jackets (how I do not miss those) and woolen trousers stood around a table stacked with water bottles in the light rain. Bottles filled. Thank you. This being said – it must have been wasteful to be handing out so many 500ml bottles – lets see those familiar barrel types next year? Less recycling, less energy.

The up started as we headed over the foot of the Horseshoe Pass, and we stopped on the other side to try and reduce layers and refuel. Gary – fully layered up after his hyperthermic Cheshire Cat finds a safe place to ferret away a coat he was wearing as an extra layer. Then on towards the ford.

Okay – so, lets be straight. A *lot* of people have slipped and fallen crossing the ford at World’s End. The big difference with me is that I was caught on video doing as much. Nice. One of those things you do not live down 🙂 Nine times out of ten we cross it in the other direction. It is quite a climb to get up to that point, and then over. I reach there to see Mat on the other side with his GoPro running. “Oh how I laughed” : /  The stepping stones had moved with the water, and it looks as if it had been recently de-mossed. However it was still as grippy as greased PTFE bearings on sheet ice. Teetering across the climb on the other side up through the trees is quite steep but nothing too troublesome.

Clearing the trees you remember that the ascent continues for quite a way before turning to the right and skirting along the tops of the moor. Then the pace picks up, as the gradient increases, down to the sudden left turn and the main road… this thankfully did not come as a surprise to me – however there were no real warnings for those who may have been ‘making progress’.

That was it really – the climbing is done, and the last 50 miles is flattish. That sounds great doesn’t it? Right up to the point the wind gets up, and you are now riding flat open exposed roads in the wind.

The latter half of the ride was a lot harder than it should have been.

With the climb up to the finish we were pretty much done. Wearing too many layers, too warm, and getting warmer riding into wind and little in the way of shelter.

Met at the finish by Sally – we collapsed, sat around, felt a bit sorry for ourselves. The route ran up short at 93 miles – but we felt absolutely no need to do a further 7 miles. We were cooked – literally. Too far too warm.

Most memorably we popped over the road for a beer to join a group of people dressed as Romans. Yes, really, Romans – as in SPQR Roman. On the up side, they had marched from Chester – and they looked considerably more spent than we did : D

The route was good, the company was good, the charity is worthy – it is a shame the weather spoilt the start, and meant that so few took part. I look forward to next year.

Route Planning Rota 2015

Route Planning Rota 2015

Many thanks to Darren who has herded the necessary cats into a formal rotation for route planning the organised rides for summer. The post over on the FB Group reads as follows:

Please see the attached file (pdf) for the Summer 2015 ride plan rotation.

I have tried to accommodate people as best as I can. The people who put themselves forward for our away day rides can look at the dates and pick one out. I’ve added some of the known events a few are riding and made some suggestions regarding them being our away days.

If your dates don’t suit then please arrange a swap with another person on the rotation.

If you haven’t done so already please read:

In short ride leaders please post a route up mid week (Wednesday ideally) so people can choose what they want to do and plan accordingly. Also note as our groups are getting larger (all rides) we will split into sub-groups by ability/mood at the start of the ride. The link above explains. We envisage three or four sub-groups per ride and we will meet up at the café stop.

Here’s to a great and safe summer of riding 🙂

Work is currently under-way to have this available online  – in the interim this reference will remain here, and prints nicely for sticking on the fridge/imoveable-hard-to-lose-item-of-choice.