Thursday, 28 August 2008

Army Cycling Union - TransWales


Five riders from the ACU undertook the TransWales cycling event during the wettest August experienced in over 100 years. Without the weather this remains probably the toughest mountain bike event in the UK, covering just over 550km and 15,500 meters of vertical ascent. However, the very wet conditions made the event especially difficult in 2008.

The ACU entered two pairs; Brendan Kay & Karl Povey, Rick Fielder & James Cooper along with a solo rider, Graham “Irish” McConaghy. On arrival we teamed up with the other service riders from the Royal Navy and RAF. Particular thanks go to the RAF who provided us with superb technical support throughout the week.

The event format was pretty simple, a long linking stage took place every day to be completed within a specified time limit. On reaching the end, the unofficial race began to get the bikes washed and to try and grab a quick shower before dinner. In addition to the linking stages, there were 4 Special Stages (SS) which determined the overall results. SS1 was a night stage, in the rain, SS2 was an afternoon race on day 2. SS3 (Climachx) and SS4 (Nant yr Arian) took place in the morning of days 5 and 6 and determined the overall final standings.

The week panned out with progressively sorer legs and perpetually wet feet but we did experience some outstanding natural and manmade trails. The routes were varied and challenging, always gaining at least 2000m per day. The weather conditions meant that normal August features became sizeable bogs, marshes, rivers puddles and swathes of mud. Planned river crossings became a serious issue with a couple of fast flowing, waist deep obstacles providing great opportunities to clean legs and drivetrains alike.

Despite the challenging conditions and epic mileage the Army riders suffered no injuries and few real mechanicals. A smattering of punctures affected most but all at unimportant times, Coops suffered one after just 100m of tarmac on day 3 (admin) but otherwise we fared better than most, including Dan Lewis (RAF) who destroyed his rear mech early one morning. A detailed day by day account can be found at

The results achieved were as follows:

Special Stage 3 – 2nd – Rick Fielder & James Cooper
Special Stage 4 – 3rd – Rick Fielder & James Cooper

Final positions –

Male Open Pairs (38 finishers):
3rd overall – Rick Fielder & James Cooper
=6th overall – Brendan Kay & Karl Povey

Male Open Solo (102 finishers):
22nd overall - Graham McConaghy

Jim Shaw - TransWales Mule

Day 2: Cilycwn, Llandovery to Brechfa, 67km

Today's weather was never going to be that promising, menacing clouds in the morning turned to heavy rain about as soon as we got on our bikes to head for Brechfa. The first presentation of the week saw the leaders jerseys distributed, unfortunately I hadn't managed to win one but those who had were more pleased that a clean fresh jersey was added to their kit list. Something we are all sure will be a much longed after luxury in the persistent rain.

Despite the hardships of the camping the riding has been fantastic so far an continued to be today. A great mix of natural trails, the obligatory road and fire road stretches just to get from A to B and of course the sweet single track picked out by John Lloyd and his team. Today's highlight had to be the big bermy sections in Brechfa and the very new, very technical raven run that has just been built in. This section brought out all the Bristol skill, wet roots, big pools of mud, all lots of fun.

Loosing the rear brake (due to running pads that were just a bit too low for a wet day in the mud) made things more interesting and contributed to the sense of humor failure I suffered in the last 5km but on reflection a good, if not wet, day out.

Again we rolled in top 20 ish with plenty of time to get the tens up and get rested before the Brechfa Special Stage.

Day 2: Brechfa Special Stage 14km

Its a miracle that we've made it to the start line of special stage. The campsite is a water logged hillside, something that I didn't think was possible but I suppose if you empty half the contents of the Atlantic on to Wales you will get some interesting new phenomena's. I've got the tent up, but with the wind increasing and the pegs in only bog there was no guarantee that it would be there when I returned from my ride.

Anyway, the stage. The course was a fast rolling man made single track for most of the way round which didn't put many demands on the riders technically, small short sharp climbs littered the route rather that the usual format of one big fire road slog. The ride was going well until I was a little over ambitious with a shift and stuck the chain over the top of the block. Typically the thing wasn't going to come out without a fight and it was one and a half to two minutes later before I could get rolling again loosing me loads of places..... and importantly time. Once back on the bike I gave it my best but its always hard when you loose your rythem.

Looking at the results a 42nd on the stage has put me in 25th over all. May aim for the event is a top 20 finish, under a minute away, I'm in good enough shape, lets just hope that luck remains on my side.

