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Tour of the Black Mountains

bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
Did the Tour of the Black Mountains Sportive yesterday and had a great time.

Helped by fact that having spent previous two weeks dreading a hard day in the wet we had perfect weather.

Event had 7 climbs, everyone a little different, with some truly stunning views at the top and very very fast descents.

Done Dragon and Wessex as well this year and for a single day hard sportive prefer to both.

Would certainly recommend if it returns next year.
Martin S. Newbury RC

Posts

  • RyedalemanRyedaleman Posts: 68
    Didnt know about it, what was the route? is there a link?
  • andypandyp Posts: 8,321
    I did the first ten miles then turned back due to the dangerous nature of the roads. I saw three crashes and had a couple of interesting moments myself due to a lack of traction.

    I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it though. Maybe I should have pushed on but I thought that if any of the descents were like the first ascent then they'd be treacherous.
  • what was wrong with the roads andy??

    The route looks far more interesting than the dragon (read better views) but then its a different type of event
  • JimMoffJimMoff Posts: 27
    I rode the Tour of the Black Mountains and agree with Bahzob. Great course, well organised and fantastic scenery. I rode the Dragon and this was much better. AndyP it was only the very first part which was a bit dodgy because it was through tree lined roads which had not dried. I had a bit of a tangle with a Volvo which put me into a hedge but once through the trees it was a good safe course with some fantastic decents.
    Jim
  • andypandyp Posts: 8,321
    what was wrong with the roads andy??
    They were covered in gravel, sandy soil and standing water. Which meant that traction was less than optimal in many places. I don't know if I was unlucky or not but I witnessed three crashes due to the road conditions and had a couple of hairy moments myself.

    I'd driven there from Swansea, where my girlfriend and I were staying with friends, so had to drive back to there and then back to London (gf can't drive) yesterday. I didn't want to be in a position where I was incapacitated so erred on the side of caution.

    It sounds like I was premature though, which is a shame.
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    Roads right at the start were the exception. Rest of the route was remarkably free of mess considering the recent weather. Certainly no worse than other sportives I have done this year (Wessex, Highclere, Roses Round, Dragon)
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • ToksToks Posts: 1,143
    andyp wrote:
    what was wrong with the roads andy??
    They were covered in gravel, sandy soil and standing water. Which meant that traction was less than optimal in many places. I don't know if I was unlucky or not but I witnessed three crashes due to the road conditions and had a couple of hairy moments myself.

    I'd driven there from Swansea, where my girlfriend and I were staying with friends, so had to drive back to there and then back to London (gf can't drive) yesterday. I didn't want to be in a position where I was incapacitated so erred on the side of caution.

    It sounds like I was premature though, which is a shame.
    Er very very premature. What on earth was the problem? There was a little bit of water on the initial run up to the first climb but hardly what I deem hazardous. On refection thoug this was definitely a course for your seasoned Sportiver rather than a-first-big-ride-ever-newbie. Still after forking up £25 i can't beleive you bailed like that on such a glorious day. It was very very hard admittedly but a brilliant route nonetheless. If the Dragon Ride was an army endurance course the Tour Of The Black Mountains would've been an SAS training camp. Chapeau if you finished it. I'll post my report in a couple of days
  • jalapenojalapeno Posts: 1,009
    don't forget - there was also quite a lot of horse poo on the road, that can be slippery... ;o)

    regardless, great event, hard enough to be a proper challenge. when I get 'round to it I'll bung my report on my blog. The last 5 miles was cruel, I was just starting to bonk at that point as didn't really eat enough but still managed 6hrs 13mins for the long route. Definitely a better challenge than the Dragon and also harder I'd say than a lot of the euro sportives due to the nature of the climbs - i.e varying gradients so not much chance toi settle into a climbing rhythm, and steeper too.

    Painted Roads.. colourful cycling adventures
    http://www.paintedroads.com
  • ToksToks Posts: 1,143
    edited July 2007
    jalapeno wrote:
    don't forget - there was also quite a lot of horse poo on the road, that can be slippery... ;o)

    regardless, great event, hard enough to be a proper challenge. when I get 'round to it I'll bung my report on my blog. The last 5 miles was cruel, I was just starting to bonk at that point as didn't really eat enough but still managed 6hrs 13mins for the long route. Definitely a better challenge than the Dragon and also harder I'd say than a lot of the euro sportives due to the nature of the climbs - i.e varying gradients so not much chance toi settle into a climbing rhythm, and steeper too.
    Congratulations Jalapeno thats a seriously impressive time. I was going quite well till I bonked, what were you wearing?. I was the skinny black guy in the blue and white mosquitos kit
  • jalapenojalapeno Posts: 1,009
    hello. I got caught out by the climbing in the last 10 miles, after the fast (60mph, yippee...) descent at about 105miles I figured there wasn't that much left so hadn't bothered to take on extra food. as it happened just one gel would have been plenty.... c'est la vie. I probably only lost 4 or 5 minutes.
    I was in white/red cyclelogic.co.uk kit riding a Merlin Extralight. I'm trying to remember you, what bike were you on?

    Painted Roads.. colourful cycling adventures
    http://www.paintedroads.com
  • ToksToks Posts: 1,143
    mmm I do remember a couple of fast guys in white tops. Don't remember the bike though. I was on a blue and black giant - lots of seat post showing :D You must have been amongst the first few to arrive!
  • PendragonPendragon Posts: 94
    Thanks to all of you that took part. Results and photos are now up.

    Photos: http://www.dephoto.co.uk/

    Results: http://www.touroftheblackmountains.com/results.html
  • jalapenojalapeno Posts: 1,009
    yeh, at the time I was the 2nd back from the long route, one chap pipped my by a minute or two. Miserable git ignored me when I said hello though.
    Just seen results tho, was 6th or 5th in my category :(

    Painted Roads.. colourful cycling adventures
    http://www.paintedroads.com
  • jalapenojalapeno Posts: 1,009
    slightly worrying, just looked at the results for the long route and there are guys in there who I know only did the 85 mile route becuase I was talking to them after, yet they're in the long results with their 85 mile time.....

    Painted Roads.. colourful cycling adventures
    http://www.paintedroads.com
  • JamesBJamesB Posts: 1,184
    Lovely but a very hardroute :) , given the recent weather the roads were in a good state of play :) , and Andy P you did bail out early, there were some scary moments on descent from Gospel Pass (I was behind someone who went over the bank on meeting a white van) and did worry a bit about teh road saftey on this descent, There after though roads very clear and safe (with notable exception of moronic caravan drivers on A40 by Sennybridge who insisted on hogging road centre despite line of cyclists and on coming vehicles) :x :x :x .
    Bit sadistic though I thought the last ascent of Llangyndir mountain :roll: , hardest bit though I found to be Merthyr> Vaynor by the reservoirs, seemes never ending drag uphill. My estimate was 2800m , counting map countours, any GPS estimates?
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    FWIW: My HAC4 had total climbing of 2920, compared to Dragon 2660 and Wessex (2040/2380/2480). So most I have done in UK single day so far this year.
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • ToksToks Posts: 1,143
    edited July 2007
    Here's a report from Addiscombe rider and cycling Weekly Jornalist Huw Williams.

    Where vast numbers of riders dictate that the Dragon is largely run off on on wide-open roads, the TotBM is a much more ‘purist’ event. Rider numbers are restricted (250 this year growing to a max of 500 in years to come) and there is no concession to a ‘sanitised’ route – the organisers have simply picked the best roads, whether uphill or down and its up to you as an experienced rider to get round it safely. “I knew if I made the route as obviously challenging as this that we’d get fewer but better standard riders” admitted organiser Nick Bourne. “Putting several hundred riders on a course of this sort would be risking multiple accidents which would tax the infrastructure of our small organisational team – I’d rather concentrate on a memorable event for fewer people.”

