In the absence of a report from Mel (better known in Ilkley simply as 'The Condor' - see below - I've borrowed Earthdreamers report from his blog - I'm sure he won't mind.
The day of the Dave Lloyd Mega Challenge started at the the ridiculously early time of 3.30am. With Cacophony sadly absent, El Cid drove Chills and myself down to Ruthin to arrive just after 6am with light drizzle falling - marking the end of my long run of perfect weather on events. There we met up with Knacker and Spectre, and also The Condor. The climbing started pretty much right way, the route going straight up Bwlch Pen Barras from Ruthin. This actually suited me better than a fast roll-out on the flat and I felt good on this first climb, having difficulty holding the reins, so to speak. At the summit of the pass we seemed to have lost El Cid and my guess (knowing his canny judgement of pace) was that he was just determined to take a steady start and conserve his energy for later. I felt that I should probably be opting for the same strategy but I was enjoying myself too much and felt that we had a good group together already. In the absence of El Cid at the front of the peleton, The Condor was co-opted, in an unspoken kind of way, as surrogate team leader. The only problem with that was that he's a class apart from the rest of us, but what the hell. I decided to go with the flow!Even in the intermittent drizzle the scenery was stunning. I've only visited this part of the country sporadically, and after each trip I pledge to visit more often because it is just so beautiful ... before somehow forgetting. I've now made the pledge again. Another long, more gradual climb out of Ruthin (again) and then the Horseshoe Pass towards Llangollen. I was feeling comfortable on the start of this climb but as my group picked up another group the pace seemed to increase just a notch and I decided to be conservative and hold back. I was thinking of El Cid, with his masterplan, ready to come steaming over the Bwlch-y-Groes with the rest of us twiddling away on dead legs. I felt like buying into that plan!It was good to have some space and be able to look around at the incredible landscape rather than the back of someone's wheel. It was just so pretty. A small part of me wanted to stop and take it all in, but I already had sight of the road descending on the other side of the valley and a much bigger part of me was driven on by the prospect of those long sweeping bends. So, a very rapid and exhilarating descent into the Vale of Llangollen before taking the road out to World's End. This section was really lovely, a little back lane of a road, snaking its way up a hidden valley underneath the ancient Offa's Dyke. It somehow seemed out of time and World's End a remarkably appropriate name. I had been steadily overtaking small groups of riders and once the climb kicked in I felt myself going well, again having difficulty holding in the reins. Up on the top there was a great high moorland section with a following wind before a steep descent to the first feed station, where I met up with my group again.Knowing the next section was a little intricate and without any big climbs, I got in and out quickly and rejoined the gang. This part of the course is a bit of blur in retrospect, pretty enough but without any significant landmarks. All I do remember is that it started raining at the top of the climb out of Rhosemor and that it was definitely rain rather than drizzle, and whereas before there were breaks in the cloud to suggest a shower, now the sky was uniformly grey. There was a sense that this might now be the order of the day. And, space-head that I am, I had forgotten my waterproof! Once again, I backed off the pace a bit and took the Moel Arthur climb on my own before soon rejoining the group at the second feed station. Although it was raining and everyone was wet, spirits were very high, possibly down to the wonderful fare on offer here. The pasta was a revelation, so combined with several cheese sandwiches and a slice of malt loaf, I had quite a feast. This kind of 'normal' food is just so much better than energy bars. And somehow I think the body knows what it needs.Just before we left, El Cid arrived, claiming that he wasn't just taking it steadily, but that he couldn't keep up with us. I still wasn't sure. He was only 5 mins adrift after 60 miles and we'd had the advantage of riding together a lot of the way! Anyway, off into the rain, with a lot of water now on the road and loads of spray. Not that I actually found it particularly unpleasant, except perhaps for my hands going numb. It was a shame that the landscape was now hidden in mist, but I was still thoroughly enjoying this amazing sense of journey, joining together places, some that I've driven through on odd occasions, others, like Denbigh, that have only previously existed as names on a map. We were soon on the infamously billed "Road to Hell", over the moors to Cerrigydrudion, in the rain and into the wind. It should have been hell really, but it actually passed without too much pain. A lot of that might well be due to the good company I was keeping, The Condor, Chills and Spectre all doing more than their fair share at the front, along with a few other strong lads who had joined us. Feeling guilty, I did try to get to the front on one occasion, but I didn't last long before I got swept up. As the elder statesman of the party, perhaps it is my privilege to get towed around! But the pace must have been quite good because I think we dropped Knacker at this point, and he had been riding strongly up to here.The section from Cerrigydrudion to Bala passed very quickly and in better weather. The clouds were breaking and the stunning landscape re-emerged from hiding, offering us a glimpse of the big mountains of Snowdonia to the west. We were soon at the third feedstation, the 90 mile point, and the time seemed to have passed very quickly. If this was a regular event we would be close to finishing, and I have to say that the legs felt better than they usually do at that stage. And it certainly didn't feel like I'd been conserving much energy. Just after leaving we met El Cid just coming in, so he was still just a matter of a few cheese sandwiches behind us on the road. Was he still being canny? Would we soon see him come flying past on one of the big descents?To be continued ...
Posted by Earthdreamer at 29.6.08