Now to adopt the starfish pose, something we have decided tonight will be required to pin our very wet (almost floating) tents to the ground as this monsoon makes its way through mid Wales, I bet the event insurance didn't anticipate competitors being lost at sea?

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Race across America - United Eight

Team United Eight completed their challenge of West to East Coast USA in 6 days 13 hours and 58 minutes. Well done guys!

TransWales - Julian Jordan - Day 7

Day 7 - Strata Florida to Builth Wells, Total distance: 84km, Climbing: 2500m

The final day brought the longest linking stage, with the greatest amount of elevation. The climbing started straight from the outset, with a rocky technical climb gaining 300m before some enormous puddles and a series of river crossings which meant that most riders were wet, even though the rain was staying away. A fine descent into the Afon Doethie valley and a trip around the waters of Lynn Brianne made for some superb riding, and memorable views, before heading home via Llanwrtyd Wells and back into Builth.

A big thank you to all the other riders who kept us bouncing along during the week, particularly during the wet days, and also to Jimmy and Matt at MuleBar for supplying us with their great products. I think everyone who got a visit from the ‘MuleBar fairy’ during the event was impressed with the bars, which made a refreshing change from some of the other products people were struggling with.

Overall we were exceptionally happy to be back, the seven days had been tough, not purely from the riding, but also due to the weather and lack of facilities at the various campsites. We finished 16th in the open mens pairs, so better than expected but with plenty of room for improvement. I don’t think either of us is up for another Trans UK challenge so that may stay as our best and worst result.

Now the real training starts ready for the Cape Epic 2009.

TransWales - Julian Jordan - Day 6

Day 6 - Team relay time-trial, Nant-yr-Arian, Total distance: 14km, Climbing: 600m
Nant-y-Arian to Strata Florida, Total distance: 72km, Climbing: 2100m

After a dry night, the mood in the campsite was much improved, and the line of the week was overheard just before breakfast as the sun rose behind the mountains casting a golden glow on the remaining clouds. This appearance of the sun was clearly causing some confusion to the riders, but one wit explained that it wasn’t the sun at all, but a forest fire! Maybe you had to be there….

The penultimate day also brought about the final timed stage of the event, with a team relay around Nant-yr-Arian. Again, I lost to Andy’s lucky coin, so had the 9km section to do rather than the 5km one, but at least this time it wasn’t all uphill. I set off strongly overtaking two others on the early stages, before having a flier though the singletrack section. Unfortunately, it was then hill climbing time, but I dug in and overtook a couple more on the way up, particularly with a sprint climb to the handover to Andy. He managed the remainder of the climb, and negotiated the technicalities of the singletrack without issue, including avoiding the leaping cameraman/log/rock combo which seemed to catch out a number of the riders. Again, the effort was worth it and we moved up the table a little further, although we knew we had a long day ahead of us.

Unfortunately this stage proved to be a tough one for Andy, suffering with the stomach bug that had afflicted so many of the field. However, with lots of moral support and plenty of Mule Bars, Andy managed to keep spinning his pedals and climbed all the hills to even enjoy the final descent into Strata Florida. However, it wasn’t quite over as the campsite was situated at the top of a road with a number of short climbs, but eventually we wound our way in towards the end of the competitors, knowing that there was just one day left to ride.

TransWales - Julian Jordan - Day 5

Day 5 - Climachx Relay time-trial, Machynlleth, Total distance: 15km, Climbing: 600m
Machynlleth to Ponterwyd, Total distance: 56km, Climbing: 1800m

The special stage on day 5 meant a different plan for team riders. The stage would be a relay, where one rider would do the majority of the climbing, and the other the majority of the descending. Andy used his lucky double headed coin and I lost the toss, meaning I got to drag my delicate form up the hill as fast as I could, leaving Andy to complete the final bit of climbing before enjoying the descent. Luckily I managed to summon some energy from somewhere and ground my way up the fireroad – climbing is never going to be my strongpoint – actually overtaking some people in the process. I did at least get to enjoy some singletrack, so it wasn’t all bad, and handed over to Andy unable to speak. Andy rattled round the remainder of the course and we moved up to 18th overall in our category, so improvements were being made.

The linking stage was one of my favourites of the week, and although it contained some memorable climbs, bridleways and paths more like streams than byways and a fast moving river crossing that was easily up past my waist, it felt like a real adventure. The final descent past Nant y Moch reservoir was stunning with visions of Dambusters in my head, and the road ride into Ponterwyd in the sunshine (yes, we got some finally!) was a lovely way to end the day.

