TransWales Day 7: The final furlong

A steller end to this year's epic challenge

The seventh and final day of the Gore Bike Wear TransWales, powered by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport dawned to dry skies. With weary bodies motivated by the relatively short distance of the final stage, riders saddled up and set off at 9am to cover the final 52km from Brecon to Builth Wells.

Once in Builth all that lay between them and a cold beer was the final and deciding special stage in Cefnderys Woods above the campsite.

The start of the linking stage took the riders along the black top to ease their tired legs into the final days riding: it then jumped off road and traversed Mynydd Fforest before dropping into the WyeValley and crossing the river in preparation for the climb up Llandeilo Hill.

Passing rocky bluffs on the ascent, the trail eventually veered into a few inches wide singletrack that flitted beautifully along the ridgeline, just inches away from the edge. The trail then turned back on itself and headed downwards fast with a few hairpins and rock slabs and drop offs thrown in to spice things up. After the trail eventually spat the riders out back onto to the road it was a spin back on the road and a steep climb up to the end of the linking stage in Builth. Then it was time for the final and deciding special stage.

Using Cefnderys Woods above the campground, the fifth special stage was a 2km sprint that headed straight up before coming careering downwards again amidst a mix of techy sections, steep and fast flat-out open trail, and flowey singletrack. With the final corner proving a choice spectator point for heckling and cheering riders as they swept by on their way to the finish, it was a memorable way to bring proceedings to a close on this year’s TransWales.

Rickie Cotter (WXC Racing) finally stamped her total authority in the Schwalbe Open Female Solo category by taking the final special stage. “The stage was really good,” she said afterwards, “it was a lot greasier on the climb than the first day [the course took in a portion of the very first linking stage] and it was more efficient to run because it was so muddy. But finishing the whole week on a sprint was a great idea.”

Women's solo podium

Behind Cotter was Hannah Thorne in second, 42 seconds back. This sees Cotter take the overall title that she’s been promising herself following last year’s nail biter where she lost to Italy’s Marika Covre in a thrilling competition. Thorne takes second in a total time of 44:45:42, just under a minute down on Cotter. Thorne’s fellow New Zealander Amanda Brooks took third overall in almost 10 minutes down.

“It’s been fantastic – really good,” said Cotter of the week’s competition, “Mechanicals have been a pain in the ass but apart from that it’s been great. And every time it’s been raining I’ve reminded myself ‘I could be working Rik, I could be working…’”

It was a similar result in the men’s Schwalbe Open Male Solo as Aussie Ryan Hawsons (Ayup Lighting) took the win ahead of Greig Walker by just 8 seconds. Kenyan Nickson Mwaura claimed third on the final special stage at just 3 seconds slower than Walker. Nickson himself is aiming to be selected to represent Kenya for both the upcoming Commonwealth Games and the 2012 Olympics and Mountain Biking UK (MBUK) magazine will shortly be doing an in-depth feature on Nickson, his Olympic dream and his TransWales experiences.

Today’s stage win topped off a fantastic week’s riding for Hawson in which he never stopped smiling regardless of the mechanicals he suffered. This saw him also secure the overall title ahead of Greig Walker by 2mins 14secs, with Paul Whittaker (Stockport Clarion) in third. After the prize presentation Hawson was seen discussing snow bike and Iditabike racing tips over his new Belgian-built snow/sand bike with snow and endurance racing legend Carl Hutchings of Squirt lube.

“It went great: it was challenging for everyone with the wet ground conditions yet everything came together in the end,” said event co-organiser Mike Wilkens after the dust had settled.

Through the woods in the Special Stage

“I think it was another great year and it followed the footsteps of previous events as the typical TransWales spirit was burning strong: it’s about riding your bike, seeing the countryside, and making friends. The concept of the TransWales – having this non-timed and timed thing – brings people closer together; there’s always a lot of chat out on course which you don’t find on events which are a race from beginning to end and that translates onto the camp after riding too. And I know it’s cheesy but that doesn’t make it any less true: at the beginning we had 200 strangers but by the end of the week we had 200 friends.”

Powering to the finish line

So with the dust (and mud) finally settling after seven days, 487km and 14,795m of climbing covered alongside five special stages – including climbing, descending, sprint, and all-round trail riding tests – the 2010 Gore Bike Wear TransWales, powered by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport has come to a steller end.

To the winners the spoils of victory whilst to the runner ups commiserations for fights well fought. But for all, enough memories of pristine Hi-Def quality to last another year and the warm satisfaction of meeting the challenge of the TransWales.

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