You have no idea where you are. Getting cold. Starting to rain. Punctured and riding on the rim. You’re heading for the nearest house and hoping they have a phone to call for help.
Normal ending to a sportive?
It all started two weeks before the event.
Emma, one of the KMP, asked if I’d like to go and ride an event in South Wales with her. The event was a 55km loop and ridable on either a cyclocross bike or mtb.
It was something a bit different and looked pretty interesting so I agreed to enter.
Now came the fun bit, what to ride?
The website said that it could be ridden on any bike, but the perfect bike would be the Kinesis tipster, a part cyclocross come tourer come adventure bike.
I could have ridden my sync. I could have ridden my FF29, but as it said it was a CX or mtb event, I didn’t want to take the slower option. I wanted something skinny and fast.
I ended up deciding on a Kinesis pro6. This is a little lighter, a little faster and more my style.
It built up to a 8.4kg singlespeed disc cross bike with my old mtb wheels (full build list to follow).
Another dilemma. I’d come off my bike pretty hard a few weeks before and it was a suspected fractured wrist. I’d not ridden since and it hurt to hold the bars. I decided not to have any test rides and leave the wrist to heal.
It was a 6hr drive down to the event for me, and I picked up Emma on the way.
We arrived at the hotel in the dark at 18:00, freshened up and then went for a few sips of the local blonde. Pretty tasty.
Race ride day
English Welsh breakfast and then to the rugby club to get ready and wait for kick off at 09:30.
It was a cold morning and the light was stunning.
We set off up the road and rolled along in a big group through the town.
There was a little road climb that started to split people up. Emma wanted to get photos of the ride so I decided to ride off ahead, stop in the ditch and take some photos. I specifically wanted one of Emma, but I didn’t see her. The back end of the field started to crawl past me as I waited for her to pass. Had she also stopped to take photos?
I ran down the hill and came to the conclusion she must have gone past.
I jumped on the bike and raced up the hill. Sharp right and along a farm track to trying to catch her.
Then I punctured.
I had to run tubes with my tyres but I’d still inserted a bit of sealant. That didn’t solve anything and it was soon flat.
I jumped off the bike next to another victim and started to change the tube.
After a few mess ups, I was off again racing to try and catch up Emma.
I was in last place so I had some time to make up!
I overtook quite a few along the track before descending on to a road.
This is where I went wrong.
Head down, cranking up the power passing quite a few.
My head was just too low and with no-one to follow I went straight past the sign and carried on along the road.
I came to the a40 and had a sinking feeling.
I was lost.
I road back up and down the same stretch a few times but couldn’t see a sign anywhere.
I decided that I’d just have to ride back to the event centre.
On the way, I met a roadie, Andy, and after I explained what was going on, he had no idea where I was supposed to go. He kindly offered to ride with me back to Llandovery.
About 500m up the road we met Gareth. He had a number on his bike. I was so relieved. I wasn’t the only one to get lost!
He had also missed the turn with no idea where to go.
Luckily Andy had the number of Anthony (the official photographer) who told us where we should be going.
With a push in the right direction both myself and Gareth went on alone up the forest road hoping to find some signs.
Gareth and I weren’t exact well matched bike wise, fitness wise, or build wise. But we did seem to have the same level of humour.
One of us on an mtb with suspension and gears. The other on a singlespeed cross bike. Gareth also had almost double the amount of
body weight power to carry with him.
As we were so far behind now, we decided to stay together and ride the shorter 35km route. I’d also developed a slow puncture in my rear tyre and as my CO2 was gone, Gareth’s pump came in very handy.
At the top of the forest road climb we came to our first dilemma.
A junction with no sign.
We looked at the ground and followed the bike tracks into the wood down some singletrack.
It was muddy.
With no signs in sight we followed our instinct and continued onto the road.
We came to a little group of houses, and most importantly, we saw a sign!
This lifted our spirits as we continued up the road finding more signs on the way.
Turning off the road, the route got steeper and muddier. Ultimately, it become more fun.
Shortly after this section we saw a bigger sign.
FEED STATION 100m
We both raced up the road only to find it was too late. Everyone had gone home.
