Taking the riders from Machynlleth to Cwmystwyth, some 73km and 2,300m of climbing south, the third linking stage struck out through woods climbing up Mynydd Bychan at 493m. The woods gave way to 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, rides continued along the trail to the Nant-y-Moch reservoir that's situated in a remote saddle. Riders skirted its shores to join the Nant-y-Arian's Continental trail with its blend of flowing, man-made singletrack together with an 'out there' feel. Riders then arrived at the start of the special stage at Nant-y-Arian at Liyn Syfydrin. Unlike the previous day's special stage, which favoured the descenders, today's was 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 is training for next year's Cape Epic, the first third of the special stage would sadly put an end to his event.
Marland 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 Marland 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.
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 29-pound 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 22 minutes and 51 seconds - enough to see him open up a gap of over three minutes on his nearest rival Josh Ibbett (IronHorse-Extreme) in the men's solo category.
Unlike previous years, there is 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, has 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 3 seconds behind Rob Holbeche (No Friends No Gears), who finished in 26 minutes and seven seconds. The fight would've been closer between these two evenly matched riders yesterday at the Climachx had Holbeche not been the unfortunate victim of no less than four punctures. McConaghy is also right up there in the overall of men's solo category after finishing seventh to cement sixth in the overall with a time of 21:57:33, less than 10 minutes behind Pugh.
In the mixed team 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 25 minutes and 12 seconds, 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 women's solo; yesterday Rickie Justine Cotter (Cytek) took the lead by 41 seconds ahead of Italian Marathon Champion Marika Covre (Ideal - Vivibike). However, the Leg Burner helped Covre storm the stage in a time of 26 minutes and one second with Cotter in second in a time of 27 minutes and 55 seconds. This leaves Covre with a one minute and 13 seconds 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.
Day 4 preview
The TransWales heads 67km and 2,100m of climbing - but 2,200m of descending - to Cilcwm which where there will be a special night stage at Cwm Rhaiadr: a pyramid shaped profile of a course that goes up, up, up, before firing down, down, down on fast singletrack to the finish. Unlike the rest of the special stages on this year's event, the night time trial will take place after the main linking stage, allowing riders time to pre-ride the course, refuel and to get ready for some bicycle duelling in the dark.
Special Stage Two Results
|1||Marika Covre (Ideal - Vivibike)||0:26:01|| |
|2||Rickie Justine Cotter (Cytek)||0:01:54|| |
|3||Maggie McPhillips (Stockport Clarion)||0:04:40|| |
|1||Jonathan Pugh (Clee Cycles KCNC High 5)||0:22:51|| |
|2||Josh Ibbett (IronHorse-Extreme)||0:01:06|| |
|3||Jon Bowie (TriSmart)||0:01:40|| |
Solo veteran men
|1||Steve Heading (Whyte Racing)||0:23:29|| |
|2||Gareth Bowyer (Ffasiynau Anabelle Fashions)||0:01:14|| |
|3||Daryl Cavill (Tenby Aces Cycling Club)||0:01:48|| |
|1||Maddie & Jay Horton (Team Certini)||0:25:12|| |
|2||Fi Spotswood & Michael Tomlinson (South Fork Racing)||0:01:16|| |
|3||Theresia & Werner Baumker (Team Charl ‘77)||0:04:56|| |
Veteran men's team
|1||Fulvio Damian & Elvo Del Puppo (Ideal - ViviBike)||0:24:34|| |
|2||Andy Jones & Ben Jones (Isle of Man Fire Service)||0:05:41|| |
|3||Graham Denny & Shane Dickenson (Cytek)||0:07:32|| |
|1||Joy Bringer & Camilla Edlin (BAD By Association)||0:38:10|| |
|1||Dan Lewis & Neil Richardson (Royal Air Force CA)||0:23:41|| |
|2||Andy Jones & Ben Jones (Clee Cycles KCNC)||0:00:33|| |
|3||Brendan Kay & Simon Gough (Army Cycling)||0:02:18|| |
General classification after day three
|1||Marika Covre (Ideal - Vivibike)||22:01:22|| |
|2||Rickie Justine Cotter (Cytek)||0:01:13|| |
|3||Amy O’Loughlin (Beyond 925)||0:10:30|| |
|1||Jonathan Pugh (Clee Cycles KCNC High 5)||21:48:47|| |
|2||Josh Ibbett (IronHorse-Extreme)||0:03:30|| |
|3||Jon Bowie (TriSmart||0:05:22|| |
Solo veteran men
|1||Steve Heading (Whyte Racing)||21:51:32|| |
|2||Gareth Bowyer (Ffasiynau Anabelle Fashions)||0:03:17|| |
|3||Jonathan Edwards||0:04:24|| |
|1||Maddie & Jay Horton (Team Certini)||21:55:01|| |
|2||Fi Spotswood & Michael Tomlinson (South Fork Racing)||0:02:09|| |
|3||Theresia & Werner Baumker (Team Charl ‘77)||0:13:16|| |
Veteran men's teams
|1||Fulvio Damian & Elvo Del Puppo (Ideal - ViviBike)||21:54:48|| |
|2||David Rielly & Steve Partington (Isle of Man Fire Service)||0:13:10|| |
|3||Graham Denny & Shane Dickenson (Cytek)||0:21:36|| |
|1||Joy Bringer & Camilla Edlin (BAD By Association)||22:27:44|| |
|1||Dan Lewis & Neil Richardson (Royal Air Force CA)||21:52:48|| |
|2||Andy Jones & Ben Jones (Clee Cycles KCNC)||0:00:36|| |
|3||Brendan Kay & Simon Gough (Army Cycling)||0:05:43|| |