Thursday 27 June 2019

Wales 500 Part Two

The Sunday dawned dry but a bit overcast so looked good for day two of the Wales 500. Again an early start meant no breakfast at the hotel so we headed on down to the event site and availed ourselves of the services of the burger van.

The plan today was for me to head out to the furthest part of the course where we were to set up a checkpoint. I was introduced to fellow volunteer Rod Jones who was coming with me; we looked at each other and realized we already knew each other! Thirteen years ago we had worked together as cycle commissaires on the Trans-Wales MTB stage race. Rod had led the race on his Honda CRF230 and I had been the sweeper in my heavily modified Land Rover Discovery… small world indeed.

We set off for our checkpoint taking a direct route rather than following the course, to ensure we got there before the competitors. Taking the A4103 towards Hereford the ride started well until a few miles down the road it started to spit with rain, then the drizzle set in, then persistent rain and finally a monsoon like deluge!

This continued all the way to the BP Petrol Station at Ponterwyd on the A44 not far outside Aberystwth (yes we had just completely traversed Wales from East to West) where competitors had a fuel stop at the garage, whilst this might have seemed a perfect spot for our checkpoint with fuel, toilets, shelter from the rain, hot coffee and food it lacked one vital element…. A phone signal!

So our final destination was a remote car park at Llyn Pendam as despite being in the middle of nowhere it was high enough to have a signal but sadly no shelter, food or hot coffee and needless to say “toilet facilities” were of a very basic nature.

At the garage the first two competitors had just arrived as had the Course Openers, Jonny and Stuart and as we stopped for a hot drink, many more piled in and all seemed very reluctant to leave!

We set of up the hill to Llyn Pendam in conditions that were truly grim, the rain was still hammering down and the cloud had descended so visibility was only about 10 metres at times.

Arriving at the car park we set up shop to await the competitors, they were doing a loop to the north before passing us so we had some time to wait. After several hours without incident, well apart from a few competitors arriving from the wrong direction! The weather improved, the rain stopped and the sun even came out!

We finally got the news that the course was clear as Jonny and Stuart had swept the loop so all four of us decided to set off to clear the final 200km of the course, including the Tarrenig and Radnor Forests. This was done "at pace" as we knew the course to be clear for some distance ahead of us. 

We had a great ride on forest trails and twisty back roads; I lost touch with the other three after I had to stop for an oncoming truck on a single track road section and soon after came across the last two competitors. They claimed not to have seen the other three but certain I was on the correct route I tailed them along the amazing road down the Elan Valley and eventually into Rhayader where I spotted the others, stopped for fuel. Rod headed for home from there and the three of us continued onwards picking up the final competitors again in the Radnor Forest. From here it was a tarmac only ride back to Malvern and a very welcome Paella from the caterers!

The evening was spent working out the results, awarding medals and having a debrief on what was a very successful event. 

I eventually left for home at around 11.00 pm and soon realized I should have included my heated jacket!

By now the fatigue from the day was setting in big time, with very severe pains in my neck, shoulders and back. By midnight I reached the M40 and realized I needed a stop, Starbucks at Warwick Services providing some much needed rest and caffeine. 

I eventually arrived home at 1.00 am, very pleased that the Monday was a Bank Holiday and I didn’t need to get up for work.

Mind you it was a satisfying feeling rolling up to work on the Tuesday with the bike still stickered and muddied up!

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