Pic: Jon Brooke
Total distance: 62km
The final day of the Gore Bike Wear TransWales dawned bright and early for the riders after a particularly cold night under canvas. The dawn brought with it the warming rays of the sun and the promise – upheld through the day – of blue skies and sunshine. With riders waking their weary bodies after six relentless days in the saddle it was enough to know that 62km was all that lay between them and finishing the mammoth challenge that is the Gore Bike Wear TransWales. At journey’s end the final standings would be announced and the odd beer quaffed in grateful celebration. But before the celebrations could genuinely begin, there was the small matter of pedalling the remaining distance home.
The linking stage took the riders up from the off and back into Irfon Forest, following some of the same trail that brought them to Llanwrtyd Wells yesterday, and around the flanks of Crugwydd at 455m, and then Bryn Mawr at 446m. The riders then dropped downwards before being confronted with the major test of the day’s stage: the moorland climb up to Carndu at 537m that hoiked them up to the final slab of soul affirming wilderness of the Gore Bike Wear TransWales. Then the endorphine reward for the hard effort as riders charged headlong down the long and super fun descent towards the Elan Valley’s Caban-coch Reservoir.
The course then eventually looped southwards and into Gorenoeth woods for a finial singletrack flurry before rolling the remaining kilometres back into Builth Wells and a well-earned chilled beer and a Gore Bike Wear TransWales custom Motion finishing jersey – worth £50 each – on the finish line. “That’s a real technical performance jersey,” explained Alex Metcalfe from Gore Bike Wear, “that the riders have been receiving really well.”
However, the final kilometres saw riders really wind it up to finish with the throttle fully open so they could finish in top gear (or, for some, to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible) and even the Squirts Lubes Solo Male Veteran category winner, Steve Heading (Whyte Racing), said on finishing, “It was hard – I’ve been following Johnny Pugh and he made me suffer…”
Nick Beauchamp, aka The Bear, was the final rider home to Builth Wells just short o the 6hr cut off at 3pm to rapturous applause after a very tough and grueling week. Asked, ‘How much growl have you got left in you?’ He replied, “Not a lot.” Nick had been ill for a few days so making it home safe and sound was a genuine achievement.
But for all riders, the finish line was the end of the journey, where the hurt and the suffering could finally be shut off and overcome, and where memories of proud achievement and exhilarating riding could be lived for perpetuity in hi-def. And nothing could ever take that away from them.
Pic: Jon Brooke
“It was wicked,” agreed a happy Josh Ibbett (Iron Horse-Extreme), “it was good fun and a good social too – like a week with your friends.” Asked how he thought it compared this year against last year’s super wet TransWales Josh answered: “The camping’s been really good: the organisers took on board the feedback from last year with good campsites, great showers, and the food was proper food – not slop – it was all really good.” Josh finished in second in the Schwalbe Men’s Solo category in a total time of 50hrs 02mins 32secs.
The overall winner – and fastest rider in the entire field and overall Schwalbe Men’s Solo category winner – was Jonathan Pugh (Clee Cycles KCNC High 5) who was the only rider to go sub-50hrs with a total time of 49hrs 56mins 55secs.
In the Schwalbe Women’s Solo category, the epic battle between Italian national marathon champion, Marika Covre (Ideal – Vivibike), and Wales’ own Rickie Justine Cotter (Cytek) saw it’s climax on Thursday when Covre beat Cotter by just 3secs. The final result after seven days of riding mirrored this 1-2, with Covre becoming the Gore Bike Wear TransWales Schwalbe Women’s Solo category Champion for 2009. She did it with an overall time of 50hrs 17mins 47secs. This meant that – after an 8sec margin (despite Cotter crashing on the descent) in the NiteRider night time trial and a 3secs margin in the Brechfa forest special stage – the decisive blow had been dealt by Covre when she tore the gravel off the Lung Buster climb on the Nant-y-Arian special stage to finish by 1 min 24secs clear of Cotter by the end of today’s final linking stage. Congratulations to Marika and commiserations to Rickie for a fight well fought.
The Merida Bikes Mixed category was won by British marathon champion Maddie Horton and her partner Jay from the second placed pair of Fi Spotswood and Michael Tomlinson (South Fork Racing). The Hortons won in an overall time of 50hrs 07mins 41secs. However, the success story in this category were third placed brother and sister pairing of Theresia and Werner Baumker (Team Charl ’77). The south African pair had only been mountain biking since May of this year and Theresia had never even raced at night up until this week. Despite carrying a knee injury she and her brother made the podium in every special stage and finished in an overall time of 50hrs 27mins 52secs, some 20mins off the time of Maddie and Jay Horton.
