"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own" Sri Chinmoy
Cambrian 1g 100km 1.75 AAA Audax - December 2017
Month number 2 now of my AAARTY; it should be month six but my failure on Cambrian 1k has put things back to square 1. Or square 2 maybe.
In any case this was a challenging ride - the Black Mountains in December with cold, damp weather and the threat of ice thanks to some sub zero nights in the preceding week. I didn't have use of the car so I took the train to Abergavenny, planning to arrive around 8.30 and be out on the route by 8.45. That plan went down pretty quickly as the train to Newport was delayed and I had to wait an hour for another service up the valley to Abergavenny - I spent the time eating so as not to let it go to waste - a hot baguette as some extra fuel before the start. Once in Aber I was able to control at the cashpoint on the High Street and roll out of town on the Old Hereford Road in light drizzle and temperatures of around 5 degrees. The first thing I noticed was that I was too hot - after last months ride that was a great feeling! I ditched the jacket (which still left me with a baselayer, 2 jerseys and a gilet) and rode on, climbing straight away with the Black Mountains coming into view. I eased past the old church at Cwmyoy across the valley and up the magical Vale of Ewyas, with the company of sheep and shaggy cattle but fortunately hardly any traffic. I was steadily gaining altitude through a series of long drags, flat sections and the occasional out-of-the-saddle dig to get up a steeper slope.
When the mountain Darren Lwyd came into view I knew I was entering the upper valley and nearing the crux of this long old climb. I remember camping on that mountain aged around 14 - 35 years ago. At Capel Y Ffinn the real climbing starts, out into the open valley head with views of the big mountains, Hay Bluff and Twmpa. Here there were epic views behind me too, back down the valley with the outstretched fingers of the spurs interlocking all the way down into the misty lower valley where I had started.
I'm not sure if this is my all time favourite road, but it's a contender for sure!
After the climb came the scary part - steep descents on the Forest Road to Hay with patches of ice. Fortunately I was able to see them all clearly and find a way round - none of the ice patches covered the whole width of the road. Once down I got another cashpoint receipt in Hay as proof of passage and headed straight on (feeling cold after the long down hill stretch) on an old B road through Ffordd and Felindre towards Talgarth. Classic Audax country - tiny villages and a mucky road twisting down the valley with mountains to the left and rolling green fields to the right.
After Talgarth came the climb to Bwlch and then the descent to the ancient bridge at Llangynidr. Here I took a wrong turn (it was wrong on my routesheet) but realised soon enough and only lost a few minutes.
Next I came to the sign for Beaufort and a tough slog up the switchbacks over the ridge to the Heads of the Valleys. I hadn't done this climb before and I warn anyone reading this, it's a challenge! After the straight section came long switchbacks followed by a false summit that was just the start of a drag over the ups and downs of the high ground at the valley heads that led down to Beaufort. A quick descent brought me to the edge of Tredegar after about 4 and a half hours, with tired legs and in need of fuel. Chips and beans set me back only 2.25 and I was back up and out on the climb to Blaenavon. The ride profile had looked like 3 tough climbs but this third one was not so bad. I paused in Blaenavon only long enough to buy a twix, get a receipt and recognise the route of the Coity Fell Race I ran 9 years ago in the distance - then more ups and downs over the high land and a final, fast descent into Abergavenny. 6 hours 10 of hard graft, gorgeous scenery and cold, damp welsh weather.
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