I spent a few days up in North Wales recently, cycling over the Easter holiday. The plan was to do a few rides and use the trip as a sort of training camp to prepare for the upcoming events that I have planned. With the Norwich 100 at the end of May and the Dunwich Dynamo in July not too far after that either, it was definitely time to kick start the season.
North Wales Day 1
The first day was overcast but the main issue was the ridiculous wind conditions – whenever there was a headwind we were ground to a halt. One of our party decided to abandon a couple of miles in after being blown around by the sidewinds and the hill peaking at 20% shortly afterwards nearly killed off another. The tailwind down the valley past Llyn Cwellyn was a great start to the ride but the turn and climb up the Nantlle ridge was horrendous. Upon reaching the top, it was decided to not descend into the wind and we turned around to head back where we’d come.
Luke bailed out upon reaching Waunfawr again, but as it was dry and the sun was sort of out, Adam and I pushed on for some extra miles. Still battling the headwind, we reached Caernarfon and whilst in the square debating a tea stop, felt some drops and dashed inside as the rain came down. Half an hour later it was all good to go again.
We followed the coastal bike path from Caernarfon to Bangor which was surprisingly good, did a quick loop around town before heading back to the bunkhouse. Chopping off a corner resulted in a solid hill climb but also meant some new lanes explored and we made it back in the dry.
North Wales – Day 2
The second day in North Wales saw just two riders set off on what is a favourite loop around past Tryfan and Snowdon – this was the first time we’d reversed it though. Early riding was nice and smooth with the tailwind working for us. There was an interesting diversion into a small industrial estate only to find the planned bike path was loose stone and flints – we avoided this.
We began the climb up the Ogwen valley on the main road which wasn’t particularly fun before turning off onto a single track road on the other side of the valley. This was a fun rolling road with a few nasty leg killers near the end. The Garmin told me the first steep part topped out at 17% and the second really steep part went up to 25%…proper leg grinders but thankfully quite short. Neither of us stopped on the climbs but did get off shortly after the last one for a breather. Going over a second cattle grid we suddenly appeared outside Ogwen Cottage and the climbing was over.
We whizzed down the Ogwen valley towards Capel Curig, the gentle downhill combined with the tailwind meant 6 miles of barely pedalling and hitting 25+mph with minimal effort. The turn in Capel Curig brought us into the headwind for the first time though and the open valley up to the roman camp junction was a hellish slog. When we got the junction I attempted to have a serious go at the Strava segment knowing that our planned tea stop was at the Pen-y-Pass hut at the top. Lots of pros have posted their own times as the Tour of Britain came along the same route in 2013. Unsurprisingly I was 2 minutes slower but still ended up in the top 12% of all riders.
It was not a fun descent into the wind but no dramas and home through Llanberis.
North Wales – Day 3
Day 3 in North Wales was a solo ride as everyone else went rock climbing. The route planned was the shortest version of the Etape Eryri, a sportive event that happens later in the year. The wind had died down and it was almost a nice day for the first time!
The route took me back into Caernarfon and along a flat coast road that I’ll definitely use again – it was next to the sea and great for a mini time trial.
The next section of interest was the climb up the descent we chose not to do on day 1 – the legs were hurting from three days of riding so it wasn’t done quickly and the steepness didn’t suit me at all. The lack of traffic though meant it was a nice, chilled, quiet climb up the Nantlle ridge.
Descending into Beddgelert, I nearly took out a waitress who was carrying a tray of coffee from a cafe to the garden across the road…wouldn’t have been a fun crash! From Beddgelert it was a solid steady climb all the way up to Pen-y-Pass. It’s a climb I’ve only been down so had an idea of what it was like but I was surprised at how relentless it was, turns out it is a genuine Cat 3 climb. It was very similar but shorter version of the Puy Mary climb I did in France last year.
The legs were still not at their best so it was a case of putting it in a decent gear and just using a steady cadence to climb up.
With no wind the descent down Pen-y-Pass was much more fun this day, safely hitting speeds over 40mph and sprinting through Llanberis. A fun way to end the three days of riding.