August 27, 2013, by David Greenaway

The VC’s Life Cycle 3 Blog: Day 8 – Bangor to Aberystwyth

Simon's birthdayWe began the day by singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Simon in the car park of Bangor University Halls of Residence, where we had stayed overnight. We presented him with a new watch and a card and called for a speech. He said ‘thank you’ and we left.

Andy was off like a shot, saying he wanted to ride through Llanberis Pass. I think he was still smarting from missing out on this year’s new prize, The Centurion Award, for the first rider to complete 100 miles. He has always been first to do this in the past and would have been odds on to take the inaugural award, but as readers of the blog will know, 100 miles has already been completed by Nick and I last week. Hard luck Andy. A terrific effort in riding 118 miles today but there are no prizes for second.

After Andy, I am not quite sure how we set off. I know I was in the last group with Marion, Karen, Kate, Nick, Steve and Stefano. I think Chris, Roger, Penelope, Neville and David W left as a group ahead of us. I now know that group split a couple of times and arrived separately.

Our group slimmed down when Steve and Stefano left us after the first stop: Steve to take in a climb; Stefano to take the fastest route to meet up with Jenny. He was in first and wins today’s yellow jersey.

There were some steep climbs from Bangor and beyond, and it was a very hot day, so first stop for the bikers that brunch was the Cwellyn Arms in Rhyd Ddu after 16 miles. A stunning setting. In fact, the whole area is an environment of outstanding beauty: high peaks, plunging valleys, fast flowing rivers and a succession of very attractive towns and villages.

BarmouthFrom there we took the coast road down to Harlech, then on to Barmouth for lunch. In between we picked up Darren, a cyclist from Cheshire who rides in West Wales every year and rode with us for about five miles. We had our first sighting of several of the others as we passed the scheduled stop.

Barmouth was absolutely heaving. You lose track of time on these rides, I just know the days by their numbers and had forgotten it was August bank holiday. We had an excellent lunch at The Old Tea House, and Steve re-joined us there. We then left Barmouth in the most spectacular fashion, crossing the old railway bridge over the estuary. That allowed us to follow another lovely coast road to Aberdover, where we had our next refuelling stop in Dyffryn Ardudwy.

In the meantime, Roger and David W had returned there to retrieve Roger’s sunglasses; Neville had temporarily disappeared (I noticed as we passed through Tywyn that the local cinema was showing ‘The Smurfs’ and think he nipped in there) but then turned up with Andy in Aberdovey and rode out the rest of the leg with him.

ChrisChris and Penelope decided to follow the route posted and logged in Chris’s Garmin. We were warned at breakfast this could just be a track in places and decided against it. They had not heard that and pressed on. The surface was so bad they ended up walking / carrying their bikes for five miles. Grim stuff. It was close to 2000 before they got in.

On the final stretch the van, as it often does, miraculously appeared at the edge of a forest clearing just before Machynleth, together with Roger and David W. That allowed us a final charge for the run in to Aberystwyth, a fast one until we got to around four miles out, then you start climbing and don’t stop until about half a mile from the Halls at Aberystwyth University where we were staying.

So whichever way the distance was covered, a long day at 93 miles, also a very demanding day given the heat and terrain. But the strong sunshine and wonderful scenery meant it was an enjoyable day too. That takes us to 655 miles.

Some awards and updates:

No punctures today, so the running total still stands at ten (Chris has five and one each for me, Karen, Neville, Andy and Stefano).

Pollo Rosa is back in action on the back of my bike. We should be able to release a new picture soon.

Accomplishment of the day is shared. First Roger, who until today had only cycled 42 miles. Stepping up to 93 is a huge achievement. Second, Chris and Penelope, for taking the commando route and walking five miles with their bikes on unmade tracks.

Quote of the day: we have three.

Steve: ‘My wife has switched off her mobile again so I can’t talk to her’.

Marion: ‘Did you know you can make a sweetie last ten miles?’

Karen: ‘Can you search for it on your googlies?

Song of the day: a new category, because we have had quite a bit of singing on this ride, mainly from Steve. But it goes to Kate. At the final tailgate stop for the bikers that brunch, just outside Machynllech she spontaneously erupted (and I do mean erupted) into ‘Ain’t no Mountain High Enough’. It gave us quite a lift.

Thank you to everyone who posts comments on this blog, they are read and enjoyed by the riders and Support Team, so your efforts are not wasted.

Our efforts continue to benefit from spontaneous donations on the road and of course from continued support through our JustGiving sites. Progress towards our target has been given a massive boost with an extraordinarily generous pledge of £20,000 from alumnus and former Council Member, John Robinson. John, that has given all of us a huge boost and the team send their thanks and best wishes. It takes the total raised so far for stroke rehabilitation research to £235,000.

Across the Brecon Beacons tomorrow to Swansea.

Professor David Greenaway

Posted in Life Cycle 3