Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Hill no 87 - 89 The Road To Hell

So my first Welsh climb, for quite a long time. The South Wales climbs had been tough enough - I'm sure a little bit of the Devil's Staircase is left in my legs strapping my strength, but these are the "Daddy" climbs - longer, harder and steeper. At least according to Simon.
The South Wales climbs had been a good indicator that these would be a tough test of my legs and left me in a little doubt that I would definitely be able to match the challenge. Now, I am pretty confident that anything under an 8/10, I will get up - and probably have some in reserve, but over 8/10 and I am going to be blowing like Old Faithful.

And so it was with the Road to Hell - oh yes, it starts innocuously enough, a little uphill section - and then as I started in the wrong place, a lovely downhill section with a lot of speed, but also a lot of jolting - the roads aren't perfect just here. Then, after that somewhat misleading start, the climb starts "proper".

All that lovely speed you had tails off, you hit a sharp left hand turn and you flick down through the gears trying to find one that your legs don't find too uncomfortable and grin at the irony of all the "ARAF" words painted on the road (meaning "slow" in Welsh). Thankfully the road tails out a little bit - and you even get the benefit of some downhill again.

The weather conditions weren't too bad - it was a bit cloudy, but over the high hedgerows, I could see hills ramping up in the distance ahead of me. Nothing like seeing your target ahead of you - although this was a long, long climb - over 11k. There was nothing on the road though - it was perfect conditions for riding, even if the road surfaces were jolting me around a bit.

The initial part of the climb seemed to work on a steepish section, followed by a shorter downhill section followed by a steepish section etc etc. This was just draining the legs nicely without ever making you feel as though you were hitting the top. Again - proper "countryside" riding though - past farms, road hedges and lots and lots of sheep in the fields.

Around 11 min in I hit the first consolidated stretch of 17% gradient which caught me a bit by surprise and I dragged myself through it with no real finesse. You can see my head lolling from side to side on the video - I try not to do this, but it is always a tell of when I am having to work hard. This stretch last probably 4 minutes or so and it takes it out of you all the way up. A real relief when it flattens out a bit and it goes back to the rolling hills. Again, I got caught out a bit on a slope just after a farm that ramped up nastily and had me right over my bars forcing my way up.
The obligatory cattle grid (which was a bit of a beast) was a prelude to something incredible. As I rode up with Lake Brenig on my left, the cloud dispersed and a huge sweeping downhill left hander and a climb up to the right unveiled itself in all its glory. I didn't know whether to enjoy the view, the fantastic road, the weather or prepare myself for the last climb, which I thought unnecessarily hard given the amazing surroundings.

I dragged myself over the last lump and then headed to find the dog - I knew he would be going mental at the thought of having a run in this scenery!

Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/100hillsforgeorge/sets/72157629314223176/
Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPVYz_JQYtg&list=UU_-Huk3Gbwz9QNbiVD1X_jw&index=1&feature=plcp

1 comment:

  1. Rode up this climb, along with Moel Arthur, Penbarra and The Shelf a couple of weeks ago on the same ride. it was a cool start (4 deg C at the top of Horseshoe where i parked) but this climb warmed me up and was epic. Sky was clear and views across to the North Wales coast and the Mersey wind farms half way up and then glorious sweeping scenery at the top with hundereds of glistening spiderwebs in the foliage at the roadside. Hardly any traffic - an awesome, spectacular climb, my favourite of the day.