TransWales - Julian Jordan - Day 4

Day 4 – Tregaron to Machynlleth, Total distance: 79km, Climbing: 2045m

Following a spin along a road and cycle path into Aberystwyth, the route took a long slog up to lunch, but from there on the day presented riders with some fantastic trails and stunning views in equal measure. The open paths finally lead way to the woodland above Machynlleth where we all got or final shot of singletrack of the day, although much of this had been spoiled by the heavy rains making the route less precise and full of rain ruts. Overall though, the riders were a happy bunch on arriving, with the use of the hot showers in the local leisure centre, and a nearby launderette to wash and dry wet kit, the mood had visibly lifted and people knew they were already over half way.

TransWales - Julian Jordan - Day 3

Day 3 - Brechfa to Tregaron, Total distance: 75km, Climbing: 1950m

The third day dawned with little respite in the weather, although by the time riding commenced, there was a noticeable improvement and people were keen to leave last night’s soggy field. Our first proper day of big Welsh moorland came amongst low cloud, obscuring some of the views, and making riders grab their low gears to get across the boggy ground. The slog was rewarded with a fantastic descent from Mynydd Mallaean, and then on to the singletrack descent at Cwmrhaeadr. Unfortunately for Andy, it turns out that one too many Mule Bars caused his new carbon seatpost to shear off while crossing the moorland, and even with multiple people’s concerted efforts, we were unable to wrench the remainder out of the seat tube, That meant Andy was unable to ride his bike so got a lift to the end of the stage. Now on my own, I just figured on getting in as early as possible so upped the revs and powered on up some formidable climbs and through a stream crossing that was now in spate, to be rewarded with the option of more boggy moorland or a shorter road section with a two minute time penalty. Given that we were no longer running as a team for the stage, I opted for the 2 minute penalty and my first hot shower of the week.

TransWales - Julian Jordan - Day 2

Day 2 - Cilycwm, Llandovery to Brechfa, Total distance: 67km, Climbing: 1985m
Followed by: Special Stage Two, Brechfa Forest (Abergorlech Trail) Total distance: 7.5km

The heavens opened the moment the riders left Llandovery at 9am, and failed to stop for the rest of the day, meaning a long, cold and wet day in the saddle. The day was characterised by long slow climbs and sections of road, each made much harder by the ever present rain and spray. The highlight of the day was the finish along the swoopy Gorlech trail, and some of the new Black Raven trail, although the presence of 300 plus riders on the trail certainly proceeded to chew up the new sections.

Arrival at the camp site did little to lift the mood of the assembled riders, with the camping field already resembling a Glastonbury quagmire, monsoon conditions with associated high winds, cold showers and a dirty cow shed to sit in. It soon became clear that a number of the riders didn’t have the appetite to get back into more kit to ride the evenings special stage, but we knew that we needed to push on to keep our position as high as possible.

The special stage on a selection of the blue and green routes was again a race where the average time for both riders would go on the scoreboard. Being a flatter route, I was keen to put the power down and had a really good run around the singletrack, and even managed a big power sprint up the final climb, although it turns out Andy got stuck behind traffic in the singletrack but still managed to post an okay time. At leas the day’s riding was over, and we could return to the delights of the cowshed.

TransWales - Julian Jordan - Day 1

Trans-Wales 2008

Okay, so I have to admit I got talked into this. Back at Christmas, a friend from the local bike club asked me if I would do the Trans-Wales with him, as I was already in training for the Cape Epic. In a moment of stupidity, I agreed and so found myself in Builth Wells in the middle of August following a prolonged period of rain, and with the weather forecast looking less than favourable, to ride the longest MTB stage race in Britain.

In all honesty, I was pretty sceptical about the event itself – having done the Cape Epic in March, which is the best organised event, biking or otherwise, that I have ever been to – I always felt that nothing could match up. However, I was promised the highest quantity of singletrack in pretty much any stage race worldwide, so it had to be good.

Well Builth turned out to be more soggy than anticipated, with a fairly basic campsite for everyone to meet and hear the initial briefing, size up the opposition and catch up with old friends. Still, we were there and raring to go, having entered the open male pairs. We knew that due to a lack of serious training that we weren’t going to trouble the sharp end of the results table, but we were determined to give every stage a good try, and make sure we finished.