    To that end we got a course of stunning imagination. A good sportive course should be representative of all the elements that comprise cycling in that area. The Fred Whitton climbs forever over the high Lake District passes and The Etape Du Dales soars into the Yorksire Moors. What characterises the area around the 120-mile course in Black Mountains is the narrowness of the roads, the rapid-fire repetition of the climbs and the technically demanding steep downhills. Throw in a handful of soul-destroying long climbs a 60mph downhill and a typically British 20 mile section of rolling hills into a nagging headwind and you’ve got a course which provided one of the hardest Sportive challenges the UK has yet witnessed.

    It started with an 18km climb up the Gospel pass – not too steep but technically very demanding, groups are set off about 50 riders at a time and after the first few sweeping bends there is little passing space – two riders abreast maximum fills the width of the road - there are rivers running down the hill and we all get a good soaking in the first five miles even though it isn’t raining. A couple of riders crash by sliding off on the thin film of silt under the surface water and cars get mixed in with the groups giving the whole thing the appearance of a Tde F stage.

    I’m riding with Hal and Toks and I’m trying to take it easy because I know what’s coming later on, but every time we get the respite of joining on to the back of a small group, Toks somehow powers his way through and we pass just about everyone on the road by the time it opens to a proper mountain climb above the town of Hay-on-Wye on the English border. The views are staggering up here and the descent after so much climbing is 10 minutes of breakneck-speed pleasure. I’ve got a load on my mind though because the next 20 miles is the infamous torture zone. An extended drag of rolling hills past Brecon, along the foothills of the beacons to the 50 mile point at Trecastle where the proper climbing will start. Get isolated here and all the EPO in the tour wouldn’t help you ride at more than a miserly 15mph into the constantly nagging headwind. To avert this scenario I take some near-death risks on the descent and join a tasty looking group, which comprises about 10 riders who are leading on the road.

    We get dragged along the ten miles or so to Brecon with Toks and Hal occasionally sharing the load on the front with a couple of other willing pack-horses. Amazingly almost everyone stops at the feed station at Brecon. We’ve only done 30 miles ferchrissakes! The 3 ACC members (I include Toks as an honorary member for the day) are made of sterner stuff and carry on, joined by one other guy we pin back our ears for the hellish drag to Trecastle. It’s a fantastic experience as we all take turns on the front and keep the pace at around 21mph. After what seems like several hours we scale and descend the final bend on the main road and make the left turn to climb up to the Crai Reservoir. The drag has taken a lot out of me and with climbing proper about to start Toks and Hal pull away into the distance as I ease back to recover a bit. Groups are less important from here because the next 70 miles is largely a series of killer climbs and testing descents.

    The first is very long but not too steep and finishes with a pearler of a descent along the river valley before a left turn and another interminable drag up to the reservoir. My teammates are like dots in the distance near the top of the drag but help arrives in the shape of a bunch of hammerheads coming through from behind at ridiculous speed. All the usual suspects are in there – fast guys from local racing clubs who you always see on the South Wales sportives. Hardened by decades of racing on these roads they know only one way to ride – fast. Wherever they are. They sweep me up as we crest the top of the hill and they drag me at 35mph along the top before we peel off right for a short climb and the first 50mph descent of the day. I stay in touch wit the group along the bottom of the valley and we get back within sight of Toks and Hal but then someone from Cwmcarn Paragon lights the blue touch-paper at the bottom of the infamous ‘nameless climb’ from the original Dragon ride course of years gone by and as far as the group is concerned, I’m history.

    This climb is always bad but today, after around sixty miles of hard riding its torture. And I’m only half way round when I reach the top the top and meet Toks and Hal filling up at the Bowser. We set off for the descent to Ystradfelte but I get split off when a sheep jumps off a dry stone wall and forces me off the road into the grass – I recover but I’ve lost the wheels on the 30 mph descent and it’s a long way down the valley. The climb up is another brutally steep ladder and after a short descent on the main road it’s a left turn at Penderyn onto the next big one. Picking my way through the cratered, rutted and debris-strewn farm access road I eventually emerge into the open climb near the top to see Toks sitting by the side of the road fixing a puncture “I’m OK he says” “You’ll catch me” I say and set off after Hal.

