Saturday 20 October 2012

A hill too far...?

Another October early start saw several ladies descend on Corwen, in two batches, for the 100 and 60k Audaxes, The Brenig Bach (100k) and the Bala Mini Bash.

First climb of the day outside Corwen
The 100k was due to start at 8:30am - that means the clock starts then and that is when you set off.  I warned our little group to take it steady on the first hill out of Corwen,as it is quite big but will only be the start!  As we climbed, a very broad rainbow was forming to our right, the direction we were generally intending to head.  It got brighter as we turned at Cynwyd, and with the bright morning sunshine and brilliant autumn colours, it prompted many photo opportunities.  We dropped from Cynwyd to the River Dee, to cross on one of the many old stone bridges, common along this stretch of the valley (I know, as once upon a time in my youth I was cycling back from Bala, and decided to cross the Dee at each you do!)

Jackie and Claire in Cynwyd

Crossing the River Dee

We then turned left,and followed the valley up stream, along a marvelous little lane that I think the 60k-ers would be returning along later.  There was one very muddy bit, where we gained a gentleman named Gron, who stayed with us for the duration (I think he was having difficulty reading the route map without his glasses), so we let him tag along!  A little further on and we had a moment with a few cars trying to pass each other (and getting seriously in our way!) - I had a very surreal moment when one car was reversing and the same speed as the car in front of us was going forward, with Gwenda hot on his bumper.

Anyway,we left them to sort themselves out and turned right and continued along the valley to Llandderfel, and after re-assembling, we turned right onto the B-road and next left for our first real climb of the day, just a small one to get us going! Up and over saw us join the A494 for a few miles - where we could actually wind up the gears and steam along at a nice average of 20mph, or so it felt - a wonderful down hill and slightly twisty foresty stretch, before turning off again at Llanfor.

This was again an undulatory road, with views to the misty Snowdonia mountains over to our left.  It culminated in a lovely downhill swoop, which was a bit steeper at the bottom,and where Claire took a brief tumble, landing ungraciously on her bottom, with her bike upside down against the bank.  Luckily no damage to Claire or her bike, and after picking her up,dusting her down, and removing the grass from her brake hood, we were able to carry on.

This part of the route actually follows the Snowdonia National Park boundary, and we trundled along the B4501, before turning off and up again on a small lane.  By this time (or maybe earlier, it is hard to remember already!) we were joined by a chap and his daughter from Norley.  They had actually set off to do the 60k, which I thought they were joking about, but no, they really were quite lost.  So they followed us too.

We are all walking now!

We picked up one of the info points at the end of a gated road, and then had a serious double-arrow climb - at which point it dawned on me that the father-and-daughter team should really contact Dave the organiser, to let his know they were off route; in case they were waiting at a control for them.  So we left him at the top of a hill phoning, and his daughter came with us for a short way, through a flooded lane, to a sharp right turn off the road.  I continued, and the others followed through - another very steep climb through a farm and round, but then followed by the most amazing descent - a straight road, which I flew down (clocking a mean 38 mph!), and we congregated at the bottom cross roads to re-group.  Gwenda and Gron had gone ahead, and Tracey soon came down, followed by Claire and Jackie.  But no sign of the father and daughter.  We waited, as the route was straight ahead but the lane was marked as a dead end; eventually we decided they could look after themselves, and we carried on to join Gwenda and Gron in the Riverside Chocolate House.  As good as it sounds!

It was at this point that we had a choice to make.  We were half an hour outside the latest arrival time at that control, and it would be very hard to try and make that time up.  Or, we could bash back down the A5 to Corwen, not the most pleasant option, and we were only halfway through the day.  Or, the option we picked, to take the A543 up onto the Denbigh Moors, where after about 7 miles we would re-join the route and still make it to Llyn Brenig visitor centre for cakes!  We waved goodbye to Gwenda and Gron, doing our miles for us, and finished our beans on toast and hot chocolate.

