After a clear night, the massed throng of Gore Bike Wear TransWales riders prepared for their second day in the saddle. And what a day: wall to wall sunshine and blue skies, dry trails, crystal views over the patchwork landscape of mid-Wales and some epic riding. It might not have seen a change in the overall standings but today nonetheless delivered great riding and stunning scenery in spades.
Although the lack of rain falling from above was merely the icing on the cake, today was about completing the linking stage within the six-hour cut off time period. Parceled with this, was the need for riders to pace themselves to keep their legs as fresh as possible in preparation for the competition that will recommence tomorrow in earnest with the 7km downhill special stage at the awesome Climachx trail near Machynlleth. But first, there was the small matter of 61km and 2140m of climbing to focus on.
Leaving Knighton behind, the riders freed their legs up a gradual tarmac climb that warmed up weary limbs before the gradient kicked hard to the summit of Bailey Hill. Continuing onwards, the stage struck out into the hills proper as it took the riders to the trails upon Glyndwr’s Way and into true big country: with sweeping panoramic views and blooming purple heather flanking the trail like a carpet of sentries, the moorland’s upper stretches were simply stunning.
For one rider – Paul ‘Latch’ Latchem – today, however, was not a good day. One of only about six riders who have ridden every single TransWales and TransScotland event, Latch’s day came to a premature end halfway along Glyndwr’s Way as both his seat tube and top tube catastrophically failed on a climb. Although not his day, it was lucky that the frame hadn’t failed on any one of the high speed descents as that would have led to something much worse than simply a lift to the stage’s end in one of the support vehicles.
After the scenery of the moors came a high speed and open descent down Moelfre Hill and into Moelfre itself. From here a smattering of short, sharp climbs and descents took the riders away from the moors and into the trees once again for more climbing. But the tough ascent was compensated by tight yet fast rutted singletrack descent that began rocky and became sinuous. It was flanked with sumptuous views over towards Llandiloes itself, before steepening and becoming more enclosed.
The outcome was a chaotic blend of Russian Roulette and pinball. Some, like the women's solo leader Rickie Cotter (WXC Racing) took it by the scruff of the neck and came screeching to the bottom buzzing and smiling with rotors pinging. Others, however, took a flyer over the bars and were gifted a tacoed wheel for their troubles. Yet all made it down in one piece and pedalled what remained of the day’s stage to the finish, a warm shower, a sports massage, and – for most – a cold beer at Llandiloes Rugby Club’s bar.
Tomorrow, the TransWales will get into its stride with the second special stage, a 7km downhill time trial at the Climachx trail near Machynlleth. Along with the special stage, tomorrow is the first truly big day of this year’s race, when riders will pedal 82km and take on 2430m of climbing over some genuinely challenging terrain through Hafren Forest and the wilderness beyond towards Macynlleth. But – in a reversal of stage one's climbing trend – the stage also features 2590m of descending. It’s about to get interesting.
General Classification after special linking stage two
1. Rickie Justine COTTER (WXC Racing) 05:31:51
2. Hannah THORNE 05:32:09
3. Fiona SPOTSWOOD (For Goodness Shakes) 05:32:27
1. Ryan HAWSON (Ayup Lighting) 05:31:31
2. Sean GROSVENOR (Summit Cycles / Conti) 05:31:37
3. Michael MCCUTCHEON (MAD MTB) 05:31:40
Vet men solo
1. Daryl CAVILL (Tenby Aces Cycling Club) 05:31:47
2. Steve WHITEHOUSE 05:31:56
3. Ray BLABER 05:31:58
1. Neil Richardson & Dan Lewis (RAFCC) 05:31:36
2. Gary Cousins & Andy Edwards (phasen9clothing.co.uk) 05:31:46
3. Darren Koslicki & Adam Wroz 05:31:46
1. Steph Fountain & Lisa Bolton (Clifton CC) 05:32:30
2. Julie Neuhoff & Victoria Moorhouse (With Hind Sight) 05:33:01
Vet men duo
1. Trevor Marshall & David Sheppard 05:32:31
2. Mark Olivier & Andrew Donkin (Invalids) 05:32:45
1. Luc Selen & Wendy De Graaf (Double Dutch) 05:31:57
2. Elizabeth Docherty & James Docherty (Ohh!) 05:32:17
3. Claire Neuhoff & Simon Neuhoff (The Clantons) 05:32:21