    Another near-death experience on the descent down to the lake at the bottom before crossing over the dam wall and more breathtaking scenery. Then it’s a 30MPH tailwind assisted blast along the valley, which delivers me to the defining feature on this ride, the Tal-Y-Bont reservoir valley. Three massive lakes in a row surrounded on all sides by high mountains and little more than a picnic-area access road which winds up and down along the valley wall to connect them. It’s stunning, and it’s very very hard – after every corner there’s a sapping climb followed by a high-speed descent. The climbs get longer the further up the valley you go. The sheep get closer and closer to the edge of the road as I sweep past on the descents at over 30mph. It’s a combination of exhaustion on the climbs, elation on the descents and abject terror as you look into the eyes of the local wildlife as I speed past. The final climb is the hardest and the last descent is a scream. A police motorcycle pulls out of a picnic area just before me, instantly appraising the situation he pulls ahead about sixty yards and drives down the valley ahead of me, flashing all oncoming cars on the narrow descent in warning. Awesome, my own personal police outrider.

    I’ve passed the 90-mile mark – I’m still holding a speed close to 20 mph on the flat and there’s no sign of cramp. This is good but I know the worst is about to come – after six miles rolling along the valley floor I turn right and I’m faced by the wall of green which is the mountain ascent up to the Llangynidr Moors – I’ve ridden down this on previous BikeWales sportives and always thanked God that I didn’t have to ride up it. Well after a 100 miles of hilly riding, now I do. Its bad. Very bad. It’s steep and it’s really, really long. My mind goes way before my legs, on the lower slopes in the trees just as it opens out. I look up and see cars making the top hairpins still over a mile away. Then cramp finally makes an appearance, limiting how fast I can pedal and therefore restricting how quickly I can get up there and end this torture. Finally I make the top where Amy is waiting with food and drinks – I take the bottle but can’t face food because I feel so sick. I’m aware that I’m weaving all over the road and can’t see properly as I negotiate the hairpin, which marks the beginning of a super fast descent. This isn’t looking good.

    Fortunately all senses come back on line with the blast of cold air on the descent – fortunate because for the first time in my life, as far as I can recall, I am about to clock over 60MPH on a bike. The descent is unending, straight line, wide-open, good surface, you could even see the run-off round the slight kink at the bottom miles below. I got out of the saddle and launched into it but was quickly out of gears – slipping into the tuck I checked the speedo at 61mph and glided it out. Remembering from childhood visits that there is a hump-backed bridge over the canal near the bottom in Llangatock I sit up and let the air braking slow me down enough not to achieve take-off over the ramp.

    Crickhowell is at the bottom the last town on the map but there’s the usual end-of-sportive-torture of another couple of grinding medium length climbs. My body has collapsed around me here and I’m barely making 8mph on the most humble of slopes before it’s finally over at a fraction over 118 miles and almost bang-on 7 hours in the saddle.

    Wow – what an amazing ride – it’s still quite hard to believe we actually did it. I’ve got a kind of memory blank for large sections of it –chunks of time are missing from my memory – like when you blank out the events of an accident – it just doesn’t seem like it was possible to have been out there for 7 hours.

    Hal kept his form throughout and set a time around 6.28 and that fast group posted around 6.15 so we put up a decent show in results terms. Toks came in shortly after, confirming that when he’d fixed his puncture he had a half hour spell where he “totally had nothing in the tank” and fell apart in the Reservoir valley.

    For the record, 60 riders didn't start, probably in fear of the weather which stayed dry in the end - the signage was first class – the feed stations in exactly the right places and a team of motorcycle security outriders who work for the welsh cycling union constantly patrolling the course. Despite the technical descents there were no accidents and only a handful of people pulled off the event with exhaustion in the broom wagon.

