The alarm clock failing, I was awoken last Sunday by the sound of rain lashing on the window and wind howling round the Granary garden. What a lovely day for a cycle round the Brecons I thought!
We had signed up for the inaugural Hay-on-Wye Sportive and had come up to the Granary especially for it, so there was no ducking out now. Furthermore, we had eaten a significant amount of cake the day before, in preparation, so we had some calories to burn!
Turning up at Drover Cycles, we found a good number of cyclists, all trying to smile at the weather ‘situation’. We signed in, layered up and got on our way. (See the route map here.) Doing the 65 mile route, turning left out of Drovers, the first section was up, up, up. At the first junction a gaggle of hefty white geese had aligned themselves to guide us the right way by threatening to peck our legs. I was glad to have my full length lycras on!
The road from Hay up to Craswall is a tough climb, but there are some rolly bits where your legs get a few seconds respite. Nearing the highest point, the road becomes free of hedges and the view of the Black Hill is brilliant. It is however very exposed – metres from the final crest, I was blown clean over! Just a little graze but my pride was somewhat hurt!
Onwards and, now, downwards. We enjoyed the cruise through Craswall, Longtown, and Michaelchurch, stopping at Vowchurch where some very friendly sportive helpers greeted us with tea and flapjacks in the village hall.
After the Vowchurch stop was a decision point – turn back to the cottage or continue on the route. Feeling re-fuelled, and now out of the wind, we continued. Through Abbey Dore, Kentchurch, Skenfrith, the route rolled on past some great buildings – manor houses, castles and country cottages. Mental note to come back this way again on a more leisurely cycle – there were a couple of potential coffee-stop places.
Passing the half-way point, we plugged on to Pandy, crossing the A465 (there’s a central section on the road so it’s easy to cross on a bike), and the Black Mountains were again in view. We knew we had to head right into them! Feed Station No. 2 awaited us at Cwmyoy – this time coffee and more flapjacks.
We past Llanthony Priory and pushed on to Capel-y-Ffin. Although I was somewhat suffering by this point, the wonder of the Llanthony Valley pulled me through. I have been in the valley countless times, on horse, bike and foot and never tire of it. The route took a final burst up the Gospel Pass and we rounded the corner of Hay Bluff, revealing a rather bleak but still magnificent view of the Wye Valley below. We had made it! Although still 5 or so miles from the finish line, we knew it was down, down, down to Hay from here.
All in all it was a great ride. A super route, well organised – and fantastic flapjacks!
If you’re interested in the preparation… “Carb-loading” started on Friday night – we made it to Dorstone just in time for a Caribbean bread and butter pudding at the Pandy Inn. Absolutely divine. We spent Saturday in Hay – great soup and rolls and milkshakes at Oscar’s Bistro – then a mooch round the bookshops and antique emporiums before coffee, carrot cake and tiffin in Tomatitos – a great find. Dinner at home in the Granary then off to the Pandy again for pud – this time sticky toffee pudding….
I didn’t manage to get the camera once on the ride, the weather being so awful. I did get a few of our day in Hay, and Tomatitos carrot cake: