Linking stage Three
Machynlleth to Cwmystwyth
Total distance: 73km
Climbing: 2300m

Special Stage Two
Total distance: 8km

Taking the riders from Machynlleth to Cwmystwyth, some 73km and 2300m of climbing south the third linking stafe struck out through woods climbing up Mynydd Bychan at 493m. The woods gave way to stunning wilderness sprinkled liberally with sheep and stone walls, speared by rocky drovers track that made its way to the river crossing of Afon Hengwm; last year a rope had been thrown across it to prevent riders being swept away by the exceptionally high flow due to last year’s record breaking rainfall. However this year the level was less severe, but the river still had to be negotiated with care.

After some wet feet the trail continued its tumbling way to the stunning Nant-y-Moch reservoir that’s situated in a remote saddle. Skirting its shores saw the riders join the outreach of the natural trail component of Nant-y-Arian’s Continental trail: a superb blend of flowing manmade singletrack together with an ‘out there’ feel. Following it against the flow brought the riders to the start of the day’s special stage at Nant-y-Arian at Liyn Syfydrin. Unlike yesterday’s special stage which favoured the descenders, today’s was undoubtedly one for the climbers.

The stage itself had been reduced by the organisers from the original 25km point to point from Nant-y-Moch reservoir to Nant-y-Arian’s visitor centre to an 8km loop that returned to where it started. This allowed riders to leave superfluous ballast to streamline their racing weight a little. The stage began with a sequence of wide rocky climbs and fast descents, before plunging into carving singletrack that switchbacked down the hillside, and kept on going. And going. It finally came to an end at the valley floor where the only way was up. In this case: two miles of relentless and sustained gradient on false-summit infested fireroad. It was do or die rhythm time. After the summit the trail swung left for one last short but sharp singletrack dash to the finish.

For Phil Marland of the Army Cycling Union, who was using the GORE BIKE WEAR TransWales as part of his training for the Cape Epic, the first third of the special stage would sadly put an end to his event.

Phil separated from his bike at speed on an open rocky descent on the special stage after colliding with some wire fencing. He went down extremely hard. The accident happened very close to a marshall point who called immediately for an ambulance as Phil was in intense pain. A fellow rider Tatjana Troll, a doctor from Bristol, stayed with him until the ambulance arrived. He was airlifted to hospital with suspected pelvis, lumbar spine, leg, arm and shoulder injuries. The good news is that the latest news from the hospital says he’s broken his coccyx but nothing else; we all hope that the final prognosis is positive and we all wish him a full recovery.

Jonathan Pugh (Clee Cycles KCNC High 5) arrived comfortably at the special stage start at the head of the field, rested a little prior to revving up for the special stage, and then turned on the gas. But despite his 29lb trail bike weight he opened up a whole world of hurt on the Leg Burner climb to storm the stage in a total time of 22mins 51secs – enough to see him begin to open up a gap of over three minutes on his nearest rival in the Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category, Josh Ibbett (IronHorse-Extreme).

Unlike previous year’s, this year sees no official singlespeed category. But in true singlespeed fashion, this hasn’t stopped the one coggers from having one though. Enter from stage left the unofficial Singlespeed Leader’s jersey that’s been custom made with a permanent marker pen. A really thick one. The rules require the current singlespeed leader to wear it on the trail, to not wash it – ever – and to hand it over to any new leader. The Health & Safety Exec, however, have yet to comment on this potentially biologically hazardous practice.

Currently the Army’s Graham McConaghy is the proud owner of the jersey after outpacing all one really nice speed riders at the Climachx, although today he had to settle for second in the unofficial singlespeed category 3secs behind Rob Holbeche (No Friends No Gears), who finished in 26mins 7secs. The fight would’ve been closer between these two evenly matched riders yesterday at the Climachx had Rob not been the unfortunate victim of no less than four punctures. McConaghy is also right up there in the overall of the Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category after finishing seventh today to cement sixth in the overall with a time of 21:57:33, less than 10mins behind Pugh.

In the Merida Bikes Mixed category the leading pair of Maddie and Jay Horton (Team Certini) looked to put some time into second placed Fi Spotswood and Michael Tomlinson (South Fork Racing), and put it in they did. They pressed their advantage to finish in 25mins 12secs, over a minute clear of Spotswood and Tomlinson.  The gap separating the two pairs in the overall is now over two minutes.

Another category that’s showing the signs of a good fight developing is the Schwalbe Tyres Female Solo category; yesterday saw Rickie Justine Cotter (Cytek) take the lead by 41secs ahead of Italian Marathon Champion Marika Covre (Ideal – Vivibike). However, the Leg Burner helped see Covre storm the stage in a time of 26mins 01secs, with Cotter in second in a time of 27mins 55secs. This leaves Covre with a 1min 13secs advantage over Cotter in the overall going into tomorrow’s special stage. But with the course profile being straight up and straight down, it could be the decisive special stage to see one truly pull away from the other. With Cotter’s descending skills in no doubt, nor Covre’s climbing ability tomorrow’s special stage will be a nail biter