Marika Covre was not the only Italian to take the win in this year’s Gore Bike Wear TransWales: the pairing of Fulvio Damian and Elvo Del Puppo (also of Ideal – ViviBike) dominated their Ergon Veteran’s Male category by finishing in an overall time of 50hrs 08mins 52secs – some 27mins ahead of their nearest rivals, David Rielly and Steve Partington (Isle of Man Fire Service). Graham Denny & Shane Dickenson (Cytek) finished third. But Fulvio Damian and Elvo Del Puppo are not strangers to the event as they have also competed in the TransScotland as well as previous TransWales’, and have become something of minor celebrities along the way.
Pic: Jon Brooke
Alex Metcalfe, Gore Bike Wear’s man on the ground for the duration of the event, also saddled up and got into the saddle to tackle the challenge of 500km (312miles) during the week, as well as loaning out Gore Bike Wear clothing to riders to try. “I found it really good,” he said at journey’s end in Builth, “I did find it tougher than I expected though as switching from a linking stage to a special stage was very tolling on my body as the change from gradual work to harder, faster work was hard to train for.” That may be, but Alex’s decision to participate was fairly last minute so, in truth, he’d done absolutely nil training bar his usual evening and weekend rides. This lack of preparation was to hinder him towards the end of the week, although making it through all four special stages and five of the massive linking stages on no preparation is a fair testament to Alex’s ‘can do’ attitude (and stupidity).
“The atmosphere was superb,” he continued – from day two onwards it became cameradarie so much so that the drinking stations became meting places and the lunch stop became a place for a chat .You’d make friends at the dinner table; you’d share parts, advice, stories and really muck in together. It was a different atmosphere to any event I’ve been to.
“But the shear epic scale of the event takes more toll on the bike and body than you can ever expect, so people who are happy with their shorts for their normal riding came back limping, jackets that were fine in the woods were not fine on the mountains. During the course of the week,” he explained of Gore Bike Wear’s ‘Try B4 U Buy’ concept, that let riders test out jackets, shirts, vests or gilets during their rides before handing them back to the Gore Bike Wear team to wash; if the riders liked them they could buy a box fresh version to enjoy. “We’ve had a lot of riders borrow kit from us – particularly the gilets and our waterproof shorts as riders had previously been suffering from wet seat inserts after numerous river crossings and arriving home with saggy shorts.” Although the weather had been generally fine during the event itself – prior to the massed riders setting out on their epic journey – a fair amount of the wet stuff had already landed. This meant that some mud and standing water was to be found in places, and the only thing worse than the bonk is a wet, clammy, and gritty chammy.
Pic: Jon Brooke
Gore Bike Wear were also supplying Gore RideOn sealed cable sets for riders to aid their slick shifting through all the muck and the mire, “For me,” says Alex, “it’s been a real test of Gore RideOn cables here but it’s great to go out every day knowing your gears are perfect after pressure washing it and after all the grind, muck and paste of riding day in, day out; the only people who haven’t benefited from the Gore RideOn cables were the singlespeeders.”
Asked to summarise the event Alex thinks for a short while, rubs his sore Achilles tendons, and replies: “It’s been a great to be involved as these riders really are our target audience for Gore Bike Wear; it’s been great spending time with them in their natural environment day in and day out, experiencing the best and worst of British weather and terrain.” After the interview finishes, Alex saunters off to hand out more beer to the steady flow of riders coming home, to shoot the breeze and welcome them to the end of their Gore Bike Wear TransWales experience.
The Squirts Lubes Solo Male Veteran category was won by Steve Heading (Whyte Racing) in 50hrs 01min 14 secs – over 5mins clear of second placed Gareth Bowyer (Ffasiynau Anabelle Fashions), with Jonathan Edwards rounding the podium out in third.
In the Saris Male category the forces had been battling it out all week, with the RAF pairing of Dan Lewis and Neil Richardson flying higher than both Andy Jones/Ben Jones (Clee Cycles KCNC) and the Army Cycling pair of Brendan Kay and Simon Gough. The RAF took the win with 2mins 20secs advantage over the Jones’, and over 10mins on the Army Cycling pair of Kay/Gough.
The one horse race in the Buff Headwear Female category also came to a close today with Joy Bringer and Camilla Edlin (BAD By Association) crossing the line to finish in a total of time of 51hrs 00mins 16secs.
“You see all the young guys in videos doing super man seat grabs,” explained Brendan Stevens, “but look around here: there’s 180 folks who’ve ridden 300+ miles across Wales – these are the hardcore guys.” And he’s not wrong: from hardened endurance racers; normal folks who wanted to realise their dream of achieving the challenge of the Gore Bike Wear TransWales; to riders who’d recently broken bones and battled to recover in time; to Kenyan Nickson Mwaura who’d never ridden in British mud and gloop, and Theresia and Werner Baumker who only started mountain biking in May and never ridden – yet alone raced – at night until the NiteRider night time special stage – all can say that they came, they saw, and they conquered.