Linking Stage Seven (including Special Stage Five)
Brecon to Builth Wells
Total distance: 52km. Climbing: 1380m
The seventh and final day of the Gore Bike Wear TransWales, powered by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport dawned to dry skies. With weary bodies motivated by the relatively short distance of the final stage, riders saddled up and set off at 9am to cover the final 52km from Brecon to Builth Wells. Once in Builth all that lay between them and a cold beer was the final and deciding special stage in Cefnderys Woods above the campsite. At the day’s end for some, the spoils of victory, whilst for others the satisfaction of completing Britain’s toughest mountain bike event.
The start of the linking stage took the riders along the black top to ease their tired legs into the final days riding: it then jumped off road and traversed Mynydd Fforest before dropping into the Wye Valley and crossing the river in preparation for the climb up Llandeilo Hill. Passing rocky bluffs on the ascent, the trail eventually veered into a few inches wide singletrack that flitted beautifully along the ridgeline, just inches away from the edge. The trail then turned back on itself and headed downwards fast with a few hairpins and rock slabs and drop offs thrown in to spice things up. After the trail eventually spat the riders out back onto to the Tarmac it was a spin back on the road and a steep climb up to the end of the linking stage in Builth. Then it was time for the final and deciding special stage.
Using Cefnderys Woods woods above the campground, the fifth special stage was a 2km sprint that headed straight up before coming careering downwards again amidst a mix of techy sections, steep and fast flat-out open trail, and flowey singletrack. With the final corner proving a choice spectator point for heckling and cheering riders as they swept by on their way to the finish, it was a memorable way to bring proceedings to a close on this year’s TransWales.
Rickie Cotter (WXC Racing) finally stamped her total authority in the Schwalbe Open Female Solo category by taking the final special stage. “The stage was really good,” she said afterwards, “it was a lot greasier on the climb than the first day [the course took in a portion of the very first linking stage] and it was more efficient to run because it was so muddy. But finishing the whole week on a sprint was a great idea.” Behind Cotter was Hannah Thorne in second, 42 seconds back. This sees Cotter take the overall title that she’s been promising herself following last year’s nail biter where she lost to Italy’s Marika Covre in a thrilling competition. Thorne takes second in a total time of 44:45:42, just under a minute down on Cotter. Thorne’s fellow New Zealander Amanda Brooks took third overall in almost 10 minutes down. “It’s been fantastic – really good,” said Cotter of the week’s competition, “Mechanicals have been a pain in the ass but apart from that it’s been great. And every time it’s been raining I’ve reminded myself ‘I could be working Rik, I could be working…’”
It was a similar result in the men’s Schwalbe Open Male Solo as Aussie Ryan Hawsons (Ayup Lighting) took the win ahead of Greig Walker by just 8 seconds. Kenyan Nickson Mwaura claimed third on the final special stage at just 3 seconds slower than Walker. Nickson himself is aiming to be selected to represent Kenya for both the upcoming Commonwealth Games and the 2012 Olympics and Mountain Biking UK (MBUK) magazine will shortly be doing an in-depth feature on Nickson, his Olympic dream and his TransWales experiences.
Today’s stage win topped off a fantastic week’s riding for Hawson in which he never stopped smiling regardless of the mechanicals he suffered. This saw him also secure the overall title ahead of Greig Walker by 2mins 14secs, with Paul Whittaker (Stockport Clarion) in third. After the prize presentation Hawson was seen discussing snow bike and Iditabike racing tips over his new Belgian-built snow/sand bike with snow and endurance racing legend Carl Hutchings of Squirt lube.
“It went great: it was challenging for everyone with the wet ground conditions yet everything came together in the end,” said event co-organiser Mike Wilkens after the dust had settled. “I think it was another great year and it followed the footsteps of previous events as the typical TransWales spirit was burning strong: it’s about riding your bike, seeing the countryside, and making friends. The concept of the TransWales – having this non-timed and timed thing – brings people closer together; there’s always a lot of chat out on course which you don’t find on events which are a race from beginning to end and that translates onto the camp after riding too. And I know it’s cheesy but that doesn’t make it any less true: at the beginning we had 200 strangers but by the end of the week we had 200 friends.”
“It’s been a great week with a great atmosphere,” agreed Alex Metcalfe of Gore Bike Wear after the finish. “The riding was really good – I felt strong when I was riding and I enjoyed the mix of terrain: from the steep rocky gullies we descended to the long testing climbs, moor tops and valley bottoms there was a superb mix of the best Wales has to offer.” Alex himself had surprised folks by claiming second on the descending special stage on the Climachx trail near Machynlleth; a far cry from his dead man’s stare of last year following the special stage at Brechfa. “It was proper cross country descending – pedalling and technical and rideable by all,” he said of the Climachx special stage. “But I also enjoyed Nant y Arian – I think it’s one of the most beautiful trail centres out there.”
Alex’s performance underlined that this year – above all years – that to do well overall you had to be a master of every facet of riding and not just one part. “What’s great about TransWales,” Alex explains, “ is there’s no faking it. You have to be a great all-round rider – great at climbing and descending, as well with endurance. And it proved that I wasn’t [laughs]. But it’s been great for Gore Bike Wear to be involved with such a tough event that is as aspirational as the TransWales; we’ve loaned a lot of Gore Bike Wear kit to riders and it’s been really good to see them really using it as it was intended. There’s no other event in the country which tests as much as this does; the riders who are all here have clearly put in the time and the training and there’s no way you can complete this ride without having done the leg work before hand.”
So with the dust (and mud) finally settling after seven days, 487km and 14,795m of climbing covered alongside five special stages – including climbing, descending, sprint, and all-round trail riding tests – the 2010 Gore Bike Wear TransWales, powered by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport has come to a steller end. To the winners the spoils of victory whilst to the runner ups commiserations for fights well fought. But for all, enough memories of pristine Hi-Def quality to last another year and the warm satisfaction of meeting the challenge of the TransWales. Congratulations to all.
The 2010 Gore Bike Wear TransWales, powered by Mercedes Vito Sport Champions are:
Schwalbe Solo Category – open female
Rickie Cotter (WXC Racing)
Schwalbe Solo Category – open male
Ryan Hawson (Ayup Lighting)
Squirt Solo Category – vets male
Alan Parkinson (South Western (London) Road Club)
Merida Bikes Category – open male teams
Neil Richardson & Dan Lewis (RAFCC)
Buff Headwear Category – open female teams
Stef Fountain & Lisa Bolton (Clifton CC)
Alpina Helmets Category – vets male teams
Mark Olivier & Andrew Donkin (Invalids)
Birzman Tools Category – mixed teams
Claire Neuhoff & Simon Neuhoff (The Clantons)
Congratulations to all the winners. Also a massive thanks to all the riders for making the event what it is and for smiling in the face of adversity; to our sponsors – Gore Bike Wear, Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport, Merida Bikes, Schwalbe tyres, Birzman tools, Alpina helmets, Squirt lube, Buff, Exposure Lights, High5, and Mountain Biking UK (MBUK) magazine – a huge thank you for your belief and support in making the Gore Bike Wear TransWales, powered by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport possible. It could not happen with you. So until next year, adieu…
Full results and more at www.mtbtransuk.co.uk