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.