EXERCISE CYCLE HARD
This is a report from Captain Mark Foster who took part in one of the toughest challenges of Welsh Guards 100 – a four-day cycling marathon from Conwy to Brecon– a distance of 269 miles over some extremely hilly terrain and through dreadful weather. It took place from 6th to 9th July, when one might have reasonably expected the weather to be a lot better than it was.
Day 1 – Conwy to Portmadog, 74 miles. The team started out at Conwy Castle and were immediately hit by a torrential downpour within the first few miles which lasted the full day. There were a total of five punctures within the first ten miles which dramatically slowed the pace, leaving the group feeling deflated about the task ahead – pun absolutely intended! The team made the most of a bad first day and really got stuck in to the steep hills through the Snowdonia range and enjoyed some fast but very cold and wet downhill sections with two riders wearing through a full set of brake pads. The Recruiting team and WO1 Martin Topps were invaluable throughout the day providing shelter from the rain at our stops and hot-brews-a-plenty!
Day 2 – Portmadog to Aberystwyth, 61 miles. Having dried out our kit and picked up our bottom lips overnight, the team got straight into some fast paced riding and tore through the mileage. Some bikes started to develop a few mechanical issues which were rectified, but it left Capt Mark Foster, Gdsm Steven Rowe and Gdsm Dan Hawkridge to catch up to the remainder – it was a perfect opportunity to practice some race-style drafting, rotating the lead rider to share the effort battling the seemingly omni-directional headwind! After successfully completing the first day two riders, LCpl Liam Jordan and Gdsm Rowe tried their chances at remaining clipped in to their pedals for as long as possible at traffic lights, both ending embarrassingly in a tangled heap on the floor. The weather was delightful during the ride and all was going well until the group hit a road block which diverted us around our final destination and up and over a very tasty hill and down in to Aberystwyth centre. Sore spots and pain had now started to emerge and most of the team had several ice pack sessions before heading out for a well earned pub dinner.
Day 3 – Aberystwyth to Newport Pembs, 54 Miles. Day three got off to a very steep start out of the town centre and the route continued in the same vein for the remainder. Steep hills and the accumulated mileage started to take its toll on the riders’ joints and muscles and liberal amounts of deep heat spray and gel were used, leaving an almost rugby team changing room smell in the wake of the riders – chief culprit being WO2 Steven Parry who was firmly cemented on the ‘pain train’ and refusing to get off! The team battled over the numerous hills and made it in to the Golden Lion Pub in Newport. An amazing full spread of drinks, stacked burgers and an exceptional Thai green curry was laid on by Mrs Emlyn-Williams and the team didn’t hold back getting the calories inside ready for a good night’s recovery and the following day’s ride.
Day 4 – Haverford West to Brecon, 80 miles. Maj Karl Dawson joined the team for the final day after losing at the ‘sleep game’ to what he described as “three dinosaurs” in his room. Additionally, we had 4 riders from Enterprise Cars join us for the final day. The increased numbers soon settled in to three distinct groups: ‘The Crèche’ whose only aim was to “melt the Company Commander”; ‘The middle bunch’ who spent the whole ride chatting; and the ‘old blokes’ who took up a steady and responsible position at the rear of the 1WG extended peloton. Day 4 was regarded as the best day, despite being the longest in length. The weather was exceptional which led to some impressive lycra tan lines and despite his best effort, Gdsm Simon Hathaway couldn’t manage to melt Maj Dawson. Top speed of the day, and whole ride, was claimed by WO1 Al Stephens clocking a mighty 51 mph – real road cycling is not for the feint hearted! The group arrived in to Brecon town centre to a rapturous applause and music provided by …………………… Amongst the crowd was the Mayor of Brecon mr ……., local Army Cadets from the …. Detachments and …anyone else……. After a few photo opportunities the team and wider WG100 members headed in to a very welcoming Wellington hotel for some well earned food and drink.
A huge thanks go out to all who helped in the planning, facilitation and delivery of such an excellent event, most notably Sgt Rob Wadsworth who put the long hours of planning into action. The exercise was a great success, engaging with associations, ex Guardsmen and local communities, Army Cadets and friends of the Welsh Guards up and down Wales. The physical activity and achievement of completing 5 equivalent marathons on a bike has ignited a spark inside some riders and they are now committed to continuing with training and even road cycle racing within the Army.
Major Karl Dawson, Officer Commanding Headquarter Company, had this to say at the end of the event: