the wonders of a day/night/day in a chamois, an exploration of Wales
Im in Wales, Chepstow to be exact. Iv driven a few hours here from London, my bike thrown in the boot of a crappy 2003 Vauxhall Corsa, a bumper held on with a cable tie and a rattling engine. There is an air of excitement, and of course trepidation. It is the weekend of the 2015 Bryan Chapman Memorial
noun … a type of long-distance road cycling event in which participants must navigate a route within a specified period of time.
The motliest of crews
The audax traverses the length of Wales, starting at one of its most southern points in Chepstow, snaking its way in a northern direction up to Menai Bridge, where upon ramming a baked potato and several peanut butter slathered pieces of toast in my gob, we turn around and ride south for the remaining 300km, back to Bulwark community centre.
Our fine group of 5 fell into an effortless synchronicity… sometimes the boys would ping off the front, but always we would rendezvous, arriving at each of the seven controls together as a unit.
“I possess two qualities that make me an excellent audaxer; the ability to ram food down indiscriminately, & the acute ability to fall into deep sleep, anywhere and any-time”
Items consumed in 620km;
12 fig rolls
3 x belvita breakfast duo biscuits
1 slice coffee & walnut cake
2 cadburys boost bars
1 mars bar
1 snickers bar
small bowl of veg noodle soup
half plate penne & tomato
1 bag jelly beans
1 bag dried mango
2 x aptonia nougat bars
1 jacket potato & baked beans
2 slices toast peanut butter
2 slices toast nutella
2 slices bacon, 1 veg sausage & 1 fried egg
4 jaffa cakes
1 small orange
1 small bowl of tepid rice pudding
2 small pieces brioche
1 packet wine gums
3 slices wholemeal bread
4 x cups of instant coffee
1 x cappuccino
3 x bite-sized flapjack pieces
10.4 litres of water
2 x high-5 hydration tabs
So what is it actually like to ride the Bryan Chapman, one of the calendars most celebrated audaxes? well, to be honest… the only adjective I can use to describe it is ‘stunning’
The landscape is quite serene and lush in its abundance. Endless rolling green hills and birdsong reward tired legs on the clip north, the A roads paved in silky smooth tarmac, and for the most part the roads pleasantly quiet.
Forget what you picture 8200 metres of climbing to feel like… there's a distinct (and frankly, welcomed) absence of truly punishing gradients, unlike the infamous Porkers 400 event ridden as BCM preparation. The climbs are enjoyable and decidedly seated affairs, with ample scope to really soak it all up and relish each hill.
seriously chaffed groin area
extreme tightening of hip flexors
Around the 300km mark of the ride en route to the fourth control at Menai Bridge, and rumours of baked potatoes, came the indomitable Pen-y-Pass. I recall its wonders from a rather more cold visit here back in 2013 for the Rapha Continental film.
An absolute cracker of a climb, a few years ago due to some rather interesting weather, the top part of the pass was actually closed, so we skirted off to the right in the direction of Capel Curig, to film that incredible closing scene with the peaks in the background. This visit however, Kati & I were able to climb to the top, chatting and raving about the view as we did. Its the kind of experience you crave as a cyclist… just looking out onto a vast expanse of nature in its rawest form. Its a special climb that will stay in the memory banks for years to come, the icing on the cake being the ‘magic hour’ light gently falling upon us, reaching the summit & the waiting boys around 9pm.
Dinas Mawddwy descent
Tintern to St Arvans
“Love, would you mind passing the tub of vaseline”
The ‘dozies’ — an inability to keep ones eyes open and retain control of the bike
Around 2am as we almost reached Dollgellau and with it the mouth watering potential of a real actual bed to sleep for three hours. I found myself, or rather Kati found me, with a severe attack of the ‘dozies’. My light-beam wobbled across the road surface, and my eyelids so heavy they kept stealing micro rests. I jolted upright on the wrong side of the road each time. A rather stressed sounding Kati berated me and made me ram more jellybeans down my mouth in the hope the sugary hit might offer a shield for this sleep-fullness. We had been on the course for almost 20 hours, and no naop was had at any previous control. She worried and kept firing questions at me; “what was the worst thing you ever did?” “what was the hardest thing you've ever done?” “where do you want to me in ten years” and each time I struggled to answer, frustrating my poor riding companion even more. These seemed the most treacherous of final 15 miles to the youth hostel, and to make matters worse, this hit around the power station, meaning a huge long descent off the mountain down towards Dollgellau. Hardly the best point for a very real absence of lucidity. I owe Kati a thousand thanks, for keeping me safe and navigating what was a stressful and dangerous situation.
Saturday am weather > Fine & warm
Sat pm weather > cloudy & mild
Sun am weather > drizzly & mild
Sun pm weather > scorching & sunny
Predominantly the popular bike choice seemed to be a modern steel frame with mid range components. Large rear saddle bags were the luggage choice du jour.
Condor Acciaio w Pacenti rim wheelbuild w 25mm Vittoria Pave
Large Ortleib under saddle bag
Anker astro mini charger duct taped under stem
Lezyne Powerdrive XL & spare battery
Lezyne Zecto rear light
Moon Comet rear light
620km cycled in total
27 hours riding time
9 hours spread out over stops
circa 8000 calories burned
A stunning ride, would not have been possible without the humour and stewardship of my four riding companions. Truly distance is no impassable barrier when you have such fun people to share the experience with.
What did I learn? that actually a normal girl, certainly average in regards to cycling prowess, with a two jobs, family, friends & a partner to juggle, can find the time to build a modest foundation of base to get round such a seemingly long ride. The hardest thing I contended with was simply a touch of sleep deprivation, something il try and rectify for next year.
thats right….. next year.