Transwales Express

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Day 2: Knighton – Llanidloes
Distance: 62km
Climbing: 2,140m ascent
Special Stage: None
Saddle Sores: Happily Minimal although there is some redness appearing
Hours on Saddle: 6:10

Day 2 of the Gore Bike Trans Wales complete and we’ve managed to make it to the end, albeit at the very back of the pack.

The dreaded ‘broom wagon’ was our companion over the last 3-4km of today’s ride, despite the fact that we managed to cross the line only 10 minutes outside of the ‘cut-off’ time.

Considering the difficulty we had with the trail conditions and the amount of climbing involved with yesterday’s route, we were less than enthusiastic about of prospects of managing a good time today, with the route almost 4km longer and incorporating 300m more of vertical climbing. The fact that we made it back so close to the ‘cut-off’ time has given us some encouragement with regards to our prospects tomorrow.

The day started on a slightly sad note for us as our tent neighbours – Stephen and Katie Baker, winners of an MBUK competition which saw them receive free entry into the event and free usage of two Merida bikes for the duration – were forced to retire from the race through injury. Unfortunately, Stephen tore a muscle in his knee during the racing on day 1 and after a conversation with the onsite medics, was advised to return home and seek further treatment – an unfortunate end for a true enthusiast.

With our goodbyes said, we embarked upon the start of the day’s stage and following on from yesterday, it wasn’t long before we hit the first of the day’s four major climbs.

Suffice to say that the leaden quadriceps and burning calves that accompanied my return to the bike this morning resulted in us and many other competitors abandoning the bike in favour of the two footed approach.

Fifteen minutes later a steady walking pace saw us crest the top and it wasn’t long before we were out in the open moorland akin to yesterday’s ride, amongst a crowd of riders as we all made fast progress through the day’s trail.

William keeping pace with the pack

If the scenery we witnessed yesterday was worthy of mention, today’s views were utterly breathtaking. As we travelled through the very heart of Wales, we passed through winding valleys and over wide open moorland – all of which created a fantastic sight to behold.

Our journey through the hillside saw us undulate through some manageable ups, followed by some exhilarating downs which meandered through a mix of open tracks and singletrack trails, all the while with heather and grass at waist height.

Then came another of the day’s climbs and one which split the pack considerably. Our lack of fitness began to tell as we were dropped by those we had been riding with and by the time we had reached the climbs climax, several of the riders who had been behind us up until that point had managed to catch up.

Dropped from the pack, we were soon in our own world

With the lack of a special stage during today’s route, we had expected the pace among the pack to be a little slower than it had been yesterday, however the fair weather and improvement in trail conditions ensured that the majority of riders were determined to surge ahead and most managed to make it home after around 4 hours.

Our moorland passage came to an end after we flew through a long, straight section of grassy downhill, which incorporated many natural bumps in the surface which acted as mini kicker jumps – giving us a little air time as we ploughed through the last of the moors.

Shortly after, we hit 42km and that stage we love so much – Lunch. My brother reckons he’ll be the only rider to come here and leave weighing more than when he arrived.

Suitably fuelled, it wasn’t long before we embarked upon another of the day’s gruelling climbs. Again more pushing ensued and eventually we broke the back of the days ride and looked forward to what promised to be a steady descent to come.

Our enthusiasm was soon rewarded as we were hurtling down a rocky singletrack descent at hair-raising speeds, with the countryside blurring through the periphery. The track weaved through the hillside, with a steep drop on the right enough to keep most riders on tenterhooks. Unfortunately for myself, the speeds proved to be too much as I lost control of the front wheel and face planted into the ditch – thankfully on the left hand side and without any serious injury.

The drops were quite big in places - no risks here though

After a few minutes gathering my composure, we continued down more thoroughly enjoyable descents before hitting a long section of road which saw us back to camp. Unfortunately there was quite a lot of minor roads incorporated into today’s ride, often on the downhill sections and while it was at times frustrating, the singletrack sections of the day overall more than made up for the monotony of road-riding.

We finished the day firmly at the back of the pack, yet we’re still very much here and surviving, albeit by the skin of our teeth.

I think tomorrow is going to be the key day for us. It’s the longest stage of the event at over 70km and if we can both make it through that one, we have a definite chance of making it to the end.

Williams Thoughts: “I thought yesterday was hard”

The Bikes
Merida One-Twenty 300-D (Will):
The descents today showed the bikes only real flaw. The standard SLX brake-set are a lacking a little stopping power when a 100kg rider like myself gathers full momentum. Apart from that I didn’t really notice the bike, which is usually a good sign.
Sunn Shamann S1 (Nathan): The Sunn proved it was made of tough stuff today. Through both the grassy down and rocky down which saw me hit the ditch, I was pumping and jumping, all the while the bike felt secure and planted into the ground.

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