The Westerley had a tradition of visiting Wales for an away trip up to a few years ago. This was always a bit of a mountain bike weekend, traditions are always good, and some can be adapted. This is one that has, the Westerley joined up with Naomh Barrog from Ireland, in part due to our international member Ian McNally who resides in Ireland. This was a meeting of 2 great clubs both of whom have a love of going up hill or not in some cases, the location was the Brecon Beacons, which have some stunning views and some equally stunning climbs. The weekend was kicked off on Friday with a short 30 mile ride, with 2 groups on the road, they took in one of the many long climbs that week starting with Llangynir. This was a lovely 3 mile long climb at around 6% which got the appetite going for come more. A navigational mishap and some roadworks meant the groups had a little difficulty getting back to the Chalet at Dolygaer, but in true team spirit, the recovery wagon, AKA Stephen came to the rescue.
Day 2 was always called the big one, this was 116 miles with over 10,000 feet of climbing, so a tough one, Seb in his youthful inexperience, thought a 53/39 and 11/25 cassette would be fine for him…. It was always going to be a damp start to the day and the long group set off, with the drizzle coming and going. They had a few little warm up hills going up to 15%. Some of the group had not experienced hills of this length or gradient, so took it handy. A quick stop at Audax a la Carte dining, aka Greggs, to get refuelled before they hit the first of the big climbs and the hilly section. The weather was not was predicted and a bit wetter than expected by 11 o’clock when then they hit the Rhigos, the first of the long climbs. They all took it nice and steady and made it to the top, with the faster of the group, Stephen, Paul and Nic (AKA Captain Darling) making it over the top, first. A long decent into Neath then saw everyone regroup and they then stopped for a bite to eat. This was a bit better than Audax dining, with Nic having a foodie moment with his Goan curry.
By this time the sun had come out and the laughs were flowing along with the tales of the last few climbs, there was a flatter section coming up till they hit Black Mountain. The same group continued on the mountain, with the sun shining and a tail wind what more could you ask for? Stephen, Paul and Nic, flew off with Seb, Ian, Gareth and Deano, left to go at their own pace. There was a bit of encouragement from Stephen and Paul to get each other over the top as legs were starting to burn. The other side was a lovely sweeping switchback with a photographer getting the best of the group coming down, they regrouped at the bottom to do battle with the last of the lumps before getting back to the Chalet.
As the group got tired, they made a choice for the stronger of the group to go ahead and order food from the pub up the road from the Chalet, leaving Seb, Gareth, Ian and Deano to ride back together. This was not what happened as the faster guys got caught up in a rural traffic jam, otherwise known as sheep, allowing the group to come together again, so a last pit stop, for the essentials and they all left together. After the hill the group strung out again and this was then split in to 2 groups and 1, so Paul, Nic and Stephen were up front, with Ian not too far behind and then Seb, who was feeling the big gears now, with Gareth and Deano. With the next section being flat, Ian tried to catch the lead group, this is something that he managed to do with about 20 miles to go, after Nic, stopped again for a natural break. So, they then made the way to the pub, along another flat section before the last hill of the day. This was a very unforgiving 1 mile long 15% slog, with now over 100 miles in the legs of the guys, it was slow, the lead group all made it up, some faster than others, Ian was described as a diesel truck slowly moving up the hill by Stephen who nursed him up. Then off to the pub for some well deserved food and hydration. The other 3 guys, then all stuck together and then after a few stern words to themselves, got over the climb. Some not able due to the gearing….
Day 3 was the last hurrah, this was always going to be a hard day for the guys who had taken on the long route the day before, with Deano and Seb, both feeling the effects of the day before, they decided to go with the shorter ride. So Stephen, Gareth, Nic, Paul and Ian set off for the last ride of the day, this was only a mere 4,300 feet of climbing over 48 miles, so was a flat ride in comparison. They set off with stiff legs straight on to a short climb, with some feeling the effects more than others, some choice words were said, and they carried on to a long flat section before the Devils Elbow. This was the last test for the guys and was a 1.2 mile long climb at and average gradient of 9.8% , with it topping out at 16%, this was another slow grind for Ian but they all made it up to the top and then the down hill, which Paul described as one of the best of the weekend. A few little bumps in the road and they made it back to The Red Cow for a coffee and a chance to thank the staff for hosting us all the night before.
The guys then all went off for a last meal together and said their goodbyes
So with this year’s Westerley away trip done and dusted it’s time to enjoy the group rides again and think about the next one.