Linking Stage Four
Tregaron to Machynlleth
Total distance: 79km
Total distance: 79km
Today the Merida Bikes TransWales seriously stepped things up to give maximum payback to the riders for all their endurance – both on the stages and with the weather itself – as everything that is great about mountain biking was rolled out on a platter that only got sweeter as the day went on. Taking riders from Tregaron to Machynlleth 79km and 2000m of climbing away, the day’s stage also had some bonus prizes in store for the riders: 2200m of descending. And the final destination also had one very important facility: a laundrette in which riders could wash and dry their much-abused kit.
The stage left Tregaron and for the first 20km gave the riders a gradual warm up along flat trail including an old rail line and a riverside ride along the Afon Ystwyth for a scenic spin into Aberystwyth. Following a grind up to the lunch spot things clicked and the riders got into the groove of proper wilderness riding with techy ascents and desents, wooded singletrack sections and stunning scenery. The trail jumped on the Continental Trail – part of the Nant-y-Arian trail network that the riders will encounter in greater depth tomorrow and Friday – and ran it backwards along the stunning Esgair Ffostudr section.
With long rocky climbs winding steadily amidst the folds and the flanks of the moorlands, the rocky trail base meant that progress both up and down was good and fast. With water running down descents and climbs in places creating floods and standing pools across the trail water – as with the rest of the event so far – proved an unavoidable reality of the ride. Many riders – already soaked and with adjusted mindsets (‘I can’t get any wetter….’) – charged in with youthful glee just for the hell of it, coming out the other side grinning from ear to ear.
The route then re-entered the trees near the shores of Nant y Moch reservoir and ran along tarmac and fire road before crossing an almighty stream. Here serious care had to be taken to respect the breadth and high flow of the water, and riders helped each other across safely to the other side. Then came the finale.
The first TransWales in 2006 had also visited Machynlleth before making the pilgrimage to Coed y Brenin – quite possibly one of, if not the, most important sites for modern British mountain biking. It was here that the first purpose built trail centre was conceived, built and realised by Dafydd Davis, OBE. Its influence is still echoing across the land with each and every new trail and trail centre development. But like today’s stage, back then the chute descent off the top and into Machynlleth was heralded by the riders as one of the best sections of trail ridden of the entire event.
The descent itself is simple: a steep chute with a base of loose shale that drops riders skittering down at speed, on the verge of losing control and stuffed full of endorphins into the awaiting valley. With the end in sight, riders could at last relax and savour the final minutes to journey’s end looking out across the Afon Dyfi (River Dovey) valley.
“It was definitely the best day so far,” an elated USE Solo Men’s rider Nikalas Cook said after finishing. “It was everything that’s great about mountain biking: big climbs; amazing descents; beautiful scenery including an incredible waterfall; and great technical stuff like the chute descent.” But that’s not all: despite the set backs of bad weather, riders are gelling with spirit of the Merida Bikes TransWales’ infectious ‘we’re in this together’ sense of camaraderie.
Tomorrow will see riders spin the 7km up the road to Corris and the Cli-Machx trailhead to begin the third Special Stage. Taking in the entire Cli-Machx trail it’ll be a true test of fitness and handling skills as the trail climbs stolidly up right from the off before finally summiting. From there the trail then points straight back down again along on an increasingly fast, technical and challenging descent. The time trial will leave the riders exhausted yet buzzing, pumped yet ready to go again. And again. Riders will then head out on the 65km linking stage to Pontewyd, taking in some of the fine flowing singletrack at Nant y Arian that will host the final and deciding special stage on Friday.
But that’s all yet to happen. Today, the riders are at last able to wash and dry wet kit, take in some warming beverages, refuel, share stories and rest after an inspirational and exhausting day in the saddle. For tomorrow it’s about to happen all over again…
Coming up on Day 5
Special Stage 3: Cli-Machx trail (Corris).
Followed by: Linking Stage 5: Cli-Machx trail to Ponterwyd (55.5km, 1683m of climbing).
Full results at www.mtbtransuk.co.uk