Day five of the Gore Bike Wear TransWales powered by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport brought fantastic giggly fun trails, some wet stuff, and the much anticipated penultimate special stage, the Exposure Diablo Night Time Trial. Billed as one of, if not the best day's riding of the whole event it certainly didn't disappoint.
The linking stage got underway at 9am with the riders spinning their way down the Cwmystwyth valley, crossing the river and contouring into the woods and climbing steeply to attain 300m of vertical in one go. Then, after a fast descent, the trail meandered above the hugely picturesque Teifi Lakes high on the moors before coming crashing downwards on a scenic but grin-inducing descent down into Strata Florida.
Then came the first contender for ‘trail of the day' that made groan men giggle with glee. It was both long and rocky. And wet. Very, very wet. Essentially a jeep track on a rock base, it crossed several river courses, flowed through huge standing puddles and, in places, was little more than a flood with a few rocks breaking the surface. Needless to say, you either got wet or you got wet and bringing your snorkel would most definitely have been a good idea. Riders careered, cheered, and chuckled along its length, egging each other on to ride through increasingly deeper and longer stretches of H2O, and cheered in equal measure when they witnessed success or failure. Eventually the watery fun came to an end and the trail spat riders onto the black top for a short stretch and the lunch stop at 41km.
After refuelling and getting their chains cleaned and lubed courtesy of Carl from Squirt lube, the trail struck upwards on the road making a beeline for the head of the much-anticipated Doethie Valley descent: a near 7km stretch of continuous ribbon singletrack that flanks the course of the River Doethie below. For much of its length it is no more than 5in wide, is peppered with a few rock slabs to keep riders on their toes, and loaded with enough panoramic scenery to make Hi Def looking positively grainy.
After a surprisingly fine day given the weather report (which promised terrible rains), the good weather charm finally broke as the first riders began crossing the line: for the majority of the TransWales riders it was time to get the jackets out, put on a stoical grin, and get on with savouring the singletrack. Of course, the rains meant that the trail became more slippery and chewed up which caught a few riders unawares. Eventually the singletrack-fest gave way to a meandering mountain road that introduced the final Tarmac spin to the stage's end at Cwmystwyth. All that remained was for riders to prepare themselves for the fourth special stage: the Exposure Diablo night time trial.
Starting at 8.45pm, the riders went off in their respective overall ranking positions, with the fastest rider going first and the slowest last. The venue for the time trial was the Cwm Rhaiadr trail – a 6km loop that starts with a single lung buster of a climb before giving way to a singletrack rollercoaster of a descent; a genuine all-round test but with the added twist of being in the pitch black.
What made it harder for riders, however, was the heavy rains that kicked in early in the evening. This reduced visibility – even with lights on full whack – to a minimum due to the rain drops reflecting riders' light beams and made the already tough and slippery conditions even harder. Due to the late finish, however there was no results presentation – this will be done at the end of tomorrow's stage six linking stage in Brecon. After which we'll bring you full coverage of the results asap.
Tomorrow sees the penultimate stage of the TransWales and although the event may nearly be coming into its final furlong, things aren't getting any easier. The sixth linking stage will take the riders from Cilycwm all of 75km and 2040m of climbing to Brecon.
The profile is like an ECG chart during a cardiac arrest. Or as Nathan from Singletrack magazine put it, "like shark's teeth." Jagged and foreboding. There's climbing aplenty on the way and it'll be a true test of already very tired legs and mental resolve. The bright side is that when riders finally wheel into Brecon tomorrow all that stands between them and the finish line is a relatively short 52km stage before the final – and deciding – special stage at Bulith Wells.
For a film made about this year's TransWales check out the following: