Fellowship of the (Granny) Ring – My Tales of the Mille Cymru & 1000km round Wales #mc1k

28 07 2010

Well that was one hell of a ride!

Not sure where to start with this one. When a single ride has been the focus and reason behind all other rides for seven months it becomes hard to put into words the experience. I find myself wanting to describe why I love Audax. It’s the fact that it’s non competitive, that you can stop, sit down and have a coffee or tea whenever you want, that it’s essentially you, your bike, the road and the world around you. There’s no safety net of marshals, road closures, or people cheering you on, if things go wrong you have to figure it out yourself. There are the other riders, their stories, their reasons for being out there, their bikes, and then there’s the night riding, the lack of sleep, the sore butt, and the massive distances you cover. It creates a special mix of adventure, a sense of achievement that can take days to fulfill, something quite in contrast to the fast world of instant gratification that we normally inhabit.

The Mille Cymru brought all that together in an event that was designed in places to be utterly brutal and in places sublimely stunning, playing chaos with your emotions and senses. The mirror polished Lake Bala reflecting Moel Llyfnant, views over to the Irish Sea from Pen-Y-Pass, the beautiful Pembrokeshire beaches, the three brutal crossings of the B4358, the even more brutal but equally stunning B4518 to Llanidloes. And then to come back to the comfort of the control in Llanwrtyd Wells to be received with warmth by the volunteers, to have a hot shower, good food and to share stories at the end of the day’s journey.

That’s why I like Audax!

The ride started not as I expected it to finish. I pushed on ahead of the 6.15am start group and I soon found myself at the front of the ride with three other guys whilst heading towards Snowdonia.

We rolled in to Llanberis at a little after midday with an average of 18mph but going well. The bridge at Barmoth and its £1 toll was crossed and we headed towards Dolgellau where I downed three pints of water and a coffee. By 5pm I’d put in my fastest ever 300km as we headed through the mid Welsh hills and valleys. On the B4518 to Llanidloes I discovered just how deep I would have to dig over the next two days. A little after 8pm, 356km after leaving Shropshire us three riders rolled into Victoria Hall and dug into plates of Macaroni Cheese, satisfied that we had made it to all the controls at or before the time they opened.  That night I laid down but did not sleep, whilst one of the riders rolled on through the night.

Out again at 5pm and into Welsh drizzle heading South towards Pendine for a cuppa and fried egg sandwich only to be followed by a 25% climb. The route hugged the Pembrokshire Coast, Tenby, Pembroke, St Davids, Fishguard up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down on and on until one final big up to the bizarre control at the Mason’s arms. Slower riders would later recount stories of the hen party, the singing and the bananas. One final push through drizzle over Mynydd Cynros and again a group of three would roll back after 310km to the warm welcome of Irish vegetable stew, showers, stories of the day and bed by 9pm. I slept like a log!

My first conversation on Sunday started with a bright light!


“It’s 4.15”

“Really? … shit! … thanks”

And out we went, a group of 6-7 into the 5am mist and up past Drum Ddu onto and over the Brecon Beacons. The demons followed me up this hill and I nearly became their sacrifice to the Welsh Dragons.  By Llandovery and the road to Tregaron I had found my legs and seen off the demons as we pushed onto a town of people nursing hangovers. We rode out of Aberystwyth and up one last climb past the Devil’s Bridge and into a sunny Elan Valley and on towards our final visit to Llanwrtyd Wells. By now after his epic 700km ride without stopping, the first rider had arrived back in Shropshire. Our small group of three just had 127km to go. We rolled out into glorious sunlight and headed towards Newtown and the border knowing that once there, we were home. What followed was a crazy dash through the Shropshire lanes to finish 1026km and 60 hours after leaving on Friday morning. By the time I left for home that night, no more riders would arrive.

My approach to this this ride was to ride each leg fast so that I could see as much of Wales in the daylight as possible. And I accomplished that. Seems that my training approach to combine endurance and speed actually worked.

The journey I’ve been on to finish this ride, the training, the atmosphere building around the event and the adventure of riding the ride itself have been fantastic, one I will not forget. But I’m going to put big Audax rides on hold for a few years, I want to head off-road, for a spot of bikehiking.




7 responses

28 07 2010
Tweets that mention Fellowship of the (Granny) Ring – My Tales of the Mille Cymru & 1000km round Wales #mc1k « Everyday Stories of Rachel & James -- Topsy.com

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nicolas Bertrand, James Gillies. James Gillies said: Fellowship of the (Granny) Ring – My Tales of the Mille Cymru & 1000km round Wales #mc1k: http://wp.me/pKuRO-5A […]

29 07 2010

Sounds a great event……I think I’ll start by building up to a 600km first though!

Look forward to reading about your bikehiking adventures.

29 07 2010

Amazing, well done. You didn’t explain the granny ring bit though did you? Or did I miss something?

29 07 2010

I didn’t see you on the event because you were going too damn fast

I got to Llanwrtyd Wells the first day at 2:30am for example, compared to your 8pm

I have write ups of my Mille over on my blog

29 07 2010

The Granny Ring is the smallest gear used to spin up the biggest hills. And yes, I have the (grand)mother of them all on my tourer…

22 07 2013
Goodbye trusty steed: The Roadrat’s obituary | Everyday Stories of Rachel & James

[…] it was the 1000km Mille Cymru that was the main target for 2010. Again most of my training was done on the fixie except for the […]

5 03 2014

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