Thursday, 16 January 2014

2012 The Brecon Beast 3

Just as a quick aside, our total time (going by our watches, I didn't catch what the Marshall shouted out to us) was 5h20 minutes. My speedo said our total rolling time was 4h40mins. This is a massive shock to me, as it no way felt like we spent 40 minutes stood about.

Anyway, I said to Lew at this first stop, "let's not stay too long, I need a wee really bad so lets get the road bit out of the way and we can stop in the woods before the next climb where there might be less people" so it honestly felt like we were there two minutes but blatently must have been more like 10. It gave us enough time to shove a handful of MM's and an apple down our necks.

Leaving the rest stop, I kind of knew where we were as Lew had pointed out the lane we were now riding down on the way here. It then joined the A40 as if heading back to Brecon before winding off to the left toward a canal thus losing every last ft we'd climbed before taking us up the valleys the other side towards the "gap road" that climbs up Pen y Fan.

Knowing we had a couple of miles of downhill road, I should have used it as extra recovery as after all its not a race. Its not a race. It is not a race.

I was off. In a semi tuck, in top gear, with none of the fear that plagues me off-road, I was doing 24mph before the hill really got going. The head wind meant I only hit 35 max but most people were taking this bit easy. Seeing as how its not a race, I obviously took no delight what so ever in overtaking dozens of people.

Soon, I reached the short sharp canal bridge and heeding the marshalls early warning, I was able to down shift in time to power over the steep bridge in style, further enhanced by the cheers of one of the marshalls crowd of kids and friends I felt like a dakar hero!!!

In fact, I felt better than that, my full-bladder was gone I know not where and my legs felt fresh and powerful. Looking back, I could see no sign of Lew, so I just cracked on! The next mile or so was a lovely smooth gravel track up though a wooded valley and steadily climbing all the time. One by one, I picked off more people, which; this not being a race and all gave me no satisfaction!
Thinking back to the sprints I attempted on my first training ride, I marvelled at how far i'd come as I steadily accelerated up the gradual climb.

I'll just say at this point that I might not have the exact piecing together of the route 100% accurate as I can't remember the exact order of the next bits (even though I remember ever yard I cycled!)
But basically, at some point in the 15k of this next section between rest stops, the smooth gravel track turned into basically a cobbled byway! Well at least thats what it felt like. Big, angry, relentless cobbles. This went on for around half a mile or more and one by one, the people I'd breezed past returned the favour! I just couldn't get the power down. I did air-down a bit at this point, but not having a gauge, I didn't let too much out.
Also, my bottle of Tommy Soup, in its cheap as chips cage was making a horrible creaking noise.

Soon, the track became more wooded and began a short sharp climb. I made it pretty far but eventually gave in just 10 yards before it levelled off and turned into another fun bit. A nice, boggy track through the trees with some cool puddle and the odd fallen branch or log that the course clearers had left for us to jump.
Next, I noticed some riders through the trees to my left and significantly higher. The track was about to double back and get a great deal steeper. As a revenge for the smooth tarmac and easy gravel i'd breezed those few miles ago, the route planners were now teaching me a lesson with more of my least favourite substrate, DVD box sized shale. As I climbed, I left a few people for dead and felt good again as a few easy lines gave me confidence. Then, the steps got steeper and the stones bigger and here I should have ditched my toe-clips. I didn't: I plugged on until I dejectedly gave up and started walking. My legs still felt good and I can walk pretty quick anyway so I didn't feel that much slower. The top of the hill seemed to be in sight so I resigned myself to another 100 yards of walking. Lew faired a lot better than me up that climb, and even though I couldn't see him, he was making up lost ground. The next bit was a proper mountainside with steep crevices and amazing views as we wound our way up to a pass. The wind here was really strong! Cutting through a pass to the other side of the hills, we wound our way up to here:

and I felt pleased with how I'd climbed. Lew had managed to ride a much higher percentage of the stony bits though and I almost jumped as I spotted him right back alongside me.

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