This is a very different blog post! Normally my blog about wedding photography and more or less exclusively wedding photography. But when I am not shooting weddings one of my main hobbies is road cycling which helps keep me fit for the rigours of an all day wedding.
Last Saturday following the Beautiful wedding of Natalie and Lee on the Friday and with only three and a half hours sleep I set off on the infamous Yr Elenydd Audax starting from the delightful village of Upton Magna near Shrewsbury. Now for those who do not know what an Audax is a brief explanation. It is none competitive (yer right) long distance cycling which in the UK is run by Audax UK. Events start from short 50K rides to long and arduous 1000K + rides. The longest event on the calendar in the UK is the London – Edinburgh – London at 1400KM.
Anyway back to the Yr Elenydd this is a challenging 305 Km ride with 5000 meters of climbing or in old money 186 miles and 16500 ft of climbing starting in the borders near Shrewsbury before following the old Roman Road to Shobdon Airfield a bit lumpy with a few fords to cross and it poured down and was cold. Beans on toast at the airfield helped warm me up but not for long.
The next leg was into Wales and onto Builth Wells at 112 km. I was seriously cold with snow on the hills and hail intermingling with the rain. I had to purchase a fleece to keep warm and the temperature was 2c according to the bike computer of a fellow rider.
Leaving Builth the route started getting serious, not that it had ever been flat for long, but as luck would have it the rain finally stopped and the sun came out – and then went away again but it did stay dry for the rest of the day. The road from Builth is the mountain road to Tregaron and I had heard whispered voices talking about the severity of the route, which to be honest I found really rather pleasant and was wondering what the fuss was about. The organisers had a car serving cake and drinks half way along at about the 100 mile mark – wonderful – and just around the corner the wall of the Devils Staircase reared up above me and a realised what all the muffled voices had been discussing. It was a brute of a climb and according to the GPS over 30%. Which was followed by another 20% climb and another 20% climb… Wonderful riding in a truly breathtaking part of the country. Tregaron the the wonderful ladies at the Bowls club was a welcome respite and just over half way.
I had rode with different people along the route so far, meeting fellow Audax riders I had met before and a lot of new faces but from Tregaron I rode with the same chap till the finish. Leaving Tregaron the road remained flat (well comparatively!!) but to make up for this luxury the was a bitter head wind which stayed for most of the way home. Only one really brutal climb on this section but plenty of long ones as again the route climbed from Devil’s Bridge onto the Mountain Road to Rhayader. Breathtaking scenery on this part of the route and a wonderful 50 mph decent into Rhayader and food at the delightful Strand Cafe – not before stopping at the bike shop to pick up another pair of gloves – I was fearing frost bite as it got dark and cold! 202k (126 miles) done.
The next section would have been a very pleasant and fast ride apart from the wind which at times was sapping. No brutal climbing but plenty of hills left but all on quite A roads over to Knighton. The decent to Knighton was very quick indeed and it was now getting dark. From Knighton it was only a short ride to the last control – yet another wonderful cafe serving stew and rice pudding – at Little Brampton. This stop was wonderful and they staff stayed open till the late hours to serve food. The last riders must have left after midnight!
Just one leg left and one last climb – well quite a few really but one last brutal climb over the Long Mynd. In the dark another 20% wall took us onto the high ground again in the dark – the steep climbs are a lot harder with 170 miles in the legs. But after crossing the Long Mynd it was a straight and fast descent on narrow gravel strewn roads to Upton Magna. I was rather glad to see the lights on and hot food being served. It was now around freezing.
A classic Audax.
The stats for the ride where: Moving time 14 hours average speed of 13.5 mph or 23 km.