The final stage of the 2011 event would be a classic Brecon Beacon mix of terrain including a circuit around the Talybont reservoir before heading up and over the much hyped Gap. The mix of challenging terrains included rocky trails, fireroad trails, wet muddy trails, and off camber sheep track trails. Although the distance of this stage was roughly the same as the previous day the organisers expected a faster finishing time due to the hard pack terrain, however with fatigue taking over after 2 big days of riding anything could happen. We were warned that medics would be on the final descent of the day and photographers would be primed to catch the carnage happen, could it really be that bad?
Once again the faster riders set off from the start arena last; our small group entered the first offroad singletrack section which very gradually climbed 250 metres of altitude on a rough rocky surface. The best approach for this section was to sit down and spin a high cadence whilst pushing a decent pace. Sitting on the front of the group my plans for the day was to get a gap over the top of the climbs so I could be conservative on the descents whilst the riders on their bigger wheeled 29ers motored down the sketchy terrain.
By the top of the first climb Josh Ibbett, Scott Cornish, and myself had gapped the other riders, on the following rocky garden descent my ride almost ended as a stick lodged itself in my wheel, much to my amazement and relief it didn’t do any damage. After a short tarmac section we turned right onto the next fireroad climb, until this point the other 2 riders had refused to do any of the work so I decided that if I was going to be on the front all day I might as well ride alone! Unlike the previous day where I’d attacked away from the group today this time I gradually upped the speed to that uncomfortable effort where you know your making the others hurt. A gap began to appear and seeing this I upped the cadence to create a small lead over the top of the climb.
Over the next 10km’s this gap crew slowly until I could not longer see Josh and Scott, this meant importantly there was time to stop at the TORQ supplied feed station for some more isotonic energy drink. Managing to avoid the attractive looking cake on offer I continued to munch down my favourite Rhubard and Custard TORQ gels which kept me going for the whole weekend.
A few minutes behind Scott had created a small gap over Josh, and a little further back both Matt and Lydia had suffered from punctures. From the feed we started the final climb up onto the Gap, a few miles in and my legs had developed that heavy feeling every cyclist knows, not long after the Guarana gels appeared from the back pocket, these little rocket ships were just enough to keep me going.
As the miles on this climb clocked by the route turned onto a rocky trail traversing the Gap which was a beautiful valley with fantastic views of the surrounding area. It also gave a great opportunity to look behind to see any chasing riders, however with many other riders out for a Sunday ride it was difficult to see who did and didn’t have a number board on. Going over the top I was confident I had at least a few minutes to spare so took my time on the feared Gap descent, on this rough descent I dreamt of riding a downhill bike which would have been far better suited for this gruelling terrain.
Suddenly and much to my surprise Scott appeared behind me, the days fastest finisher was to be decided on the final 6 miles. Just like most cross country racers would do I thought the best method would be to attack immediately, powering away along the tarmac. The gap remained small but was enough as I entered the arena after 2 hours 55 to finish first with Scott a minute behind, and Josh 2 minutes further back.
Post stage recovery watching a small event happening in France
Another hugely enjoyable event in a fantastic part of the world at an awesome event, keep an eye on http://blackmountains3day.co.uk/ for details of next years plans.