Photos © Jon Brooke
Linking Stage Seven
Strata Florida to Builth Wells
Total distance: 84km
It’s been a long, exhausting but exhilarating week of riding in some of the toughest conditions that the Trans UK events have ever seen. Today at last, after four flat out competitive special stages, seven long linking stages, the Merida Bikes TransWales 2008 rolled across the finish line to bring the event full circle into Builth Wells. In total, the massed field of international riders had completed 550km (344miles) of riding with 15,500m (50,840feet) of climbing off-road around the heart of Wales in just seven days. For some, the spoils of victory. For others, the consolation of a cold beer. But for all, great memories and new friendships formed to last a lifetime.
The final linking stage took riders from beautiful Strata Florida with its ancient abbey back home to Builth Wells, some 84km and 2500m of climbing away. It may be the last day of the event and the ‘glory ride’ home, but it was still the longest linking stage of the entire event.
Taking the riders through Tyw Forest the route revisited sections of trail much loved by 2006 TransWales riders: the seven river crossings section where riders can carve criss-crossing lines over and through various river crossing points on the same section of trail. Just put the hammer down, carve, and enjoy. Also back on the menu was the fine and technical singletrack descent along the side of the Afon Doethie and down to the Llyn Brianne reservoir, snaking along the contours of the scenic valley and hammering full bore downwards over some of the finest flow riding on the entire Merida Bikes TransWales.
The route then climbed back into the trees towards the home of some of most colourful events anywhere in Britain, including the Real Ale Wobble and the World Bog Snorkelling Championships, Llanwrtyd Wells. The trail then turned north west following the river Irfon and into Irfon Forest, snaking upwards on fire road to eventually exit onto the black top. From that point on, the riders buzzed along the Tarmac back into Builth. But they still had to work hard as there were still steep climbs and descents to be conquered before they could finally slay and lay to rest the Merida Bikes TransWales challenge.
With the weather staying good all day, the finishing arena turned into an en-masse chill out zone. Riders rode into rapturous applause from their friends and loved ones turning out to welcome them back, from their new riding buddies, and from all the crew who had helped make their ride so memorable. Each rider claimed their finisher’s jersey and made straight for some very well earned cold beer and hard earned rest. Finally.
In the end of the 2008 Merida Bikes TransWales saw the closest racing in the event’s history: in many categories, racers had been swapping the lead in the general classification all week with no one clear superpower dominating. With the final special stage yesterday again seeing fresh winners in some categories, it made for a suitably climactic finish to the event and all was finally revealed today in Builth Wells (see below).
“This was certainly the toughest Trans event I’ve done ever, ever, ever,” said Trek 69er Collective singelspeed rider Matt Carr during the finishing party. The toughness of the event wasn’t missed on the organisers, Mike Wilkens and John Lloyd, either. “I think the conditions made this an even bigger challenge than it would be anyway,” said Mike. “It was certainly the toughest Trans event we’ve ever done but the fact that the riders are still here after a week of going through some big ups and downs really impressed me like no tomorrow. It was a challenging week but it continued the spirit of the event – of people helping each other out and mucking in together.”
Full results at www.mtbtransuk.co.uk