Linking stage Five
Cilycm to Llansewel
Total distance: 70km
Climbing: 2700m

Special Stage Four

Brechfa — total distance: 10km

“That was hardcore today,” said one rider after finishing the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales’ fifth linking and fourth and final special stage. “Bloody hard,” he continued, “but there was awesome, awesome singletrack. And lots of it.” The elation was compounded by the shear brutality of the conditions today as the fair weather bubble finally burst early on this morning, but also by the fatigued legs and aching bodies.

With the NiteRider night time special stage meaning a late finish for all the previous night the beginning of today’s linking stage was put back to half nine – perfectly in time for a fresh loosing of the wet stuff. But given the highs of the previous day’s (and night’s) riding, it was going to take some serious amounts of the wet stuff to dampen the riders’ spirits.

The linking stage rolled out of Cilycm and quickly headed up hill and into the trees. The wet weather made the going considerably harder than previous days and, as with all bike events, it was the back markers who had to contend with the chewed up trail left for them by 100s of pairs of tyres. With tough climbing made even tougher by the conditions the day descended into a real war of attrition for the already weary riders. However, nothing good ever comes easy and despite the soggy conditions, the trail eventually took the riders into the heart of the much anticipated Brechfa forest. And it didn’t disappoint.

Built by downhiller and skills coach Rowan Sorrell, Brechfa’s Raven trail (graded black) is a new school sensation: riding it is like surfing with huge carving lines, pump and jumps into berms, steep switchbacking turns and massive table tops; most of which is all rollable. Course designer John Lloyd made much use of the Raven trail as the linking stage wrapped itself in knots to make the most use of the unique trails hidden in Brechfa Forest. For some, the technicality of the Raven proved too much and too intimidating, but for those who grabbed the riding by the throat and refused to be cowed it was a skills expanding experience as they pushed back both boundaries and perception of their abilities, and reaped huge serotonin results for their troubles.

After the natural highs the Raven brought the riders to the fourth and final special stage; but in contrast to the full-on riding of the Raven, the special stage made use of part of the green route. Characterised by fast and pumpy singletrack that became more difficult the faster you rode it, the green route climbed from the off up fire road before dropping back on itself along undulating singletrack and a sequence of bermed turns, before another fireroad stretch flowed into more singletrack. It continued in the same vein for 10km with short sharp climbs blended with ever increasing singletrack descents. It was a tough proposition with headwinds and sporadic driving rains to contend with. To aid the riders through the final test Terri and Carl from Squirt lube were on-hand at the start to clean and lube chains for smooth shifting. They were also loading up riders with enough jelly beans and babies to launch a diabetic space rocket into orbit – something that went a long way to helping a lot of very tired and weary riders through the section, and back to normalcy afterwards.

With this being the final special stage, the organiser’s will be announcing the results tomorrow night (which will be included in tomorrow’s report); however, tonight has seen the presentation of the NiteRider lights night time special stage and the confirmation that although Johnathan Pugh took the win in the Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category he wasn’t the fastest rider on the night: that honour fell to Dan Lewis (Royal Air Force CA) who clocked 19mins 35 secs – 16secs quicker than Pugh; however as Dan is racing the Saris Male Open category together with Neil Richardson, his ‘win’ awards him indefinite bragging rights rather than genuine silverware.

By the time riders finally arrived at camp for the night at rugby club the strains and stresses of five relentless days of big riding was showing; some riders broke down on the line after completing the stage, whilst others quietly crumpled obliviously into their sleeping bags.

It was certainly a tough day all-round but the camaraderie of the assorted riders who at the beginning hardly knew one another, and yet now are close friends, helped to ensure that every rider came through to the end, come what may. With the finish in Builth Wells now firmly in sight and just two day’s ride away – and with no special stage to really wring the legs of the final ounce of juice – the rider’s have now firmly broken the back of the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales.

Tomorrow will see the sixth linking stage take the riders 71km and 2400m of climbing to the smallest town in Britain, Llanwrtyd Wells (and also home to the World Bog Snorkelling Championships) and within genuine spitting distance of journey’s end. The GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales is almost home…

Overall Standings After Special Stage Three

Schwalbe Tyres Female Solo category
1 – Marika Covre (Ideal – Vivibike): 29:26:01
2 – Rickie Justine Cotter (Cytek): 29:27:22
3 – Amy O’Loughlin (Beyond 925): 29:38:59

Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category
1 – Jonathan Pugh (Clee Cycles KCNC High 5): 29:08:38
2 – Josh Ibbett (IronHorse-Extreme): 29:12:58
3 – Jon Bowie (TriSmart: 29:14:52

Squirts Lubes Solo Male Veteran category
1 – Steve Heading (Whyte Racing): 29:12:27
2 – Gareth Bowyer (Ffasiynau Anabelle Fashions): 29:17:25
3 – Jonathan Edwards: 29:18:41

Merida Bikes Mixed category
1 – Maddie & Jay Horton (Team Certini): 29:16:38
2 – Fi Spotswood & Michael Tomlinson (South Fork Racing): 29:18:17
3 – Theresia & Werner Baumker (Team Charl ’77): 29:36:04

Ergon Veteran’s Male category
1 – Fulvio Damian & Elvo Del Puppo (Ideal – ViviBike): 29:17:44
2 – David Rielly & Steve Partington (Isle of Man Fire Service): 29:34:53
3 – Graham Denny & Shane Dickenson (Cytek): 29:49:33

Buff Headwear Female category
1 – Joy Bringer & Camilla Edlin (BAD By Association): 30:01:40

Saris Male category
1 – Dan Lewis & Neil Richardson (Royal Air Force CA): 29:13:00
2 – Andy Jones & Ben Jones (Clee Cycles KCNC): 29:14:28
3 – Brendan Kay & Simon Gough (Army Cycling): 29:21:06