You are hereY Cawr (The Giant), Sportive Aberystwyth, Sunday 25 May 2014

Y Cawr (The Giant), Sportive Aberystwyth, Sunday 25 May 2014

By twarwick - Posted on 27 May 2014

Y Cawr (The Giant), Sportive Aberystwyth, Sunday 25 May 2014

Darren Lewis produced this excellent write-up of his weekend's riding.

The event sounded perfect to make amends for skipping the previous weekend’s Tour of the Peaks with a sore throat. And in the Land Of My Fathers. And with pictures of last year’s event online suggesting the sun might shine on Aberystwyth seafront (described, I suspect tongue-in-cheek, as ‘the Biarritz of the North)’.

Tent and bike in the car, I drove across the Severn Bridge on Saturday with Catatonia and the Stereophonics blaring out into one of the biggest black clouds I’d ever seen. When the Welsh illuminate motorway signs with ‘Poor driving conditions’ you know it’s more than spitting. And it poured all afternoon. And into the night as I pitched canvas at the top of Penglais Hill (the first of the morning’s 7% mile long drags).

Up early and aching (B&B next time) I was first to the car park in good time to take advantage of Continental’s tyre amnesty and to check out the new and impressive-looking British-made Orro bikes. Rumour spread that one would be awarded to the first rider home. In for a penny, I positioned myself at the front of the grid where I was promptly interviewed by the event commentator. The whole field heard the fear in my voice as I gave a big shout out to RCC.

Hoot. And we’re off.
Why’s nobody following me? Oh well. The motorbike’s happy to lead me out. Doesn’t feel that fast. Yomp up the first sharp hill (9th Strava cup). Cruise along the seafront. Wave and say cheers to the small crowds sheltering under umbrellas. Quick look behind. Still no company. Up Penglais Hill past the iconic National Library of Wales and Aberystwyth University (48th on Strava, Ystwyth CC hill climb). Now blowing a bit. Where are they? Sweep down through woods, round a nasty hairpin that I’d been told caught a few riders out last year. Push along the undulating road towards Borth.

Here’s a group. I’ve sent that kit before. Genesis Madison. Oh bugger! Almost 40 and still stupid. Only 100+ miles to go! Finally I felt that my heart in my throat as the adrenalin subsided. Heard a few words shared in Welsh. No doubt something about hares and tortoises.

Can I jump onto that bunch? Why am I stopping to think? Out of the saddle. Got them. Now chew on their saddles. But for how long?

Six of us descend into Borth (25%) and stuck together through Talybont. Then onto the 5 mile climb to Nant y Moch ‘the closest thing Wales gets to an Alpine pass’ at a shade over 4.6% gaining 1253ft of altitude. Here the Genesis duo explained they’d only be doing 80 miles or so as they were racing next weekend and that they didn’t want to kill us. It was variant on a club run for them, after the televised crit race on Friday, and one of many nice touches from the event organisers. As one of the pros took a phone call they eased away into the Cambrian Mountains dragging one Ystwyth rider with them. ‘Will your mate stick with them?’ I asked another Ystwyth rider? ‘Dunno? He’s strong.’

As the remaining three of us ground up the climb we spotted a lone rider ahead. The GM boys had dropped him disappeared out of sight onto open moorland..

The three of us worked hard together through miles of stunning scenery and buckets of rain. When you’re hurtling downhill at 40 plus with wet rims it’s awesome having local with you. ‘Sharp corner. Watch the cattle grid ahead, Go wide. Hit it as square as you can’. Akin to a Director Sportive talking into your ear, but without the ‘Come on. We need more watts.’.

Across the impressive dam wall. Smile for the camera. Cattle grids and climbs galore. Long exhilarating downs.

We stuck together across the A44, over the historic Devils Bridge (three bridges across the River Mynach built one on top each other) and shared the work up under ‘The Arch’ where one of the guys peeled off into the first feed station. The last we saw of him.
Down to two. We pressed on down through the wooded and landscaped estate of Hafod, described as one of the most important picturesque landscapes in Europe but veiled in rain, and into village of Pont Rhyd y Groes where the two sportive routes split and a drenched marshal asked if we were sure we didn’t fancy the 70 mile Mynach (monk) alternative?

The roads South to Lampeter were billed as ‘mainly flat’. I guess it’s a relative term. What they were was soggy and tough. A strong headwind and driving rain had the two of us flicking elbows at each other after the minimum acceptable time on the front. No chance of admiring the ruins of the Cistercian Strata Florida Abbey at Pontrhydfendigaid or Tregaron bog ‘the most intact surviving example of a raised bog landscape in the United Kingdom’. And if the infamous ‘Beast of Bont’ was at home (most recent attack reported in the national press just last year) it was snuggled up in a den somewhere oblivious to the Lyrca clad morsels hacking past.

A right turn before the theological University of Wales and onto the hilly part of the course. Eyelids relieved to finally be out of the rain. Through Talsarn and up a testing 2.6 mile climb at 5.9% climbing 819ft (bagged 7th Strava cup). One of those evil ones with bends and false summits. Just what you don’t need when standing up on the pedals make your thighs threaten to pop.

Quick stop for fuel. Then, miles of ‘sporting’ hills, pretty villages and rapid sweeping descents made easier with tips like ‘Watch this one. Nasty bend that my dad wiped out on time trialling’ and a confident local wheel to follow (only afterwards did I find out Will had crashed 3 times in the 4th Cat crit).

Into the village of Abermagwr and then East picking up stragglers on the Middle distance Mynach before tackling the route’s leg buster at 92 miles. 3.2 miles, again fairly steady at 4.9% climbing 848ft, but out of the saddle gritting teeth and wishing for more than 25 at the back. I’m sure there must be more gears if I keep pushing the lever hard enough!

At this point my wingman broke me. Over the summit and away. I couldn’t hold on any longer and didn’t see him again until we tucked into Bolognese at the finish.

Back to Devils Bridge and inland again! Gradual slog for three miles out of Ponterwyd on the A44, made easier by passing handfuls of Mynach riders, then nine miles of smooth descent followed by flat roads of the valley floor into the outskirts of Aberystwyth.

Under the inflatable Continental Tyres arch. Chip time of 6h33. Massive smile on my face. 17.5mph average. Max 47mph. 3rd man home, 2 minutes behind the wingman (6th overall as a couple of late starters posted quicker times). About twice the age of the two in front.

Marshalling: 10/10
Road surfaces: Silky and fast
Hills: Shed loads, but nowhere near 10,725ft
Feed stations: Crammed with all sorts of goodies (apparently the one at 65 miles was wiped out by a rider who approached a bit too fast)
Scenery: Awesome
Air quality: Much better than the Thames Valley
Friendliness: 10/10
Would I ride it next year: For sure. Join me.