The day started at 6, packing up and heading out to Upton Magna for the start. I was quite surprised to find that there were only 8 of us doing this ride, out of only 12 to sign up. Given the popularity of the full Mille Cymru Audax (which does the same route in 75 hours), I would have thought that there would be more interest in this. But anyway, the main thing I took from the initial chats was that I’m the only one doing it in 4 days. Therein is the first clue that I’m either just a little bit insane, or seriously overestimating my abilities.
In case you’ve never heard of Upton Magna, the following signpost should mark it out near somewhere you probably have heard of:
The first 5 miles or so were ridden all together, but given that some were heading to Tintern (a mere 202km), there was a natural split off for those of us staying the night in Abergavenny. I found myself a little hampered by the initial slow pace, and ended up alone for about 30ish miles, before being caught by James. Who is an old hand at these things. He’s done the full ride before, did the Kidderminster Killer at the weekend (on a single-speed bike, no less), and is generally out of my league. However, we stayed together all the way to just before Abergavenny, where he headed off to a camp site.
It was a bit strange for me to have company for so much of the ride, but we got along pretty well, and I think I’m going to miss the mutual assistance we gave each other.
Anyway, the ride today had two things in spades. Beautiful scenery for one, and brutal climbs which enabled you to see the scenery for two. Such as these views:
This was 20% more hills than my 215 mile ride the other day, and it was only 150 miles! A new record for me on the climbing stakes for a single ride. The weather was also good – no rain, decent heat hitting 31 degrees at one point, and a gentle breeze to help one keep cool. I realised what it was that I forgot to pack yesterday, though: suncream. My shorts tan line is now admirably sharp, if a little on the red side. You can see the effect of the recent warm weather on the Welsh countryside, though – it’s remarkably dry. Richard Llewellyn would have to find a different title for his book now…
The major climb was Gospel Pass, which is the highest road in Wales. Here’s a pic or two en route (that’s James just in front of me there):
This one is closer to the top, and you can see the road snaking around in the middle of the frame, before heading left.
The worst moment of the day has to be at this point, where we saw a sign for Abergavenny only 4.5 miles away. We turned left, got to Tintern, and then turned back to the Northwest, only to reach Abergavenny 45 miles later. Heartbreaking.
The ride from there, though, was special. I’ve done part of it before – the stretch from Monmouth to Tintern. It follows the Wye river, and is a real treat. Forest-lined roads alongside the river the whole way, before opening up to Tintern, with a view of the ruined abbey. The road back to Abergavenny wasn’t too bad either, with more uphill, but all manageable.
I said yesterday that today was a key determiner of tomorrow. The riding today took 11 hours. If I leave at 5:30 tomorrow, I’ll have 16 before a decent arrival time of 9:30pm. That translates to an extra 5 hours for an extra 55 miles. It feels doable, I think, but much will depend on the road from St David’s to Carmarthen. It looks flat on the elevation profile, but is apparently full of ups and downs through coastal villages. That’ll slow me down a lot. We’ll, all according to plan so far, so let’s see how it goes tomorrow.
Here’s the video of the day’s ride, which includes a few more photos.