23 Aug 2008

Day 7

Day 7 was not just any old linking stage back to Builth Wells, it was 86km of hard going intense riding, 2600m of climbing and 14 river crossings (yes, 14 !!), luckily each river crssing was no more than a foot or two deep unlike the four feet deepcrossing from the previous day. The weather held off and a blue sky accompanied the riders the entire day.

Irish again, somehow managed to put in a few exra kilometers possibly due to a sign being moved. Rob suffered a puncture early on in the day which pushed him to the back end of the field. Sam had another good start to the stage and held a firm grip on a position within the top 20 and eventually rode into Builth with Dan. The 4 ACU team riders also crossed the line together but not after trying to catch up with Sam and Dan.

Every other military rider crossed the line before the 4pm cut-off point, all looking extremely weary but happy to have completed the week.

Did you know, that this week Wales has had the most amount of rainfall in over 100 years? Well it's true and all those involved in the Trans Wales event witnessed it !!

It's all over now and Builth Wells is full of broken bikes and riders, the event for this year has got to be the hardest in it's history and not just because of the weather. A party exists in a farmers field, with loud music, lots of free beer, Red Bull and many a tired body.

The ACU team of Coops and Rick resulted in a 3rd place spot on the podium - a commendable effort from them. Unfortunately the RAFCC could not have it's usual team in that category this, if they had they too would have been on the podium.

Final positions and timings will be posted as soon as they become available.

Sam & Dan finish together

Coops & Rick finish together

Brendon & Karl finish together

Exhausted Paul (RNRM) finishes

Gav finishes wearing a MTB Wales jersey

An elated Rob crosses the line

Oooer Willie, gets interviewed on the finish line

Friday Special Stage

Results from Friday's Special timed stage at Nant yr Arian trail center.


7th Dan 40.42
27th Irish 46.33 (ACU)
36th Sam 49.13
44th Gav 52.13
65th Rob 58.26

3rd Coops / Rick 43.48 (ACU)
7th Kay / Povey 47.00 (ACU)
17th Smith / Milne 53.16 (RNRM)

Dan putting in another powerful performance

Most riders take time out and make good use of the coffee and cake facilities at trail head

Sam attempts to determine the afternoon's route on his now sodden map

22 Aug 2008

Friday Day 6

Friday afternoon update.

After what as another rainy night, everyone awoke to a clear blue sky and the horizon could be seen for once. Again all RAF riders were fit and ready to go after a reasonable nights sleep and a fairly decent breakfast of bacon, beans and porridge (not all at once)!
Post race brief, all riders headed off on a small 5km ride to the start of another special stage, this time at Nant yr Arian. A small rain shower accompanied the riders as they set off at timed intervals, but the sky soon cleared again. All riders zoomed along the 15km course enjoying the wonderous man made trail. Dan completed his run in his usual form but it was Sam who went all out and overtook Gav on this stage. Despite puffing like a steam train Sam finished some time ahead of Gav and is highly pleased with his performance. However, Gav is said to have been suffering from a slight chest cold since before the entire event started. Sam was still beaming from this as he slurped on a well earned Cappucino in the trail centre cafe. Rob suffered from a puncture but a quick tube change is thought not to have delayed him too long. Both the Army and Navy completed the special staage in respectable times (no times published as yet, 1500hrs). The support crew broke camp and moved in to the next camp site at Strata Florida (a paddock in the middle of nowhere which can barely fit all the vehicles and tents in).

The weather now is blowy but mild and we are expecting the first riders in very soon. No dramas have been reported so far.

Even Murphy had to be protected from the bright thing in the sky


Thursday morning

Another wet night, another wet morning, this time the showers are sporadic but still very heavy. Weary faces filled the marquee as all riders took in details if todays stage. All riders were to take a leisurely ride to the trailhead of the Climachx trail. The start (for solo riders) and finish line was in a rocky void area just up from the car park. Once riders had been set off, the weather eased up and blue clouds could be seen in the sky!

