Linking Stage Seven (including Special Stage Six)
Cilycwm to Builth Wells: Total distance: 60km - Climbing: 1600m
The final day of the Gore Bike Wear TransWales, powered by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport would bring the riders home and full circle after seven days and 536km (333 miles) and 15,260m (1,758,530ft) of climbing.
It’s been a tough cookie for sure, but the battle weary riders knew that this would be the final push, the one that would see them complete the epic challenge that is the Gore Bike Wear TransWales, powered by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport.
But then there was the sting the tail: the final – and deciding – special stage. For some, the last chance to haul their way up the rankings; for others, the final gurn-inducing effort before a well earned cold beer, or three. But for all, the satisfaction of meeting the challenges of the TransWales head-on.
The final linking stage was a relatively sedate affair, which struck out from Cilycwm and made its way into the Irfon Forest trails that lie to the west of Llanwrytd Wells. After convulsing around and up and down the contours for the final flurry of wild biking fun, the route then hit the black top for the run in to Builth Wells to ease the riders’ legs home before the final sprint special stage.
With the overall classification in many of the categories still very much up for grabs, this was the chance for the underdogs to fight back and cause an upset at the final hurdle. For Paul Whittaker (Stockport Clarion CC) in the Saris Racks Veteran Solo Male category, who before the special stage was just 1sec behind the overall leader, Andy Jones (Clee Cycles KCNC), this is exactly what he did. In just 2km – with 85m of climbing – Whittaker more than made up the 1sec deficit.
Indeed, he as good as twisted the knife by not only winning the final special stage in 6mins 40secs ahead of Jones – who had to settle for third in the end – but by doing it with a 20secs advantage. This meant that Whittaker finished the TransWales as he started it – on top.
In doing so, he secured the crown in one of the most hard-fought veteran races the event has ever seen – a battle that was testament to the competitive spirits, fitness, and bike handling ability of Jones and Whittaker themselves. Andy Roberts (Unattached) took third place in the overall, some 4mins behinds the duelling pair.
Elsewhere, in the Merida Bikes Male Pairs category another pairing found the extra power in their legs to really make the difference. Peter and Stijn Tachelet (Bronto-Chaos) had been flying all week and had touched the podium previously but had always fallen just short of being in up for the overall contention.
But with the final special stage they got a double whammy: they won the final special stage in 6mins 58secs ahead of both Mark Wright and Enda Reynolds (Team Trailbadger) and the category leaders, Simon Harrison and Robin Calverley (RAF CC). This result was enough to lift the Bronto-Chaos pair into third overall, behind the flying high overall winners, the RAF boys – who never left the podium all week – and Mark Wright & Enda Reynolds (Team Trailbadger).
The pairing of Elizabeth Adams and Rosemary Byde (Team Number 28) in the Buff Headwear Female Pairs category continued their winning streak ahead of Steph Fountain and Lisa Bolton (Saddle Skedaddle) in the special stage by some 25+secs, with the perennial third place pair of Kelly Clark and Cath Hempsall (Unattached) rounding out the special stage podium. The result was enough to maintain the Team Number 28’s 3min lead in the overall to comfortably secure them the overall crown.
The Alpina Helmets Veteran Pairs Male category has been an interesting one as the latter part of the week has seen the special stage podiums dominated by the 4-day min-TransWales riders, with the full seven day warriors lagging behind from being battle weary. However, the final special stage was slightly different as the second-placed in the overall standings pairing of Ben Barden and Chris Putnam (White Spirit) decided to break up the interlopers party somewhat.
They put in a sterling effort after seven days of riding in their legs to take third place in the special stage. Although they were beaten on the day by both Richard Hoyte and Simon Alun (Dirty Habit), and Martyn Bramhall and Mick Fairest (Sheffield Phoenix), White Spirit’s grit and determination cemented their second place in the overall rankings some 30secs behind the overall winners, Dave Sheppard and Trevor Marshall (MAMIL). Third place in the overall went to the best of the 4-day mini-TransWales riders, Richard Hoyte and Simon Alun (Dirty Habit).
