Yr Elenydd 2012 – 300km Audax 5AAA

In keeping with this season’s idea of trying a few hillier audaxes I’d dropped an entry in for Yr Elenydd. This is the new version of the long running Elenith event under the stewardship of a new org (John “U.N.Dulates” Hamilton). I never rode the original, so this was all going to be new to me. Just from the outline it was obvious this was going to be a bit of a challenge, 305 km with 5000m of climbing out and back across the middle of Wales, including the Tregaron Mountain Road with it’s reputation for some seriously steep sections.

Weather forecast was for a cold start, brightening up through the day with some very light showers before getting colder in the evening. On that basis I decided on spring weight 3/4 bibs, SS top with arm warmers and winter gloves to start with. As it would turn out, this wasn’t a great idea.

Set off was 6AM from Upton Magna village hall. We were let off in 3 bunches to avoid too much of a bunch on the initial lanes. The ride started off nice an benignly so I could get some heat into my legs. There’d be a quick briefing about a ford at the off, unfortunately I’d misheard and ploughed through the first one expecting it to be shallow, cue 2 soaking feet (I’d decided to leave overshoes off till I needed them). Oh well, they’d keep till the first control I thought. Soon things started heading upwards and downwards, but nothing too horrendous. Then the rain arrived, in slightly larger quantity than I’d been expecting. Again I thought I’d leave off putting the waterproof on till the control…..

First control was at Shobdon airfield, which meant we got to eat beans on toast looking over this lot:

View from Shobham control on Yr Elenydd
View from Shobham control on Yr Elenydd

Tried to do the best I could for my feet with napkins, hand towels and the hand drier in the gents. Finally put on the overboots and my rain jacket and headed back off out. The big shock on this section was seeing the amount of snow on the hill tops, this was worrying as I’d not been expecting that and was a bit scared about the affect on temperature as I was dressed a bit skimpily. The rain kept coming but with some of the bigger climbs appearing that was soon ignored. Crossing over into wales with a little more fanfair than on The Dean (they even had flags!). First big climb was up past the Fforest inn, not too bad though I was shown up by the gentleman on Fixed who pulled away up the hill nicely, then followed by a nice fast drop into Bulith Wells for a free control, catching up with another rider towards the bottom. Almost went for a CoOp cash machine receipt till I remembered that they don’t put the location on them any more, so went for a Snickers instead. All of which was a bit pointless as the Org happened to be in there on his way to the next check.

5 minutes warmth in the CoOp we headed off. Rolling route out along the A483 (A road bashing is completely different in Wales to what I’m used to in the East Midlands). In Beulah we turned right and started up a smaller lane. This started to rise steadily through the woods with some good twists and turns, until it opened up to reveal this:

Tregaron Mountain Road approach
Tregaron Mountain Road approach

Which is just the sort of road you dream about riding on an Audax, but I knew what was coming at the end. After a few ups and downs we arrived at the next checkpoint at the foot of the Devils Staircase, which announces it’s presence with a nice little road sign:

Foot of the Devils Staircase
Foot of the Devils Staircase

This ramps up nicely to 25%, then 2 hairpins before easing off to an easier 10% or so. Unfortunately I was caught out on the main ramp when my front wheel lifted and I decided I’d rather bail than topple. Then the road keeps going. This it the Tregaron Mountain road. There’s 3 major climbs each of which is a major struggle in itself. But the reward is a hugely fast swooping descent down into Tregaron when the ladies of the Tregaron Bowls club were waiting to feed us.

I was glad I’d stuck with just a soup as the climb started almost immediately we’d left the control. What goes up comes down, and this was a good swooper on decent surfaces to Pont-Rhyd-Groes (bridge of the ford of the cross), and then we started climbing. This all went fine till we turned off onto the B4574 and the gradient ramped up a little too quickly for me. A quick break with a hot cross bun and back on it. Over the top and we dropped into another perfect valley:

Home of the Cybermen
Home of the Cybermen

This wasn’t as tough as the Tregaron road, but it felt like it just kept going. And then round a corner I suddenly realised there was a big climb to get out of the valley, but once done meant we’d crossed the highest point on the ride. Another great swoop down good roads. I’d seen the video of the gent who’d had a high speed interaction with a sheep, and with the little fluffy buggers scampering across the road I can see that you could quite easily come a cropper. This section also not helped by a reasonably strong headwind either.

Cake and coffee in rhayader and back on the road. On this section I came very close to throwing my Edge 800 into the nearest hedge (though it’s more OSM’s fault). The road on the map isn’t in the right place, so the unit kept trying to route me down every unpaved road it could find to get me onto the track, and I couldn’t find any way to override this behaviour. Some dragging of roads on OSM is on my list of things to do this week. No nasty climbs on this section, but a lot of graded A road climbs.

Next control was an oasis of warmth at Wheelwright Inn. Good stew and Apple Crumble revived the soul. Walking out into a heavy cold downpour soon removed that feeling. All that was left now was a climb over Long Mynd, just what we needed after 250km. But try to the Org’s description we then had 20km of descent/flat back to the hall to ease the legs. This section would have bee slightly more pleasant if my Ixon IQ hadn’t kept deciding to switch modes randomly. 30mph on a dark descent is not the moment for your light to go into less than full beam mode.

Got back to the Village Hall dead on 10, so 16 hours overall. Pretty happy with than as it’s about the same time I took for The Dean, so being efficient at the controls does pay off. The finish also came equipped with cake, Pasta and soup which was marvellous. And finally getting my feet dry and warm again was wonderful.

Definitely hardest single day in the saddle so far, but it’s one I’ll certainly do again.

 

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