Matt Page is a UK based rider racing for Wiggle, and after coming 5th in Iron Bike, his first Stage Race, he has rolled straight into the GORE Bikewear TransWales.
After spending the night at the beautiful but midge infested Cwm Ystwyth campsite I awoke feeling a little tired, but looking forward to the ride home to Cilycwm. After a brief spell on tarmac we were soon off-road onto bridleways and then through a forest onto the moorland. It was a nice ride and the scenery was fantastic. After the first feed stop we passed the teifi pools and then a great descent to Strata Florida. From here it climbed on doubletrack and fireroad before heading down the “Tywi Track” which is a popular track that follows a stream, crossing it many times ensuring that everyone got wet weather they liked it or not!
A brief tarmac climb and a forest descent brought us out at the Soar y Mynydd chapel where we encountered a few problems with a disgruntled farmer who didn’t like that we were using a very popular right of way. A group of us towards the front had to re-sign the route as the farmer had removed all the way markers. After it was sorted we all headed down the fantastic Doethie Valley which I never tire of riding. At the bottom it was road all the way back to the campsite, but I suggested a detour to check out the Cwm Rhaeadr trail as we had plenty of time. I will happily admit that I know the track very well, doing at least 200 laps of the little trail but the others had never ridden it, so were glad to pre-ride it.
After a few hours rest it was time to prepare for the Exposure Light night time trial, which I was more than a little nervous about. I would be the first rider off, with Ajay following 30 seconds later. I knew that if he caught me, that would effectively be my overall lead gone. As I rode the short distance to the trail it started to spit with rain, which would be to my advantage and the sky clouded over making it quite dark by the 9pm start. I flew off the start ramp but tried to settle into a pace that I could sustain. Ajay is a much faster climber than I am, but I knew if I could get to the singletrack first then I would probably finish on top. I pushed to my limits and could see the shadow from his lights getting closer. I pushed hard with the singletrack approaching, but he caught me just as the fireroad turned to singletrack.
I kept pushing hard, but Ajay put another 10 seconds into me by the top, effectively making him 40 seconds faster to the top! As the trail started to go down I could see the gap closing very quickly and within 100m I was back onto his wheel and trying to think how and where I would pass. I kept the pressure on and fortunately for me Ajay slipped wide after a small drop off and I went by. From here on down I didn’t look back and pushed as hard as I could, using my knowledge of the trail to avoid slipping out certain corners which were slippery in the wet. Given the conditions I felt the descent was pretty quick and I passed the finish line in 19 minutes 27 seconds, which I think is the fastest lap I have ever done, in the wet and in the dark. It was an anxious wait for Ajay to cross the line, which he did 39 seconds after me. This meant I had an extra 9 seconds lead overall.
Ajay’s lap time was pretty remarkable considering that he had only ridden the trail once and it was his first ever night ride. I have to take my hat off to him, he is an incredible athlete and pushed me all the way up and down.
After last nights big effort in the night time trial I started today from my home village of Cilycwm with slightly tired legs. It was drizzling, so I was keen to crack on and get to Builth. The riding today was fairly straight forward and less distance and climbing than the other days, but with 7 days of riding before it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. The final special stage lay at the end of the ride and would be the deciding stage.
Some quiet back roads led us to a long fireroad climb and then down a nice technical descent with a mixture of doubletrack and singletrack with a few rock drops and slaps that scared a few riders in the group. Another long climb and forest descent brought us to the lunch stop and a quick energy top-up. From there it was up the “Chapel Climb” which is doable by a fit rider with plenty to give, but with the final timed stage looming I went as far as I could without destroying myself and pushed the remainder. From the top it was a nice descent through the forest before hitting the road, which gave us a easy run in to the finish
Reaching the end of the linking stage at Builth I gave myself a few minutes to prepare for the final few minutes of hard work which would decide the final outcome. The last timed stage was roughly 2km, following the same route as the prologue with a nasty climb then into some twisty singletrack before heading onto a field and a final steep traverse and then a sprint to the line. I set off, pushing hard and before long I was blowing hard and could feel my legs were tired. Before I reached the top my left leg tightened up, but thankfully it didn’t cramp. I didn’t go crazy on the singletrack, I figured a mistake would be very costly. Down the field, which was a little damp I eased up and made sure of the bottom corner and pushed hard to the line.
It didn’t feel like a fast lap and it was an agonising wait until the results, as I had forgotten to start my Garmin at the correct time. When the results were finally revealed I was ecstatic to have done a time of 6 min, 13 seconds and finished 3rd on the stage less than 10 seconds behind Ajay who won the stage. This meant that I won overall by just over 30 seconds!
TransWales was a fantastic event and I loved every day, even when the wether didn’t play ball. The way the event works with longer untimed linking stages and shorter timed stages makes for very close racing but it is also really social. I started the week knowing just a few people, but finished it feeling like I knew everyone. It is a shame that the current format is not running again, but hopefully the new format will be just as good and I am looking forward to hearing what the team have planned!