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Wild Wales Challenge

John Robson

Last year I rode the WWC for the first time, the 85 mile circular course was, I'm convinced, based on the Penrose stairs - uphill all the way.

Since 2014 is the 30th anniversary of the event the organisers have designed a 100 mile (97.9, but I'll do a few extra laps of the car park to make up the distance) course taking in the highest mountain pass in Wales as a typical Tour style "sting in the tail" - have a look at the course profile here: Course profile

So how did last year go, and what am I expecting this year?

Before the start we sampled the tea and used the facilities available.  The electronic tags which had been posted made registration fairly fast - a continuous stream of people passing the registration desk and out onto the roads.

The first few hills were a good warm-up, and with sheep and the morning mist to keep us company on the empty (although not closed) roads chosen for the route.  Long clothing was quickly shed...  A mere 8 miles in I lost pressure in a front wheel, at over 30mph.  With just two wheels that might have been the end of the event, but it didn't matter on the trike - just the annoyance of having to stop for a while, no need to remove the wheel of course, just repair from the side.

The big climb of the first half of the event was 6 miles, including a 2 mile section at 9% average, peaking at well over 25%.  The views from the top were spectacular, the descent exhilarating - 50mph, despite flying a large flag for the charity Bliss.

The checkpoints and feed stops were busy, but well organised and signed - the electronic tags again making the system easy and robust.  The food was excellent, some eaten there, some put into the side pods for consumption en route.

As we continued the hills hit a gradient of 1 in 3, and the climbing was relentless.  There was at least one cycling club who kept passing me uphill, and then I returned the favour whenever the road pointed down, always taking time to exchange greetings and encouragement on the uphill at least.  I was geared down to ~10-11" with a Sturmey Archer hub in the rear wheel giving me an extra "under-drive" gear range below the standard gearing - low enough to just keep the pedals turning, and if the pedals keep turning then you get up the hill.

At the trickiest junctions there were well placed signs to ensure that no-one had to add too much distance or climbing to their day, although I did end drifting round one such corner, a bit too much entry speed and some loose surface in the middle of the road putting a huge grin on my face, as well as attracting comments from other riders.

Having crested the peak of the course >1730ft at just shy of 70 miles you'd hope that the required loss of 1200 feet in the next 15 miles would indicate a nice downhill route - but no, the Penrose stairs course was determined to lose altitude by going uphill.  Many small climbs interrupted the descent then a beautiful rolling road above the "back" side of the reservoir at Bala before cruising through town to the finish, more tea, facilities and many tired but friendly fellow cyclists, with their new slate plaques, comparing stories before heading home.

This year I expect much the same, but with more climbing, more miles and catered breakfast available.  I'm hoping the weather manages to repeat last year's blazing sunshine, although I'll try to remember sun cream this time!


Kit:

2010 Sprint RS.  Tryker tyres, Hub dynamo on the left, CS-RK3 hub at the rear to give 81 gears overall.

Full rack and mudguards will obviously stay on throughout...


Charity:

I am raising money for Bliss, a charity that helps families with babies born 'too soon, too small, too sick'. Bliss were invaluable to us as a family after my daughter Amelia was born premature, weighing only 2lbs 13oz. Any donation would be gratefully received: Bliss fundraising page


- Written by John Robson