In the Birzman Tools Mixed Pairs category the pairing of Katie Vaughan and Andrew Heywood (Motor Neurone Disease Association) continued to dominate the competition. They put in a sterling effort to take the stage win in a time of 8mins 12secs – some 23secs ahead of second placed Johanita Swanepoel and Pierre Cloete (Cameltoe).
Cameltoe had themselves put in a final push to secure second in the special stage 55secs ahead of third placed John and Catherine Drummond (Align Pilates). Sadly, this final push was a genuine case of too little too late as they failed to make up enough time on Align Pilates to overtake them in the overall. In the end, Cameltoe finished 23secs behind second placed Align Pilates, with Katie Vaughan and Andrew Heywood taking the overall crown in emphatic style.
Coming into the final special stage, Fi Spotswood (Cyclist No 1) was just over a minute behind the category leader, Hannah Thorne (Unattached), in the Schwalbe Tyres Female Solo category. Although the course was a sprint stage and both Thorne and Spotswood had been trading places throughout the TransWales, Spotswood wasn’t giving up. Lighting up the afterburners right from the get go, she dug deep and buried herself on the climb and careered down the descent and to the finish line like a woman possessed.
Her efforts weren’t in vain however, as she secured the stage win ahead of Thorne by just under 2secs. Spotswood may not have made up the gap in the overall to claw her back to parity with Thorne in the overall but she can certainly hold her head up high after a fight well fought. For Thorne, however, the glory of improving on last year’s second place by taking the overall Schwalbe Tyres Female Solo category crown for 2011 was certainly an achievement to savour.
The final showdown in the Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category had been shaping up to be a thrilling climax to the Gore Bike Wear TransWales, powered by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport and it certainly did not disappoint. Coming into the final special stage Nepal’s Ajay Chhetri (Torq) was trailing the overall leader, Matt Page (Wiggle) by just 39secs. Having made up 30-odd secs on the previous special stage it was conceivable that Chhetri could produce something dramatic.
He certainly went off from the start line with a mind to do nothing short of it. By the time he crossed the line to finish he ensured that he’d posted the quickest time of the entire special stage, winning it in a time of 6mins 5secs. Another planet aligned in his favour as his chief rival, Matt Page, did not finish second fastest; that honour fell to Matt Williams (Unattached) who finished 5secs slower than Chhetri. In the end however, Page crossed the line just 7secs slower than Chhetri to take third on the day and in doing so, secure the overall title by 32secs. Congatulations.
The 2011 Gore Bike Wear TransWales, powered by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport Champions are:
Buff Headwear Female Pairs category
Elizabeth Adams & Rosemary Byde (Team Number 28): 48:27:12
Merida Bikes Male Pairs category
Simon Harrison & Robin Calverley (RAF CC): 48:13:11
Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category
Matt Page (Wiggle): 48:04:27
Schwalbe Tyres Female Solo category
Hannah Thorne (Unattached): 48:16:24
Alpina Helmets Veteran Pairs Male category
Dave Sheppard & Trevor Marshall (MAMIL): 48:56:46
Birzman Tools Mixed Pairs category
Katie Vaughan & Andrew Heywood (Motor Neurone Disease Association): 48:26:12
Saris Racks Veteran Solo Male category
Paul Whittaker (Stockport Clarion CC): 48:10:14
TransWales won’t return in 2012
Sadly, this year’s event was the last TransWales but it has certainly finished on a high with one of the most closely fought competitions the event has ever seen.
Congratulations to all the winners as well as all the other finishers for doing themselves proud, and a massive thank you to every single rider who has embraced the spirit of the TransWales over the years. Quite simply, it would’ve been nothing without you.
The organisers would like to thank all their sponsors over the years for their belief, vision, and support – without them, the TransWales would never have become a reality. Thank you.