No results from this special stage are available as yet but all RAF, Army and Navy riders made the run and most enjoyed it, although one or two had punctures on the slippery sharp Welsh slate that is known to most as The shute. Although it was close to lunchtime, the riders had to carry on to another spot to get their midday feed.

The support team moved on to the new camp site at Ponterwyd. Here started fun and games - the main route up to the camp site was apparently blocked, so a detour was made, only to find that access to the farmers field was a no go for van sized vehicles and bigger (on this road) as the turn was too sharp. The only way in was the original way in and to add to that, all non 4X4 vehicles had to be towed in and out by a tractor, the muddy entrance was that bad. Fortuntely enough, we found an alternative and started to setup the popup shelter, just as Dan Lewis arrived.
All the military riders arrived in safe and well and the bikes all saw a quick wash and lube. The bikes were pretty clean after todays harsh conditions all due to a river crossing close to the camp site. The river was around 4 feet deep and verfy fast flowing, quite a feat to actually cross without going under - quite a memorable part of the day. The weather has eased somewhat and their is some brightness shining down on us.

The evenings esentation of todays special stage revealed that the Army pair of Coops / Rick came second in their category - congrats to them.

Results from todays special stage are as follows:

10th Dan Lewis
24th Irish (ACU)
42nd Gav Brown
45th Sam Bennett
62nd Rob Calverley

Overall positions for solo riders:

7th Dan Lewis 31 53 42
20th Irish 32 02 51
37th Gav Brown 32 14 00
39th Sam Bennett 32 14 34
59th Rob Calverly 32 26 30

From Wednesday evening

Wednesday evening and people are now feeling a little subdued. All the bikes have been cleaned and prepped ready for the morning.
Shortly all riders and support crew will head into town for a well deserved evening meal, apparently their is an award winning fish and chip shop!

Thursday morning sees the riders take on another timed special stage on the Climachx trail. As RAF riders are solo-ists, they have to ride up to the top of the trail and all the way back down again (timed), whereas team riders do a relay. After this the riders get a short rest period before continuing on in the linking stages.
The weather is supposed to be light showers, as yet each 'shower' has been a deluge!

Latest update (Friday)

Hi everyone, apologies for the lack of entries to the blog - connection has been non existent and Sam was VERY fortunate to get the latest results added yesterday.

We have written some comments down as a diary and will add them shortly as well as amending previous entries..


21 Aug 2008

Results thus far!

On todays stage:

Dan 10th 43:15

Gav 42nd 54:58

Sam 45th 55:06

Rob 64th 1:02:07

Overall results:

Dan 7th 31:53:42

Gav 37th 32:14:00

Sam 39th 32:14:34

Rob 59th 32:26:30

20 Aug 2008

Sam Makes a Joke

During a moment of climbing induced delerium...........

Sam: "Rob, I think I have become a farmer"

Rob: "Sam, what are you on about?"

Sam: "I have lost both my legs but now have two achers"

Rob: "Sam, shut up and ride your bike"

Sam: "Oh."


Hi everyone,

I have now joined the guys on TransWales '08. I got to Tregaron just in time to see the riders off and the sight of a friendly face seemed to buck them up further.

Gareth and I made for the 1st water stop of the day, but thanks to someone marking the wrong spot on the map, we waited at the wrong spot only to find the riders hurtling past on the other side of some hedge rows.

We dashed to the correct location in time to meets the guys and all were doing OK, despite being wet and muddy (yet again).

Another dash on to the lunch location saw us meet all the riders in - all RAF riders doing OK. Each bike got it's drive chain cleaned and lubed whilst the guys got fed and watered. Sam's achilles seems to be holding out at this point.

Once all the military riders had carried on, we headed on to Mach to join Jacko. After a bit of a faff, the organisers directed us into a different field and we are now setting up for the night.

Just as the camp had been set up, Dan Lewis came in with a loud whoop. He certainly enjoyed this stage.

