Yr Elenydd is a 305km circular Audax from Upton Magna near Shrewesbury going out into the wilderness of middle Wales. The route had 4,950m of relentless climbing including the infamous Devils Staircase.
The day started with the usual big ring surge off the starting line, with large groups forming to cover the first 20/30k, during this initial period we encountered several fords - with no prior guidance or experience on how to negotiate these (some people slowed to take them cautiously, some got off an walked round) I did what I assumed was the done thing - speed up and plow through it as fast as I could, the logic being that if I did slip, I'd be out the other side before I hit the ground and would at least be dry when I went down. The reality was that I simply soaked my overshoe-less feet. Luckily it wasn't raining.. no hang on, it was, and my feet stayed wet for the duration of the day. Never trust the weather forecast, especially when i predicts sun in Wales.
Leaving the first control at Shobdon Airfield.
Sinking into more of a rhythm, and with three fifths of the London Grimpeurs back together we carried on through the drizzling rain, on into wilderness of Wales.
We rode through some of the most remote and desolate mountain passes and valley roads. This was an AA ride, though the climbing was steep and relentless. Offa's Dyke seemed to be the first major climb, though reaching its base was only done via miles of undulating roads.
The Abergwesyn - Tregaron mountain road.
The Abergwesyn - Tregaron mountain road
The Abergwesyn - Tregaron mountain road took us through the winding and rolling valley floor to the base of the Devils Staircase where we were greeted with this sign of what was in store.
Having turned my body inside out for the 25% climb I headed for the top. A passing car offered some glimpses of concern as I sunk my teeth into my handlebars and I'm pretty sure I saw the driver mouth something along the lines of 'never do Audax' to her children. Finally I reached the top... I'm still not sure why you would build a road like that up a mountain, only to drop it down again the other side.. I would have gone round. Anyway...
A fierce headwind faced us for the grinding push through the open moorlands at the top of the Elan Valley. By this point I'd basically chewed all the tape off my bars.
In true London Grimpeurs style we made sure we leaked time when it wasn't needed then tried to make it up when we could have done with a rest. The whole ride, especially the hailstorm and rain on the night section seemed to become a lesson in suffering. The only response to the cold and wet was to simply grind on into the night.
The last 20km was the hardest by far, facing fatigue from the climbing, being cold and wet and begining to hallucinate I bit whole chunks out of my handlebars, which just looked like mangled stumps of steel by this point. But we made it.. another Lanterne rouge for the Lonon Grimpeurs, with the traditional last 10km time trial to finish the ride. We got in a minute or two after 2am... 20hrs 4mins...
So that was the second ride towards the AA SR Series, next will be the Dorset Coast 200k as a 'Perm' in the next week or so, then Brevet Cymru 400km on the 5th April...