We’d not seen anyone for some time now.
We later found out, as we were so far behind, the sweeper had been through and they’d started clearing the signs to help tidy up.
It seemed like the route was short sections of technical disused access roads and tracks joined up by longer sections of road or gravel tracks. The latter being a good rest, especially for the wrist which was starting to hurt.
We had food rations on us so we used the flatter road sections to re fuel when needed. Gareth took a fancy to my clif bloks. The two packets seemed to go down very well.
My back tyre still had a slow puncture and was losing pressure every 30minutes. We had to stop every now and again to pump it up.
We were by no means traveling fast. Taking photos and taking in the views as we went.
We reflected on being lost and came out with a positive.
If we’d ridden the route normally, we’d have not seen as much of the area and the views. We had time to stop and appreciate the area.
It might not be as hilly as the lakes, but the quiet rolling hills were quite relaxing.
We climbed up another track and dropped over the other side onto a road.
The hedges had just been cut and this is where I got my third slow puncture. My front with the new tube. It started going down every 10 minutes. Not ideal when we were so far behind anyone else with no spare 700c inner tubes.
We continued on and hit 20miles.
“Not long to the finish” we both said.
How wrong we were.
We climbed the next hill onto the top of a moor. We were met with stunning views, but also rain. I began to get cold.
The GPS now showed that we were heading away from Llandovery. How could that be?
We decided we were again lost as there we no signs or flags to be seen.
We headed down to a reservoir where we’d spotted some runners. That’s when we got a double whammy.
1) Gareth went over the bars and smashed his should pretty bad.
2) I pulled up to a stop and listened to my back tyre hiss before going flat.
No signs, no idea where we were, no roads and the weather was turning. Not to mention it was going to be getting dark in a few hours.
We headed towards the reservoir and shouted for help. The runners came over and informed us of where we were.
2 miles from a road and then 15 miles for LL
Not a high point.
We followed their instruction and headed to the road, me with a flat rear tyre and the front going down quickly.
By the time we hit the road, my front was flat and not holding air. The rear was rubbing on the frame. I couldn’t ride with the rear tyre on so there was only one thing for it. Take it off.
I rode 4 miles on the rim until we got to a farm house and managed to get signal.
It was quite surreal. We’d spent hours alone on the hill not seeing a soul. We were now talking to friends on the phone, a car was coming to collect us, and we were invited inside for a cup of tea.
We waited in the house next to the fire talking to the owners while drinking tea waiting for the car to collect us. It was such a relief to know I didn’t have to ride on the rim any further.
Anthony Pease was the hero that came to collect us. The bikes went in the trailer and we headed back to the finish line.
Apologies again to everyone that was still there when we arrived back.
To Emma for keeping her out in the cold.
To Gareth’s friends for stopping them from going home.
And of course Matt Page for making him put on a search party for the two lost riders.
It was 17:00 by the time we set off back up North. A crazy day. I couldn’t have dreamt any of that up.
A wrecked wheel, two dead tyres, three bust tubes, and one crazy day.
Thanks to Gareth for staying with me and keeping spirits high (almost) all day.
The course had stunning views, awesome tracks and offers something a bit different to the norm. I’ll defiantly be back next year, as long as Matt lets me. I promise not to get lost. Promise.
Apart from the problems with tyres (my own fault) the bike was faultless.
If I’d ridden 35mm tyres tubeless, I think it would have been the perfect option for a fast time at Cross Mountain.
For those wanting a little more comfort, or don’t have great technical skills off road, an mtb would be recommended. There were some rough sections and a cross bike didn’t make them easy.
This is the first time I’ve ridden a disc cross bike and the difference is huge.
The ability to brake in any condition is no longer a luxury only for mountain bikes.
The bike is also a lot lighter than my previous cross bike. Fair enough, it was steel, but I had significantly lighter wheels and it still didn’t ride as well as the pro6.
I can’t wait to get the bike up and running again and get some miles in over the winter.
In five weeks I’ll be going to Norway for Christmas and new year. I get to try something new and different for me. I can’t wait.