Gav Brown hit the ground earlier with a skittish off but was OK (just a bit of road rash). He too enjoyed this stage.

That's all for now.....


Quote of the day from Gareth:

"Sam is going to have Willie's massage"

19 Aug 2008

Results Update

Category Posn in Category Name Team Time
Solo 7th Dan Royal Air Force 19:10:27
Solo 17th Irish ACU 19:13:53
Team 7th Brendon/Karl ACU 19:18:15
Solo 37th Gav Royal Air Force 19:19:02
Solo 41st Sam Royal Air Force 19:19:28
Team 6th Coops/Rick ACU 19:19:36
Team 16th Willie/Paul RN Cycling 19:24:17
Solo 58th Rob Royal Air Force 19:24:23


Providing support anywhere, so long as he doesn't have to walk on mud, this is a key member of the support crew, Murphy Bennett. (the mud here is extremely deep, hence why Murphy had to be carried)

Some pictures of our friends from the Army

Photos from Day 3

Rob polishing off a can of Red Bull prior to the start of today's linking stage.

This was the scene at 08:45 this morning at the campsite, mud, mud and more mud!

Day 2 lunch/afternoon update

As mentioned earlier Dan was first in for lunch from the RAF (2nd overall) on the road with the remainder of the RAF riders riding together.

This section was 20km of really hard riding to a gorgeous reservoir Llyn Brianne before descending to the Towy Forest for the 2nd water stop of the day.

The organisers then gave the riders an option of taking a direct route to Tregaron - the overnight stop for today, or to continue with the full route. All RAF riders opted for the full route and continued onwards.

First home for the RAF again was Dan (now 7th place on the road), followed by Gav, Rob and Sam (in that order).

The only major issue that we have is that the sheath to the achilles tendon is badly swollen and this is affecting Sam Bennett.

Jacko has now setup his field workshop and is now servicing bikes. The cmapsite here at Tregarron is very flat and accessible and the weather has been holding out, but looks like the rain will come again.

Dan is now treating a small gash / wound to his leg. The last 15km of this stage has been taking riders anything from 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours.

Tonight we have a presentation of the competitors jersey's and Jacko has some wine in to help the boys relax a little.

Andy has since departed after taking more images which are expected to appear on here later this evening. One of the images to note for the ACU is a group shot of the Army contingent.


Tuesday mid-morning update

Unofficial times from last special stage:

Gav 40th 22.28
Sam 43rd 22.49
Rob 130th 24.54

No times for Dan or Graham.

ACU1 (Coops & Rick) 50th
Brendan & Karl 80th

Dan Lewis has just arrived at the lunch stop and is 2nd on the road.


Tuesday breakfast

Still no news on last nights results. We all had an uncomfortable night, the weather again was attrocious and I found it better sleeping in the car.

This morning the guys are fine and cheery and are looking forward to a long hard linking stage. However, the organisers are looking at cutting it short due to the adverse conditions we are having.

Coops and the rest of the Army boys are well, all with clean bikes and were looking good 'out on parade' earlier this morning.

Our support team has had a bit of a blow with Andy and Ade receiving an operational tasking from work, so they have to disappear off shortly. This means Jacko will have to solely support the guys today. Ged has been summonsed to appear here earlier than arranged to work along with Jacko!


Update on the Army Cycling Union entries

The ACU riders are coping. 'Irish' is leading on the road times after night stage (first stage).

Graham McConaghy 21st 23.50
Coops & Rick 6th 24.02 26.17
Brendan & Karl 7th 25.36 26.48

Still no results from last night and a very unpleasant night was had by all.

More soon..............

18 Aug 2008

Freedom of Information

A request has come in from the Army Cycling Union, asking for us to detail on how their boys are doing.

We are happy to oblige and 'should' have some detail of their riders tomorrow.

Rise Above The Rest


Day 2, 1st Water stop (Rhydcymeraeu)

It’s raining pretty incessantly now!

First part of the day was taken over by lots of riding in the twisty backs lane towards Caio.

