Yesterday I completed the 140km Wales Velothon, and that is a huge achievement, but add in 35-40º temperatures and searing sun added in made it a test to the limits.
In the weeks building up to the event, I was determined to beat last years time and ride both mountains, on the morning of the ride that all changed, all goals were now just being able to finish the ride and not end up being scooped up by medics through heat exhaustion.
I made it to my start pen well within the loading time, but it shut right behind me, I could see the rest of PRCC further up the pen, but I decided to stay put, and not risk leaving and not being allowed in another pen entrance closer to where my team were. It didn’t matter as I caught up fellow club members just a few miles out of Cardiff on Ocean Way.
The headwind from Cardiff to Magor was relentless, it was warm, stuffy, but it was breathable air, something I was soon to miss once we turned northwards.
The tumble… all was going well through the first three sections, but when my heart rate shot up very quickly to 186, my ears were ringing and my vision was going a little black around the edges I knew I had to stop. A good friend rode past and asked what I was doing? when I said I was ‘cooking’ as I leaned up against the wall, I really was cooking. Further on I found another cyclist lying on the side of the road, he didn’t look too good, I gave him the 1/2 bottle of water I had left, I was in a far better shape to make it to the water station 3km further on than he was, and I flagged down the medics who were on the course nearby. I hope he was ok. Pontypool, Crumlin, Newbridge to Maesycwmmer, a drag of a climb on any day, but the temperatures were soaring by that point and it was a case of just peddle it out and try and stay safe out of the way of seriously wobbly cyclists, If it was the heat, exhaustion or that they were from the shorter 60km route and not used to riding in larger groups I don’t know, but there were so many dicey cycling manoeuvres going on!
Caerphilly Mountain, I didn’t even attempt to ride it, I took my shoes off (other cyclists will know that trying to walk 20% hills with cleats is a killer on the calves and Achilles) and I can confirm that the tarmac was hot, really hot! The only clear path to ride was on the far side of the road and not more than 1mtr wide, the rest of the road was full of cyclists walking, cyclists that like me are normally capable of attacking and successfully climbing Caerphilly mountain on a bike!
So what can I take from yesterday, I completed the route and didn’t fall off or collapse at the finish (yes I did that last year), my chip time was 6mins slower than previously, but I lost 90mins at water stations. All the climbs apart from the two mountains were completed and not a challenge physically. My ride speed average is a lot higher compared to last year, and my confidence riding in groups is improving. Track and club rides have helped enormously with that. Oh, and the ultimate pleasure of tipping bottles of cold water over my head and riding down hills afterwards, don’t dis’ it unless you’ve tried it!
Next years Velothon is already planned, if the event stays in South Wales for the last time, it will involve the tumble, picnic, gin and being a spectator, I won’t be riding it again, yesterday was the ultimate in cycling challenges for me, not the route, just being able to physically finish it. As the phrase that went through my head frequently yesterday, ‘I’m too old for this shit!’