Aberystwyth

So, if you didn’t know already, I’ve been doing a lot of the social media for the 8 day long Aberystwyth Cycle Festival in mid Wales – from near the beginning of the year. I’ve taken this off as holiday from work in order to be up here for the events.
It started Monday with a mountain bike ride out at Nant Yr Arian – led by Summit Cycles 

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Griff Lewis making all the adults look slow

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Pic by Gareth Jones

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Pic by Toria Jameison

It was a beautiful evening, at a stunning location, with two different length rides. Sadly I don’t have a mtb – so waited until the return of the riders, with young Griff Lewis making it all look remarkably easy! I won’t mention how many times I got bitten by gnats… little blighters.

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Tuesday was Wattbike racing at MG’s Cafe , with two knockout rounds before a last few eliminator. I made it into the final, and wasn’t too far out! Video can be seen on the Aber Cycle Fest Facebook page. Although I will admit I got a bit of stage fright 😦 I also got to meet some of the others who work on Aber Cycle Fest; Jeff and Clint.

Wednesday was a day I had planned to drive up to Barmouth to visit my uncle, detouring via Aberdyfi and the Penmaenpool toll bridge before a quick visit for a chat and a cuppa. A drive back via Dolgellau and Machynlleth brought back tons of memories, and I was gutted that mum and dad couldn’t get away to join me. The a meeting to brief volunteers at the Academy pub in Aberystwyth – most volunteers had been doing the Cycle Fest for a least a couple of years, so I was definitely the newbie there!

Thursday was Film Night at the National Library of Wales with an evening screening of the Beryl Burton Story. A subject which I knew little about if I’m honest! A surprising message in the morning asked if I (and a few others) could take our special guest out, none other than Isla Rowntree! I said yes at once and left Toria to devise a route around her home roads. I had to drive over to do a few bits of work, so met them both at 2.30 on the seafront. Isla is lovely, and happily chatted away to Toria as we climbed Penglais and headed out toward Clarach and then Borth. Suddenly realising I was out of time – I left them to ride on and looped the long flat way back to Aber. It was a stunningly beautiful day to be out and I managed to clock a faster time on the 25% downhill in Borth!

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We met at the National Library of Wales at 6.20 – the film night a complete sell out and ended up turning a few people away in the end which was a hell of a shame. Sitting next to Isla whilst the film was on was a truly unforgettable experience – it’s someone who bridges the gap between then and now, especially as she actually knew some of them toward the end of the film. Beryl in herself was so extraordinary it was unreal. Then a fantastic Q and A session, with Shelley Childs hosting

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Ken Williams

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A much needed takeaway in Aber rounded off the calm before the storm… quite literally in this case!

I love being up early, so being there for 7 was no problem, although I did a cheeky lap of the course whilst the barrier guys were still setting up the top part of the course. I’d also resigned myself to taking part in the women’s crit – after the lovely Mark Turner put a set of edco wheels on. Running 25mm Conti 4000 IIs obviously…

A quick hello to the regular Tour Series guys, before grabbing a coffee and setting up a picture dump on the laptop. Sadly neither my new or old phone was playing ball for ages, so a wander around the course was on the cards

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With some promo to do too. I manged to nab Gaz Lewis for some ‘poster’ shots for Llanllyr Source who very kindly agreed to sponsor both marshals and riders on the Continental Welsh Wild West sportive on the Sunday.

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Well. He had to put the flags out anyway! Next up was ITV interviewing Shelley…

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Then the schools races with hundreds of children taking part – nice one Ceredigion Actif and all schools in the area as well as all the kids. The smiles on the faces were so worth it.

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Then it was time for me to get ready. Professional number pinning supplied by Michelle Wilson from Team Raleigh – you absolute legend! XX
Not much of a warm up to be honest. Before realising I was almost late – jumping on at the back for a warm up lap. Tamping down all emotions as I let detail sink in as I cycled behind the others. Watching and judging how they rode corners (some of them badly, really someone needs to teach them a racing line). Then back to the start. Focused on going when the whistle blew. Jesus they were slow clipping in. Then settling in line, annoyed they were so slow downhill – why do you need brakes in a field of 12 on that circuit?! Concentrating on their riding, how to stay on their wheels. By lap 5 I was getting dropped. I knew there were some behind me. I stayed on my own for ages. On the drops into the off camber corner, power up the hill, hearing ‘go on Elz’ from loads of people – such a buzz!!! same pace along the top, kick up over the small hill. Hard on the downhill – for at least two circuits I was nearly back on but then fitness began to tell. Vaguely hearing Toria before she came past and I had a wheel to hang on to with a bit of shelter for a while. Out the corner of my eye I had been watching a weather front coming in, marching blackly across the sea toward us, closer every circuit. Then sudden winds, snap, bang barriers going down everywhere. Between me and Toria, so I shouted the marshals to put them back up. Wind got stronger and I lost T in front of me as I shouted at all the volunteers that went past. Lost most of my energy, but carried on. It was nearly pitch black briefly as I rode up under finish line. Gritting my teeth I carried on, finding T had slowed around the corner. That’s when the last girl went past me. I had 2 circuits to go to catch her, and in the end having her in front of me give me something to aim at. That last *I will hunt you down* feeling as I crept closer to her, but in the end she finished in front of me by 50 odd meters. God that was hard. But so worth it. Completely knackered after with the main event still to go. By the time I’d got changed, it was hammering it down with rain.
I had to go out and saw everyone else getting drowned… this did mean that there was no presentation for the Tour Series, and the race was shortened due to the electrical storm we had rolling over.
It was a good race with Jon Mould taking the win… making it look a little easy!

Saturday was mental. Having to be at both the edco Hill Climb – check out the videos and pictures on the Facebook page and Conquer the Cliff downhill mtb event later in the afternoon. Both events were massive hits with competitors and spectators alike.

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Eventual winner Owen

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Rachel Atherton won the women's downhill

The downhill was sold out well in advance, and I got to meet the lovely Rachel Atherton and present her the winners trophy on the podium. Day complete!

Just the Sunday then. There at 6 in the morning having had about 2 hours sleep, I couldn’t have been the friendliest first thing. But as it got hotter and brighter, my mood began to match the weather. I did get to faff around on my bike after the last of the sportive riders had left – until I got told off bunny hopping the finish line one too many times!
A quick trip with Mark Turner to give the last feed zone extra gels was welcome relief

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All smiles at 10 miles to go!

For the last few people we seemed to wait ages. Dewi bought us ice creams as me, Sharon and Paul messed around in the sun. Until finally the last one was in and we began breakdown. Snip, snip of the cable ties being cut, the clank of  barriers being broken down and lined up, the pfffft of escaping air as the inflatable arch was let down.

Shower? Sharon you legend! Pub? Cheers guys.

What an amazing group to work with, and I must thank Shelley Childs for asking me to be part of it. It’s been long days and short nights and one hell of a team. Brilliant to meet some many people up there too, Gaz, Joe, Richie, Griff, Steffan, Jeff, Clint, Cliff, Keith, Ian, Sharon, Angharad, Sue, Dewi, Dai and the bloody brilliant MC Andy Davies.
Thanks also to Toria for letting me stay at hers.
Cheers for letting me borrow the edcos Rich, and thanks for fettling my bike Mark!

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