Day 1 - Builth Wells to Cilycwm, Llandovery, Total distance: 67.5km, Climbing: 1,812m
Followed by: Exposure Lights Maxx night time-trial, Cwmrhaedr, distance 7km, climbing 260m

A steady ride took us to the first ‘timed section’ which would decide the seeding for the night stage. It was sold to us as a 30m climb then a thrash through a bit of single track. Time stops when the first one of the pair crosses the line. So the team plan was easy – I’d go first and Andy would follow up the hill and into the single track. “See you at the timing post”. All went well for the first 25m before I rattled off the muddy side walls of the ditch I was riding in and ended up walking the bike, with Andy taking the lead into what turned out to be a boggy swamp. I ended up running most of it, although Andy made a good fist of the ride, and would have been quicker had he not stopped ahead of the timing beam to chat to the marshall.

The night stage was a simple concept – both riders to leave together and the average time would be counted. The course itself was also fairly simplistic – 3.5km up fire road and tighter hairpins, and then 3.5km down the singletrack. Climbing isn’t our forte, but we managed to slog our way up the hill overtaking one or two, while a couple of whippets flew past. However, the descent showed where our strengths lay as we hooned down. Well pies mean pace when gravity is involved!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008


We've just had some info on MuleBar in the BMC Summit mag - # 51. It's on page14 and you can win a box of MuleBars (roll up, roll up!).

We just want to thank Simon for getting in touch with us, and for buying MuleBar to go on his trek to Crete but also for stocking up for his girlfriend who eats energy bars "to keep her going through calving".

Farmers do it with MuleBars. Cool. Thanks Simon.

TransWales - Jim Shaw


Day 1: Builth Wells to Cliycwm 67.5km

After a night of heavy rain and a camp site that would be good for growing rice in I was glad to get on my bike for a bit of comfort. On the start line I met up with Matt Carr from the 69er Collective/Mud Dock being a pair of Bristol lads we decided that we would ride together, how long I would keep up was anyones guess given the less than perfect preparation I had undergone for the event (even though Matt is on a single speed he's quick).

Although we decided that we would want to 'bimble along' we would found ourself rolling into Cliycwm in the first 10, not really what we planned but we hadn't killed ourselves either to get there. Early arrival however will give us plenty of time to prepare for the night stage...

The first stage had in it a 1km timed section, down hill, full of roots and mud holes big enough to swallow you and this would set the starting order for the night stage. Although I rode the stage and Matt mainly ran down the course our times were very much the same, one very technical section. I think our early arrival also gave us an advantage over the rest of the feild as we got to ride before things got really churned up. This showed with Matt and I both off in the top 15 for the night stage.

Day 1 Night Stage: Cliymcwn

The stage was 3.5km up and 3.5km down, a real blast and great fun, especially in the dark! We were lucky that the weather remained on our side with only light rain but much worse is forecast to come tomorrow. I could have done with regulating my effort on the climb a little more reaching the top over cooked doesn't make for the quickest of descents.

Although not a great ride it put me 19th, my aim has always been to finish in the top 20, not a lot of room for error but on my way. The quickest rider was Ryan Bevis clearly benefiting from his local knowledge (and stacks of talent). Anyway, special stage one completed of a long week so its to bed as quickly as possible ready for tomorrows linking stage and second special stage, this time in the light......

TransWales - Julian Jordan

Here are some images from Mule, Julian Jordan's, TransWales experience. A write up will follow but the pictures speak for themselves! Top and bottom photos on this entry taken by Andy Guerin

Sunday, 24 August 2008

What is MuleBar doing up on Mount Ruapehu?

Our man out in NZ has been taking his Mules for a session on the board. Looks like they went off-piste

This website rocks for cyclists

It's called Climb by Bike - click through, it's useful stough, and nice shirts!

Mont Ventoux - finally, someone "put me back on the bike"

Finally, after the damage done on the Cape Epic this year (stay tuned for an upcoming announcement on that one), I'm starting to get back on the bike, and although this one was done a couple of weeks ago, I thought I'd share a bit for anybody wanting to "do" Ventoux.

