Wednesday, August 7, 2013

MTB Marathon again - Crickhowell - Brecon Beacons

With a not too unpleasant illness from, I think, a dirty Camelbak tube earlier in the week, I was just aiming to finish another 75 km event (this time in the rather hilly Brecon Beacons, South Wales) without coughing up too many pieces of lung.  After the four hour drive I was just in time to put up the tent in the event village and settle in for the night with a good book before a huge thunder storm rolled through.

Excessive amounts of rain in the early morning also slid away over the horizon and the event started with the threat of showers.  This round of the series (there are four, I did the middle two) was supposed to be longer & with more climbing than the previous one I did.  But I expected it to be somewhat easier as I had a new bike, many more gears and, most importantly, it wasn't 30ºC with the sun beating down.

To get out of the village up the valleys there was too much road for my liking, but eventually we got off road and there was a steep, rocky climb - my valiant (or so I'm saying) attempt to get up it was thwarted by too many people in front of me walking.  Eventually the course opened up and all of a sudden twenty kilometres were gone and I was at the first of the legendary feed stations (so much home-baking & other goodies, I probably spent too long at these just eating).  More climbing, this time on gravel, and then the course split and the lesser distances were away and it was blissful solitude on the trails.

The next climb was long, very technical and just kept going.  In the perfect riding weather (mostly sun, a breeze, 20ºC and an occasional bit of drizzle), this was a very pretty climb up a long valley.  Of the 8.5 km, I managed it all apart from a few metres choosing the wrong line through the rocks.  Near the start of the climb a large dam loomed large above us, I was surprised when we kept going past it.  Over 300 metres ascending, there was a wild descent (20+ % in places) on which I found my forks had too much air in them - never mind, I survived.  I also stopped briefly for some photos as it was rather pleasant.

Back in the valley, it flattened out a little going down to another feed station - conveniently at the bottom of what turned out to be the biggest, hardest hill I've been up in ages.  Good training for the RVO hopefully.  The bottom was super steep & rocky, but as we rode through the stone wall (it was gated, my bike is not magic - well, no more magic than bikes are in general) it was the beginning of an interminable granny ring grind on grass.  Good fun slowly hauling others in - the tail wind as we traversed helped.  Time for a couple more photos before traversing into the massive head wind on the other side of the hill - never that much fun having to work downhill.

It was pretty much all downhill from there, so pleased to get back just over five hours (including all the food stops - yum, Welsh cakes).  Once again, it was disappointing that the distance & elevation gain was somewhat less than expected.  But a great day out & a very enjoyable ride in another national park previously unvisited by me.

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