Trans Wales Express

Day 1: Builth Wells – Knighton
Distance: 58km
Climbing: 1,850m ascent
Special Stage: 0.5km hill climb
Saddle Sores: Minimal (Thankfully)
Hours on the Bike: 6:15

Day 1 of the 2010 Gore Bike Trans Wales over, and we (my brother and I) have survived the first test – It’s been three months in the making, but we’ve officially completed the passage from Trans Wales wannabes to Trans Wales participants.

Team 9 ready to go before the start - My brother Will is on the left.

If we were under any illusion as to the difficulty of this race prior, today’s experiences have sharpened our focus considerably – as we encountered some exhilarating highs and some demoralising lows.

At the start of today’s stage, each rider was given a uniform time frame to return in: 5:30 hours – which equates to an average speed of roughly 12km per hour – a perfectly reasonable time scale, but one we couldn’t adhere too!

The day started on a deceptively promising note, as we embarked immediately upon a double track climb. 200 or so riders created a fantastic collage of colours but pace was thankfully slow as the majority stuttered and consequently pushed their way onwards – ourselves amongst them.

Eventually, after around 20 minutes, the field dispersed and everybody fell into their natural rhythm and into groups of those of a similar ability.

After several minor off-road climbs, we hit road and made good progress through the windy Welsh countryside at around 18km speed – a pace that was keeping us optimistic with regards to an early finish. Our optimism was short lived however as shortly after finding our road riding rhythm, we hit the first of the day’s mammoth climbs.

Roughly 30 minutes later, we were at the top, suitably exhausted – looking out into a sea of purple heather as we meandered through the open moors – a sight that would have been breathtaking had we any breath left to spare.

The heather went on for miles

We were rewarded with a slight rest bite as the track evened out and we gently undulated, enjoying the slights downs – agonising during the ups – all the while admiring some of the most captivating scenery I have seen during my mountain biking travels.

Then we hit the 0.5Km Hill climb – the focal point of today’s stage, where those in search of honours were looking to stamp their authority on the leaders jerseys.  By the time we reached that point, roughly 24km into the day, we were already a long way behind the leaders but keeping some good company.

One of the things you notice about this event right from the start is the level of camaraderie between participants. We found good companions as we went along, sometimes passing others and sometimes being passed – however, regardless of which way round, the riders are all keen to say hello, exchange handshakes and make new acquaintances – something which I fear wouldn’t be so prominent in more race orientated events such as the Trans-Rockies.

Another spurt of uphill followed and we were soon left to our own devices, as those fitter than ourselves pushed on as we twisted and turned, gradually gaining altitude on the go before we hit one of the day’s highlights – a section of downhill fire road which saw us hit speeds of over 50km – albeit short lived.

Some of the downs came to sudden, muddy ends

The only disappointing aspect about the days riding up until this point was the lack of Singletrack, we climbed mostly on double track, fire road and farmland access ways and while they proved more than a match for our abilities, a little more Singletrack on the downhill would have ensured our smiles were a little wider upon reaching the finish.

After roughly 48km, we hit the most anticipated section of today’s race for us – the Lunch Stop. I must give a big mention to the caterers for the event – Extreme Hospitality – for the fantastic food they have provided so far and with a Sunday Roast to come tonight, I’m already salivating at the thought.

Some frenetic eating followed as we met a few Singletrack Magazine fans (who I won’t name for now to save any blushes) – keeping up the rear of the pack like ourselves. Who could wish for better company?

We eventually made it back to camp, not quite in last place and made use of the excellent facilities on offer. I’ve never taken part in a race like this before, but I’ve been very impressed so far by the services available.

The crews from Merida and Squirt Lube had bike wash and free chain lube services on offer. There’s also a mechanical tent and a sports massage tent – it’s like being in an all-inclusive resort!

Tomorrow promises to be even longer, even tougher and even hillier than today – words which fail to ease the nervous trepidation felt among us.

Our only source of comfort comes from the fact that we know we’re not here to compete for podium spots, our target is to reach the finish line in one piece – If we can manage that, then we will have achieved more than I imagined.

Williams Thoughts: “I’m too tired to speak”

The Bikes:

Sunn Shamann S1 (Nathan) : The Sun was great today, it climbs superbly and has just enough bounce to keep thing smooth on the rough stuff. Get the feeling I’m going to give up long before it does.

Merida One-Twenty 300-D (Will) : Bouncy on the downs, firm on the Ups. The 120 seems to be made for this sort of thing so far – the hill climb proved a little too much though as I struggled for rear end grip.

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