    An entirely different experience than the Dragon ride even though it’s largely in the same area. If you value the notion of a ‘purist’ sportive I’d recommend you give it a shot next year as it’s a truly unique experience – If you do, make sure you get there in good shape because this is not one to be taken lightly.
  • ToksToks Posts: 1,143
    Here's my own quirky take on the event

    The last time I was in Abergavenny some of the locals were giving me funny looks. It was 1984 I was wearing a yellow goose bomber jacket, a floppy Kangol hat and some ludicrously fat laces in my trainers. My mate was the resident DJ at Abergavenny University and a few of us - A’ level flunkies - had come up from London and blagged him into letting us perform a Hip Hop session at the Friday night disco. After ten minutes of scratching&cutting records and spitting out stolen lyrics we managed to completely clear the dance floor. Nobody had a clue what we were doing – and neither did we.

    I was back in Abergavenny again last Friday night for the first time in twenty three years. And guess what? Despite the promotional banners everywhere for the up and coming National Criterium Road Race some locals were still giving me odd looks. I guess they weren’t used to seeing a forty something year old bloke clip-clopping around the local Spar supermarket in cleats and full Lycra. Surely I wasn’t the only Roadie in the Village.

    Approximately 12 hours later I crossed the starting mat for the Tour of the Black Mountains with 200 other riders. If you’ve read Huw’s report you’ll know that this was definitely not just another long hilly one. Yes the Dragon ride might have its name up in shiny bright Cyclosportive spot lights. But lets be honest, for a fit rider in the main it’s a fairly safe and comfortable cruise. TOBM on the other hand is a bit like getting in your dodgy mates Mk 2 Ford Escort and going off the on some wild goose chase. Oh it’ll get you there eventually but god knows what condition you’ll be in when you arrive

    From the off the action was fairly brisk as groups began to form and reform. As is de-rigueur on these rides the cream quickly rose to the top. With the fast guys soon at the head of things and me being a some what repressed competitive type I began to sniff them out with Huw on my wheel and Hal not far behind.

    As the road started to head skywards I was climbing well. Mmm possibly too well! Hal dropped off slightly and Huw’s efforts were curtailed by the cyclists’ nemesis- threshold power. At the top I could just make out a small group of guys in front of me with a gap of possibly 30 seconds. I aero-tucked on the descent and few minutes later I was leading the pack. I wasn’t the only one who descended well - Huw, Hal and some bunch groupies also made it across. As things flattened out for a while me, Hal, a couple of guys in black, a big bruiser and this seriously hairy dude in white began taking turns of the front. There were about ten of us at this point and things were looking good. But then, the first refreshment stop quickly appeared before 40 miles mark and “boom”, was it something we said? ; we were immediately trimmed down to a nice homely bunch of four.

    The non agreeable amongst us was a strong mountain biker who was on road bike for the day. He didn’t quite have the thru and off protocol sussed but he was more than willing to pull his weight so the show went on regardless. Huw rolled to the front and did a couple of really big turns as we powered our way up a far arsed A road. Despite the head wind – the cateye said 20mph. censored you just knew it was gonna be a long day.

    With excellent outrider assistance we were guided off to the left after a few tough rolling miles and were then back on smooth narrow bitty lanes. We eased up just a tad and the pace became conversational for a few minutes. Not for long though. The mountain biker cranked things up by a few watts and Huw Williams no longer became a slave to the rhythm. You either can or you can’t at any point during this type of ride. Huw knew the score and he’d be back. So onwards and upwards just the three of us mile after mile

    Eventually glycogen shortage?, muscle fatigue? or something else called time on the mountain bike dude so Hal and just keep rolling. Having swung on to yet another soulless A road up in the distance I could see a chap in blue with triathlete style bottles behind his saddle. This was the guy that kick started the fast group revolution a few hours earlier, so I hit cruise control and with Hal on my wheel we reel him in.

    Next up what appeared to be a benign little drag suddenly morphed into an insane mountain climb. We braced ourselves and crept forward with the cateye hovering between 11-14kph. Huff, puff, sweat and cuss! Yes we’d made it to the top. I congratulated the boys and we stopped for some refreshments. We were quickly joined by a really aggressive bunch who were grabbing bananas and filling up bottles as if a famine and water shortage had been predicted. And just like that, they did a quick now you see us now you don’t number. Just before we rolled down the descent Huw arrived looking just as bad as we felt.