It was Chip who actually gave me all the info - not sparing any detail as is his way:

Mont Ventoux (Occitan: Ventor in classical norm or Ventour in Mistralian norm) is a mountain in the Provence region of southern France, located some 20 km north-east of Carpentras, Vaucluse. On the north-side, the mountain borders the Drôme département. It is the largest mountain in the region and has been nicknamed the "Giant of Provence", or "The Bald Mountain". As the name might suggest (venteux means windy in French), it can get windy at the summit, especially with the mistral; windspeeds as high as 320 km/h (193 mph) have been recorded. The road over the mountain is often closed due to high winds. The real origins of the name are thought to trace back to the 1st or 2nd century AD, when it was named 'Vintur' after a Gaulish god of the summits, or 'Ven-Top', meaning "snowy peak" in the ancient Gallic language. In the 10th century, the names Mons Ventosus and Mons Ventorius appear. Mont Ventoux, although geologically part of the Alps, is often considered to be separate from them, due to the lack of mountains of a similar height nearby. It stands alone to the west of the Luberon range, and just to the east of the Dentelles de Montmirail, its foothills. The top of the mountain is bare limestone without vegetation or trees. The white limestone on the mountain's barren peak means it appears from a distance to be snow-capped all year round (its snow cover actually lasts from December to April). Its isolated position overlooking the valley of the Rhône ensures that it dominates the entire region and can be seen from many miles away on a clear day. The view from the top is correspondingly superb. For road bicycle racing enthusiasts, the mountain can be climbed by three roads. · East from Bédoin: 22 km over 1610 m. This is the most famous and difficult ascent. The road to the summit has an average gradient of 7.6%. Until Saint-Estève, the climb is easy, but the 16 remaining kilometres have an average gradient of 10%. The last kilometres have strong, violent winds. The ride takes 2-3 hours for trained amateur individuals, and professionals can ride it in 1-1.5 hours. The fastest time so far recorded has been that of Iban Mayo in the individual climbing time trial of the 2004 Dauphiné Libéré: 55' 51". The time was measured from Bédoin for the first time in the 1958 Tour de France, in which Charly Gaul was the fastest at 1h 2' 9". · East from Malaucène: 21 km over 1570 m. A little easier than the Bédoin ascent, better sheltered against the wind. · North-west from Sault: 26 km over 1220 m. The easiest route. After Chalet Reynard (where the "lunar landscape" of the summit starts), the climb is the same as the Bédoin ascent. Average gradient of 4.4%. Every year there are amateur races to climb the mountain as quickly and often as possible in 24 hours. On May 16, 2006, Jean-Pascal Roux from Bédoin broke the record of climbs in 24 hours, with eleven climbs, all of them from Bédoin [2].
The climb from Bédoin to the Mont Ventoux
The climb by bike from Bédoin to the Mont Ventoux is one of the toughest in professional cycling. Every climb has its own unique particulars. To get a detailed impression of this climb, the route has been measured accurately. With the aid of these measured data, a number of figures has been produced. One of the resulting figures is the 3D-view of the route. For this figure a western viewpoint has been chosen. Other standard figures to present a climb are the topview, the profile and the gradients per kilometer. From the topview, the general course of the route can be seen. The profile figure shows the uphill route over the length of the road. The altitudes during the route and also the some differences in gradients can be read off. The figure for the average gradients per kilometer can be found in many books and websites on cycling. The average gradient of the total climb and also the average gradients per kilometer differ slightly, depending on the the source of the information. Accurate measurements result in an average gradient for the total climb of 7.43%, based on a horizontal distance of 21765 meters and an ascent height of 1617 meters. The appertaining biking distance is 21825 meters. Additionally, the average gradients per kilometer are as follows: Beside the figure for the average gradient per kilometer, an additional figure for the actual gradient for every meter of the Mont Ventoux has been made, based on accurate measurements. From this figure, it can be learnt that the minimum and maximum gradient of the route are -1.1 and 17.6%. Knowing the gradients for every meter of the route, a new figure can be made. Gradients can be split up in groups for 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5% etcetera. Adding up the distances for the gradientgroup results in total distances for every gradient. In this way the figure for gradients and appertaining distances has been constructed. Abovementioned and shown figures result in a detailed "fingerprint" of the climb from Bédoin to the Mont Ventoux. Some of these useful figures have been added. Taking into account natural laws for human power, heat production, required food, sweat and mechanical bike particulars a number of other figures on required food and water and recommended gears for novice up to professional cyclists have been produced. Enclosed you will find one of these figures.
Simon and I at the top....where the hell's Mat on the shopping bike? (Is that a cheeky little limited edition, signed by Lance, Madonne I see there?) Thanks Josef