TransWales Day 6: A War Of Attrition

One of the toughest linking stages and the worst weather the event has so far seen this year

The sixth day of the Gore Bike Wear TransWales, powered by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport kicked off under terrible skies. The previous nights’ rain that had made the Exposure Diablo Night Time Trial special stage such a challenging event had resisted all attempts to wish it away and underlined that it was here to stay. All day.

It might have been grim but the riders’ dragged themselves to the start line and got on with the business of pedalling the 75km to Brecon.

After a brief spin along the black top the riders hit the dirt and climbed up into the depths of HalfwayForest. Here a maze of forest tracks convulsed through the trees down steep chutes and slate descents and sheltered the riders from the worst of the weather. Which was just as well as a motorbike enduro had been marked out using exactly the same marker arrows as the TransWales – there were literally arrows everywhere. This all meant that riders had to pay serious attention in order to pick up the correct route through the forest, helped in no small part by the organisers’ daubing white marks on the TransWales arrows to help them standout.

After solving the labyrinth, the riders fuelled up at the lunch stop and headed up to face the brunt of the weather on the most exposed portion of the day’s stage: the roman road that lead to Trecastle. After a steep, rocky and very slippery climb the gradient slackened somewhat but still headed upwards. However, as the rain was coming down it felt like riding up a fast flowing stream more than up a trail. Then the rains and wind hit. And the echoes of thunder and the vision of lightning – all on the highest, most exposed section of the stage. Hanging around to take in the scenery or dawdling was not a good idea. The route then the headed southwards before skirting around the fringes of the Brecon Beacons and making a beeline for Brecon along a steady descent along grassy moorland and narrow lanes. Then the finish, finally.

All told, the toughest day of the Gore Bike Wear TransWales, powered by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport was a genuine war of attrition as it wrung out the reserves of power and endurance, as well as mental resolve on the wettest and windiest day of the whole event. Riders described it as “savage”, “devastating”, “ grim and gritty” but all said that they enjoyed surprisingly good trails.

But it didn’t just test the riders’: it tested their bikes too. With numerous mechanicals from jammed brakes, tubeless failures, severe ‘how the hell did it get jammed in there?!’ chain suck and more, the strains and stresses of six hard days of riding were taking their toll. But once finished the riders were back in civilisation, the rains eased to sporadic light showers and the sun began to poke its nose out every once in a while.

After the stage’s finish, the results and podiums were announced for the Exposure Diablo Night Time Trial special stage the night before.

In the Schwalbe Solo open female category, Rickie Cotter (WXC Racing) again swept to victory for her second consecutive stage win ahead of Hannah Thorne. Although Cotter had a serious mechanical – her rear wheel came fell out on the descent – she did enough work to cushion the advance of Thorne to win the stage by 19secs.This sees Cotter take the overall lead in a time of 39hrs 37mins and 11secs – just 7secs ahead of second-planed Thorne. With just the final special stage – a 2km sprint – at Builth Wells tomorrow this category couldn’t be closer.

Aussie Ryan Hawson (Ayup Lighting) also made it two consecutive wins as he took the course by the scruff of the neck in a time of 20mins 48secs – the fastest time of the entire night. This sees him stretch his lead in the Schwalbe Solo Open Male category to two minutes. Although Hawson is beginning to stretch his lead, the battle for second behind him hotted up: before coming into the stage Sean Grosvenor (Summit Cycles / Conti) was second ahead of third-placed Greig Walker by 37secs. However, Grosvenor couldn’t match the scorching pace that Hawson had set and loss time, eventually finishing seventh on the night. This slip backwards allowed Walker to reverse his deficit and move ahead into second on the overall by 31secs.

In the Merida Bikes Open Male Teams category the flying aces Neil Richardson & Dan Lewis (RAFCC) continued to soar away from second placed rivals in the overall, Darren Koslicki & Adam Wroz (Team Unknown), by another 44secs – resulting in an overall advantage of 8mins 54secs. Barring a serious crash or catastrophic mechanica, The RAFCC boys look set to take the title on the short 2km final special stage tomorrow. Behind them things are a little closer with second and third (Darren Koslicki and Adam Wroz (Team Unknown) and Gary Cousins and Andy Edwards ( separated by 1min.

Elswhere in the Birzman Tools Mixed Teams category, Claire Neuhoff and Simon Neuhoff (The Clantons) finally got the win they were looking for by just over a minute after a run of second places. Behind them Luc Selen and Wendy De Graaf (Double Dutch) beat

Niki Lane
and Chris Watson (The Old Goats) for second. The result sees The Clantons stretch their lead in the overall to just under two minutes – enough, barring calamities, to keep the overall lead through to the bitter end.

All this, together with the promise that tomorrow’s final stage was a mere 52km long and with just 1380m of climbing, helped lift riders’ spirits and their satisfaction that they had broken the back of the monster Gore Bike Wear TransWales, powered by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport. Tomorrow sees the last leg in the seven day challenge, but it will also see the final and deciding special stage at journey’s end in Builth Wells.

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