Martin Malins writes
I successfully completed a PBP qualifying (and my third) Super Randonneur series this weekend with this 619km Mother of All Rides.
The Bryan Chapman (named after its late founder) is simply “Wales in a weekend”. I took an early afternoon train to Bristol Parkway for the ride over the old Severn Bridge to Chepstow. Situated in the middle of an unassuming municipal housing estate is a community centre where I pitched my tent outside. I met my friend Simon from Ramsgate and we soon joined by Dave Galle from Horsham who kindly drove us into town for a nice meal before an early night.
The next day nearly 200 rides had arrived on all sorts of machines and before long we were passing through the outskirts of town. The faster rides soon disappeared leaving me to get into a medium paced bunch over the hills near Usk and the Black Mountains at Abergavenny to the first cafe control at Bronllys. Fortified with beans and egg on toast we were away again. I had entered the ‘2004’ event which was a recent change to the classic route; although there was a ‘Scenic’ version which featured quite a lot more climbing.
Because it is a PBP qualifier the whole ride had to be completed in 40 hours or less (any testers out there who think this rather slow are welcome to join me for a re-run) I opted for the flatter route but could not resist the Scenic route through the spectacular flooded and dammed Elan valley. This was to add a lot more riding time though as even the descent off Pumlumon Fawr had to be pedalled such was the headwind. The next control near Machynlleth was followed by a long climb to Corris then descent to the foot of Cadair Idris which was majestic with a brooding mist on top.
At 225km we called in at the Youth Hostel just outside Dolgellau which had a vicious climb up to it. Here I was able to exchange some of my day gear for night riding attire thanks to a bag drop by the organisers. After another plate of pasta I paired up with Paul Dytham on his first 600 for the highlight of the ride; the circuit of Snowdon. Starting first along the Barmouth estuary and over the railway bridge we were soon gazing across to Portmeirion (of The Prisoner fame) from the splendid Harlech castle. Just after crossing the estuary we met the fastest riders on their way back, 80km ahead of us!
After the Aberglaslyn Pass we started up the long climb out of Beddgelert to Pen y Pass, a true alpine climb with the pink evening sky above Snowdon a bucholic backdrop. Reaching the top we gazed enviously into the Youth Hostel bar before donning winter gear for the descent of Llanberis Pass in failing light. We reached Menai at 22.45 to cross Thomas Telford’s iron bridge to the next control on Angelsey.
The next stage was in darkness so was less interesting but involved the long descent back to Beddgelert and the seemingly endless climb up to Trawsfynydd past the power station and descent back down to Dolgellau past Coed y Brenin. I arrived back at the hostel at almost 400km for a well earned sleep (on the floor as all the bunks had been taken) After only about 2 3/4 hours sleep I left again for the long long climb up the A470 to the summit before a long rolling section (including the summit of Talerddig) to the next control just outside Newtown.
A nice gentle hairpin A road out of the town soon gave way to a more brutal B road before a long long descent more reminiscent of the Yorkshire Dales to Knighton. And then the last control and a benign mostly flat section (mostly across the border in Herefordshire) before the sting in the tail; the A266 to Monmouth which featured the biggest and steepest climb of the whole ride. But this was rewarded by the lovely Wye vallet route back to Chepstow past Tintern Abbey to finish back in daylight; utterly satisfied, exhausted, exhilerated… and in need of a pint!