Sunday, 7 October 2012

Wales - Take Two

I think I must have some form of allergy when it comes to the Welsh hills. The first attempt I made was marred by a spectacular lack of form and a need to cut the rides short in the face of a truly awful weather front moving in. This time around my legs were going just fine but the rest of me stopped working.

The Bwlch

My plan was simple; leave home before sun up on a Saturday morning, get to Wales, ride The Bwlch, Bryn Du and then finish off Llangynidr Mountain before heading home. The get up before dawn part worked but annoyingly a cold I had been trying to keep at bay all week finally flourished with a vengeance. First thing Saturday morning I had a scratchy throat and a bit of a dodgy tummy. By the time I reached Price Town to start the first climb I was feeling very unwell. Nevertheless, I still stupidly thought I could push through it and burn off the cold in the process. Oh how wrong was I.

The first part of the climb up The Bwlch is very steep but mercifully short before turning into a long drag past some forestry plantations. Even though the gradient on this part isn’t too fierce I was starting to struggle. My legs felt fine but there was no power to back up that feeling, my stomach was churning unpleasantly and my throat was red hot. I stopped briefly at the road side in an attempt to let it pass and man up. I didn’t really have any choice as my car was parked up the top. When I finally got going again I didn’t feel any better but did seem able to at least get my legs turning in a regular way, albeit slowly.

                        Got to hand it to the Welsh, they know how to build spectacular roads

I was really annoyed at this point as The Bwlch is a lovely climb and the sort of ride that would normally suit me really well. The view as you climb up from the valley opens out and the final section of the ride has some truly spectacular views down the valley and across the neighbouring hills. For me however the ride up was turning into a death march. Where I should have been clicking up into a decent high gear on the final slope I was only able to click up a couple and limp forlornly across the yellow line I assume somebody from a local club has painted across the road to mark the summit. I think I spent most of the ride looking at the tarmac just in front of my wheel and willing the climb to end. Not a pleasant experience.

As I sat in the car after loading my bike back in I had to consider re-evaluating my options. My cold was getting worse and the climb up Bryn Du is a bit of a brute. The first climb had also taken so long to complete it was already nearly midday and I still had a bit of driving to do.

Bryn Du

Not much to say about this climb as I decided it would be sensible to postpone until such a time when I think I can actually ride it. It’s a pretty spectacular hill with a tough gradient that doesn’t really ease off all the way to the top. The further up the climb you get the more interesting the road becomes with a series of tight hairpin bends. As I sat in the car park at the top with my temperature slowly rising and my voice packing up I sensibly decided that even riding down to the bottom of the climb would be a challenge. I just wasn’t feeling very sharp and I could see myself miscalculating a hairpin and launching my bike, with me attached, off the road and into the centre of Aberdare. The road was also covered in water after several days of heavy rain and getting the braking just right going into some of the corners would be critical. Sometimes you have to be honest with yourself and my gut feeling was I was going to be entering into a whole world of hurt attempting the climb. Two local cyclist winched their way up to the summit whilst I sat in the car and the fact it took them a full fifteen minutes to recover sealed the deal for me. They were pushing very similar gearing to me and both looked like they had just had a particularly hard time of it.

Llangynidr Mountain - The Return

Despite ducking out of the ride up Bryn Du I was determined to finish off the climb up Llangynidr Mountain. I’m either very stubborn or stupid (probably both) but I figured it wasn’t that big an ask to ride the final stretch of road which was just under a mile. The drive there was slow because of the Saturday afternoon traffic and I arrived at the top not feeling particularly perky. Stepping out of the car into a big puddle didn’t do my mood a lot of good either. Any way, after dodging the obligatory suicidal Welsh sheep I managed to slowly wobble my way up the final part of the climb. It feels satisfying having laid that particular climb to rest but I was feeling totally screwed by the time I got back to the car. It was time to call it quits and head home.

                                             Finally, the view from the top of Llangynidr


My drive home wasn’t the most pleasant I’ve ever had and by the time I went to bed on Saturday night my temperature was peaking. As I type this my bike is still in the car as I don’t have the energy to stick it back in the garage yet. I am feeling over the worst of the cold and my throat at least no longer hurts but I have a wonderful headache and a total lack of energy. When I can retrieve my camera bag from the dark corner where I dropped it last night I’ll stick up some still photos and start editing the videos. Suffice to say they will be even slower than usual!

                   The whole of the mountain to choose from and I park in a giant puddle...

I’m thinking that I should leave the remainder of the Welsh hills for the time being. I just don’t seem to have any luck when it comes to riding them and I think it would be wise to get some form and confidence back by focussing on another region. Wales can wait until Spring. I may decide to tackle some of the South Eastern climbs before the bad winter weather sets in. Not sure yet, but watch this space.

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