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Sportive Report

This was the first cyclo sportive I have tackled this year, after the birth of Darcey. In light of this I took Ray, my farther-in-law along to make sure I got around in one piece. This ride was Newport university’s inaugural sportive and had a very small field of about 140 entrants for the ride advertised as 90 miles, climbing 6,000 feet.


The event HQ was based at the university campus at Caerleon, with the first riders going off at 9.30. As per usual the first 12 miles or so was pretty manic, while the group sorted themselves out into the fitter, faster types - and the rest of us.


The Caerleon, Usk, Raglan section  was pretty familiar to me as  a group of  about 8 of us headed towards Rockfield via the small undulating roads signposted Llantilo. It wasn’t long before our group had dwindled to three (the others dropping off the back) as we turned left and headed (upwards) towards Grosmont and Pontrilas, crossing the busy Hereford / Abergavenny road. The landscape down the Golden Valley never fails to impress but today we had no time to admire the views as we shared the work at the front making our way into a nagging headwind towards Hay on Wye.


I have never before ridden the Gospel Pass and so didn’t know what to expect. I can now tell you that it unfolds as a series of steep “ramps” with lesser drags in between, and with a final long gradual drag into the wind across the open morland before finally reaching a very small car park at the top with bemused day – trippers looking agog.  The decent – instead of being a just reward for toiling up the other side was a very technical decent due to the vast amount of water, grit and mud  deposited after days of  heavy rain. Our gear mechanisms were choked with crud and looked (and sounded) as though we had been on a cyclo cross rather than road.


We eventually reached a good road surface as we approached the A465 just 4 miles north of Abergavenny. This was the second of two feed stations providing energy bars, bananas and water – but very disappointingly no energy drinks. As I had eaten 3 bananas already I gave these a miss but opted for an energy bar as we by now realised that with 20 miles still to go the overall journey was going to be more than 90 miles.


At the feed station our group grew to four and from here all the way back to Caerleon we went “through and off” – at this stage I was some times more “off” than “through” but we kept it together and arrived back muddy and tired in a time of 6.25 hours.


After we had showered, it was clear there were still plenty of people out on the road – we heard that several suffered punctures due to the grit on the road and at least one rider had a broken chain, but was arriving back in the  comfort of the broom wagon.


One of the riders claimed that his GPS system had recorded a total of 96 miles and a climb of 6200 feet. I believe that only about 70 riders started, but I don’t know haw many finished.


Happy cycling,


Mart in Young & Ray Anderson.