Ben Hardisty writes…
Despite a head/chest cold I was determined to ride this event, having cut my ride short the year before. But I would be relying on my legs alone and an assortment of drugs to get me around. What I hadn’t properly appreciated was that since becoming UCI ratified (UCI Golden Bike status), the event organisers had taken on feedback from all and sundry and added more miles and climbing, making this a tough event indeed.
The ride started/finished at the picturesque Margam Park and took the competitors North through the S.Wales valleys and up into the Brecon Beacons National Park before returning South again in a long hilly loop. En route some truly stunning scenery.
Starting at 7.30 I was at the front of my group and managed to have a quick chat with our race starter, the very friendly Matt Crampton on loan from the GB track cycling team. We set off under a steady light drizzle, which after an hour or so dried up and we were treated to pretty good conditions for most of the ride, dark overcast skies but light winds, no sun cream needed. Had the event been held 48 hours earlier, it may have been cancelled due to horrendous weather conditions which flooded parts of West Wales.
The ride could definitely be categorised into two distinct halves, in the morning there were no real out-and-out climbs, instead mostly long drags. But in the afternoon it was a different story with several long energy sapping ascents, including a nice little 20% switch back climb (aka Devil’s Elbow) at about 85 miles, last included in the 2007 route. How annoying is it to hear groups of riders chattering away loudly as they pass you, while you feel you are on your last legs ?
After a 100 miles or so I was going up what I thought was the final climb (Rhigos) from Hirwaun, so I didn’t bother stopping at the third food station thinking I’d done the hard work and it was downhill all the way the back. But I hadn’t done my homework. To my horror a local rider pointed out the next climb (Bwlch) in the Ogmore valley, I had to crane my neck to look up to the top. And this was a false summit, there were another two miles beyond before reaching the very top. By the time I reached this point I was properly done in. From here there were 16 miles to go, almost all downhill, but my legs were seizing up.
Arriving at the finish after gingerly dismounting, I used my bike as a prop, a walking aid back to the car. After 9 hours my garmin clocked 131.4 miles and almost 12,000 ft of climbing which didn’t even qualify for bronze !
“How did you find it ?” someone asked at the finish “…a couple of miles too far for me” I replied. My longest ever ride.
A superbly organised event. I would recommend to anyone who fancies a testing sportive. 10/10 from me.