First to arrive was Gav with the news that Dan had trashed his rear mech some few kilometre’s back! Rehydration provided a brief respite for the riders who then rode off for 30km in the Brechfa Forest. This proved extremely arduous with the rain still beating down on them.

Everyone arrived at the overnight halt which also served as today’s lunch stop. The main problem here was the camping field being closed off due to it being extremely wet and muddy; all riders arrived and were in high spirits despite atrocious weather.

A quick refuel with lunch and thankfully a delayed start saw riders proceed to the days special stage. Dan having rebuilt his rear system was again rising for the challenge. As a measure of the conditions the organisers reduced the length of the route to just over 9km.

First RAF rider home was Dan who flew around the course with Gav and Sam a few minutes behind. Rob brought up the rear. All the riders thoroughly enjoyed the stage and their mojo’s had seemed to have returned. As yet the finishing times have not been displayed.

The highlight of today saw a brief visit by an air ambulance to take away a concussed rider during the afternoon stage.

We expect to post again this evening and aim to have some more images for you to peruse.


Image courtesy of Singletrack World

Day 2 - Update

Hi Gareth here,

Just a quick middle of the day update. "The weather here is bloody attrocious at the moment!"

Dan has trashed the back end of his bike just a couple of miles from the start, it is now fixed but he now only has 3 gears.

Sam has blown up.

Rob in hanging in there and Gav is going well.

As I said, the weather is absolutley attrocious and we can't get in the campsite we are supposed to be staying at tonight as the entrance is totally blocked!!!

That's all for now.

Day 2

Current overall solo positions at start of Day 2

Dan 8th 21 mins 55 sec
Sam 42nd 26 mins 39 sec
Rob 65th 29 mins 29 sec
Gav 39th 26 mins 34 sec

No photos were taken last night after the organisers requested all photographers refrain from using flash photography – both Andy and Gareth complied with this request , however many of the field complained from careless other photographers.

Todays stage takes riders from Cilycwm m to Brechfa Forest. 64km with a total of 1900km climbing. Later this afternoon they will start their 3rd timed stage in 2 days using the purpose made trails within the Brechfa complex.

Hopefully the weather will be kinder but heavy clouds already blowing over now.

17 August Night Stage Cwmrheadr Forest

After a hearty meal, the riders were greeted to a damp start for the night stage at Cwmrheader.

A prologue starting ramp awaited riders, this gave them a brief assisted start, prior to the double track forest ascent, of approx 5km, followed by singletrack loose broken slick slate descent. 1st RAF rider away was Dan in 20th position and he powered his way to the top of the climb catching several of the 10 second riders ahead of him. 11 places further behind him was Sam, a great initial seeding run ensured he started well up the order, a further 10 places behind was Rob followed shortly by Gav.

At just over the half way point of the stage, Dan appeared within a group of riders obviously desperate to pass these riders before the next piece of singletrack. Unfortunately for Dan the rider in front of him did not let him pass, eager to pass, Dan took a few risks and pushed past on the outside of the singletrack shortly after this manoeuvre, Dan exited over his handlebars! Determined not to let the rider repass, Dan remounted his bike and just kept ahead of said rider.

Sam had a relatively clear run and after being caught by a few riders on the climb he retook these riders and others on the descent. With a low cloud at the top of the stage Rob was having difficulty with his glasses fogging and decided to ease off on the downhill and maintained his place. Gav powered past 2 riders on the climb and fought past another 2 on the way down but was unfortunately bolt for the lower half of the run otherwise spoiling another good run.

17 Aug 2008

Day 1 Builth Wells to Cilycwm

After a quick team photo prior to the start all 4 riders started off on the 70km linking stage from Builth Wells to Cilycwm.