    We were now just over the half way point of the ride, 60miles, and another fast descent ensued. On one of the numerous mini ramps at the bottom we saw a fella in an Alessio top doing a two steps forward one step back routine. Its kinda funny watching a fellow cyclist doing his own choreographed switched back moves on a short sharp climb ; and even as we honked past him he continued zig-zaging - lost in that time and space that only a real cyclists’ know.

    Somewhere around the 80mile mark Hal and I parted company for good. There I was feeling fairly good sitting on Hal’s wheel and I got that sudden-slightly-bouncy-insecure-feeling in my back wheel. censored ! I told Hal to keep going and pulled to the roadside and began a very laboured job on the puncture. Huw cruised by looking better than when I last saw him. “You’ll catch me up soon he shouted” He was followed by up to fifteen riders who filed past in dribs and drabs. The last one to ride past was an American guy who looked uncannily like a roguish Richard Gere. I managed to catch him up at the top of the climb and we exchange clichéd “this is damn hard” sentiments. Then I throw myself into another speedy descent. At the bottom of the climb I began to pile on the power and it was game on.

    Er No. It was game off actually; or more specifically, power off. Damn despite inhaling Nutri-grain bars and SIS drink from the get go I’d hit a bad patch. As Phil Liggett would say I needed to “limit my losses”. Whatever!! I was at a loss as to what my limit was. I kept going but now at sit up and beg speed as the route headed through the Brecon National park. Richard Gere jumped on and then quickly off my wheel when he realised I was a no hoper. Next, two guys caught me and I had to make a real concentrated effort to stay on their wheels.

    I was really frustrated at my speed as well as fatigued; but what could I do, a tow was a tow. Once the road started to go up hill I know I’d be a goner. The road began to head uphill. I completely focussed on the rear derailleur belonging to the guy in the Reading CC top - [picture Superman using his laser power]. Another mile and I was on absolute empty. I preyed and hoped Mr Reading CC didn’t change down to a smaller cog. Click! Nooooooo!! I watched hopelessly as the gap grew - a wheel, a bike length, 10 metres and eventually they rounded a bend and were out of sight. I continued to plod along in 39/25 and at the top of the climb met up with both guys again where they’d stopped for refuelling

    Two bananas and an energy bar later all three of us set off. The other guy was weirdly signalling for me to take a turn at the front. Not only did I not have the energy for this but he’s rather strange flappy hand-on-his-back movement was annoying.

    Just near the 100mile point another chip stoned mountain road beckoned. I feared the worse and was getting ready to wave good bye to my new cycling buddies. But hey someone switched the power back on. Me and Arthur (Reading CC) had a few more watts available than the hand flapper so it was a case of – see ya later

    As this was the last climb the censored organisers made sure it was a tortuous energy sapping beast. Arthur kindly pointed out from his posh cyclocomputer that it was mostly 9%. At the top we grabbed some more drinks and then descended like demons. At the 110mile mark there was a sign saying 5 miles to go. That has to have been the longest wavest gruelling five mile route I’ve ever completed.

    Quiet country lanes, potholed farm tracks, chip stoned mountain road, and wide-windy A roads, both smooth and rough technical descents, arduous mountain drags and big roger off unrelenting steep climbs with Alpe d’huez style switchbacks. In short the TOBM is a real British bulldog of a cyclosportive. Oh and did I mention the some of the mountain top vistas, stupendous reservoirs, canals etc – just read Huw’s report again and close you eyes.

    7hrs 19mins disappointing of course but given my half an hour of purgatory and fifteen minutes of bike faffing I can’t complain too much. Chapeau to Hal - brilliant ride mate. Well done Huw on a seriously respectable time too. Easily the best ride this year!!!!.
  • anyone riding the 115 mile route this yr?
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    I plan to be. I was a bit confused about the event not appearing in cyclosport event list but not so confused now given events last day or so.
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • JamesBJamesB Posts: 1,184
    Yes - did it last year missed silver by 4 seconds :( ! Will try harder this time (spend lkess time at feedstops) , great event -
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