Now, despite the road not looking all that steep, and with a tailwind and in bottom gear, it was still a very hard slog up the A-road.  Not many cars, but fast when they came.  The sky and views were clearing as we ascended, and I could make out a Red Kite hovering and swooping over the desolate landscape.

We re-joined the route near Llyn Aled, and carried on past the Sportsmans Arms (I have memories of my first ever Easter Tour over here when I was 16!) and to the B-road that would take us past Brenig.  Here we were joined by Darryl, one of our Chester & North Wales CTC Competition team members, and Stephen, Welna's husband.  We rode together for a while, catching up on the bit we missed, until they shot ahead as I misread my map (I was looking at it upside down!) - only to catch them a little further on as Stephen had a puncture.  We helped out, then carried on to the cafe.  Or rather, I passed the girls at the top, and they followed...Claire and Jackie took a few photos and by the time we got to the cafe Tracey was missing.  She did turn up,with Gwenda and Gron, she had missed the cafe altogether and carried on along the lake.

Llyn Brenig in the background

Homeward bound!
We finally left the cafe (with smashing cakes!), and re-climbed to the main road, where I had been told the last 20k were all downhill.  The first bit was, then we climbed  then an amazing downhill - I again flew past the girls - and this time clocked an eye watering 44mph - weeeeee!

We were being passed by lots of rally cars, and I understand that the Cambrian Rally was on this weekend - possibly explains the lady with the camera in Cerrig, not really for us!  This was where we hit the A5, and had 10 miles all the way to Corwen (still not all entirely downhill!).

A grand day out, not too tired,and 52 quality miles!  Now to plan a re-visit to do the 'missing link'!

Saturday 13 October 2012

Who moved the cafe?

Second Group - the Flat 'n' Chat easyriders!
It was with some trepidation that I set off on the second Saturday morning in October, as I already had 18 confirmed names, and there are usually a few extras who did not know till last minute, or did not pick up the email or were not able to reply.  So it did not surprise me when we ended up with 24 ladies; who conveniently spread themselves between the two groups we had planned.  The weather had promised to stay fine until lunchtime, so that should be OK.

I led the usual group, and Jo-Anne took on the further faster; route planning having already been plotted and uploaded to devices (or in Jane’s case her head, according to Jo-Anne, but denied by Jane!)

I don't usually have a bike shop in my pannier!
We had not got very far when one lady realised her seat was too high – after being borrowed by her husband as his bike had a puncture…but did not return the saddle to its correct altitude.  This was easily and swiftly corrected, and we set off again.  In Waverton, a few ladies realised that despite the sun it is actually quite nippy around the knuckles now – fortunately I had bought a pair of gloves in the Aldi sale and was not sure if I really needed them – so was able to sell them at the roadside - warm hands for one, lighter bag for me!!

I am loving the curtains!  First group settled in back room.

We kept a nice steady pace then out to Tattenhall, where I directed people down to the café, which I thought was ‘down there on the right’.  It wasn’t.  I found them just the other side of Tattenhall, looking at me expectantly.  But after asking a passing lady, she set us right and we found Alison’s Country Kitchen on the other side of the road, up a steep driveway.  Phew.

The further faster group arrived shortly after us, they saw the sign so were not confused at all!  Plenty of room inside and out, although not particularly together, but that happens with a large group.  Can I just say, that the cafe did used to be where I directed people to - but they moved!

Still warm enough to sit outside in October!

I had planned to lead back via Bruera and Saighton, but there was a tremendously black cloud of impending doom and heavy rain in that direction, so I turned my handlebars back retracing some of our route out, with some variations.  As more were ready to leave at that time, Moira and I split the remaining ladies between us, and we negotiated the traffic jam that is Tattenhall High Street at Saturday lunchtime.


We had a pleasant and dry ride back, looking over at the dark clouds and rain – one lady’s husband came to pick her up as it was so wet in Connahs Quay – but it missed us, and I believe it missed the further faster ladies who did take the original planned return route.  Which just goes to show, you should stick to your plans, and the dark clouds are not always as bad as they seem.

24 riders, 22 miles (28FF), no punctures, no rain.