An easy road ride, broken up with tricky singletrack soon saw RAF riders entering the Crychan Forest Complex. A change to previous events, the organisers added a short timed stage within this linking stage to determine the starting order for tonights special stage at Cymrhaer Forest complex. Early issues saw Dan Lewis (RAF Marham) sustain a puncture after the first singletrack section. Sam Bennett (DCAE Cosford) lost his back brake when the pads disintegrated. Gav brown (DCAE Cosford) took a tumble over the bars during this tricky stage!
Rob Calverley (RAF Leeming) wasn’t getting away with the dramas as he was seen to be riding sideways and was heard to be shouting out “ I need to change my tyres!”
Lunch stop was at the Sugar Loaf picnic area and this saw Dan regain his normal position at the head of the RAF field. After a quick refuel, the riders proceeded to the Esgair Dafydd Forest and a 3 mile climb. Best part of the day then followed with some tricky descents and a river crossing before they all headed to the campsite.

Cilycwm was a hive of activity and “jacko” Jackson (RAF Coningsby) was soon put to work bike fettling. The ACU riders have pitched camp adjacent to the RAF camp and are utilising the RAF service.
Quote of the day came from Sam Bennett whilst riding with Rob, “Why are thos guys over there making such a meal of the trail ahead?” prior to Sam taking a tumble over the handlebars and finding out why they were making a meal of it!

The rain has now started to fall again and the prediceted down pour has arrived early!

The Chinese themed dinner awaits the riders and support crew at 1830, perfect fuel for the night special stage at 2200 hours. The starting order has not been publicised, hopefully we will be able to update you later as to their success.


And they are off

As the gray clouds came overhead all four solo riders set off on the first day of Trans Wales 2008. At nine am this morning at a damp builth wells camp site the race officially started. The boys spirits were high, all looking forward to the week ahead. More updates later today!

It Has Stopped Raining

First morning 'Lewis' with trumpet in hand! All ready & waiting to go. Weather dry with blue sky drifting over. Missing sides to popup have now arriived!

16 Aug 2008

Settling Pre Race Nerves

It's shandy.... Honest.

What, you can't deny us some pre-race morale. Have you seen the weather?

I am a Biff!

We have arrived at a rainy Builth Wells and whilst I have brought everything including the kitchen sink, I have forgotten the sides to the pop-up tent. I think that I had better go home now!

15 Aug 2008

Why Am I Doing This?

I have been looking forward to this, the highlight of my cycling year for around 10 months now and whilst most of my feelings have been positive, I am now suffering with feelings of trepidation. So to put myself at ease and to give something to reflect upon at the end of it all, I though I would ask myself some questions.

1, What have I set myself up for?

2, Can I actually complete it?

3, Why am I doing it?

Question 1. This, I believe will be the hardest thing I have ever done. You see, it is not just about the event but the hours of training that I have put in, the money I have spent on kit and setting myself for a public fall by posting here!

Question 2. Several very special people have invested a lot of their own time in getting me ready for this… you guys know who you are. With this in mind, I cannot fail. I am not looking to win any prizes, but I did set out to complete all the linking and special stages to the best of my ability. So, I have trained (but probably could have done more). I have all the gear and I have support that the pros would be glad of. So yes, I am going to complete it.

Question 3. Because it is hard and I think it will make me a better person. I will be fitter, more mentally strong and it will change my perception of life’s little challenges. I suppose also, it puts me in the position where I can say ‘I have completed one of the toughest challenges in UK mountain biking’.

So, sat here typing this I do not entirely know what to expect but that just adds to the spice. This time on Sunday night, I will racing around a Welsh forest with my lights cutting a white line into the singletrack accompanied by the heavy breathing, pounding heart and sweat pouring off my face. That will be the ‘this is why I am doing it’ start to the week I need.

Raring to go

The boys are ready and resting, the packing is done and all the spares have been accumulated.

It's just a case of getting to Builth Wells, setting up camp, registering and ride a bike for 7 days.

12 Aug 2008

Back again!

It's that time of year again and the awesome mountain bike adventure and seven day stage race that is TransWales, starts this weekend.

RAFCC will put it's finest riders into this competition, again with the will to win and the desire to out perform all other competitors.

It's TW'08.