By Nick Pilling
Llyn Brenig is where the race HQ was for the fourth race in the North Wales Road Race series. I had already raced in the first round of the series earlier in the season and absolutely loved that circuit so I was really looking forward to this race. Having had a quick look at the route the day before the race on Strava I knew that the circuit really did not suit me as there were a couple of steep climbs on the 3 lap circuit but with quite a few strong riders on the start sheet I was hoping for a good hard race.
Straight from the gun a break of around 10 got away. By the time the peloton had got everything organised we had turned into a huge headwind that meant the peloton was struggling to hold 15mph on a long descent! With nobody really wanting to sit on the front for this, the break managed to get a few minutes’ gap.
Along the main road on the far side of the course for the first time there was a serious lull within the group – the first round of hills was upon us soon and everyone was eyeing up the man next to them. As soon as we hit the base of the climb the effort required to stay in touch with the peloton went through the roof and a big group were dropped instantly.
A minute later and I was looking down at my Garmin thinking this cannot be sustainable. Hold on just one more minute and it has to subside. True enough the pressure did ease off a little, but only until the next rise when it went through the roof again. The peloton was reduced to around 35 riders at this point and we had already caught a couple from the initial breakaway. I lost contact with the peloton on the final rise and had to do an individual time trial to get back on once the road flattened out.
Once we hit the flatter roads over the top and turned into the headwind, the pace eased off a little which allowed a little time for some food and drink. The wind had picked up even more this time around and we were barely moving over the tops.
Again, there was a calm before the steep hill on the road back up to the start/finish line. And again, the pace went sky high for the duration of the steep climbs. The peloton was yet again thinned out – probably about 25 riders left now, with around 10 up the road in the breakaway.
The final steep ramp saw me dropped from the group and another individual time trial was required to get back in touch with the peloton. I was in good company this time as the Yellow Jersey of Jimmy Smith (leading points scorer for the whole series) was also dropped and we worked together to get back onto the peloton once over the top.
Only one lap left now and I knew the format. A couple of gels in me and I was ready to dig deep one last time. The breakaway was down to about 3 or 4 people now and another couple of riders got away on the flat section before the start of the final climb but I was not concerned with any breakaways, this has become an exercise in self-preservation now.
True to form the climbs were ridden very hard and I was dropped on the final steep section. About 5-10 riders had had enough on the climb this time round and dropped off the back. I managed to time trial my way (again with the help of Jimmy Smith) to within touching distance of the ‘peloton’ just before the finish line.
I came in around 25th place but this was by far the most difficult race I have competed in this year and it was a real test which I thoroughly enjoyed. When you finish and achieve a 20 minute power PB it’s always a sign it was a tough day!
Congratulations to Joe Bowers, a worthy winner – to stay away for that amount of time in those conditions really was a great effort. As testament of the race’s hardness, only 44 people finished out of about 85 with only myself and one other being 3rd cats!
Thank you to the event organisers VC Melyd for putting on such a fantastic race series held on spectacular roads. I will be racing the fifth event in the series in a few weeks and will definitely back next year to race in the series.