Machynlleth – Glasbury – MTB

Rain and Sleepmonsters

We had planned to sleep at Machynlleth Transition but having the substantial sleep during the trek we pressed on. Transition itself was a matter of concentrating on getting food and some change of clothing. It was here we were asked to pitch the tent and get into it and stay there for at least 10 minutes.  While other teams used this for a power nap we finished refuelling and studied the maps for the next stage. We should have been better organised and with some sleep recently, timing probably should have been better, but our total time in transition was an hour and a half.

We were made to pitch the tents just to show we could.
We were made to pitch the tents just to show we could.

This, Stage 6, was a monster bike section, the long course options were really out of the question. The Nant Y Arain single track trail was a long way away and the trail itself looked long and complicated and the decision was taken to head straight for the next special stage at Devil’s Bridge, the waterfall run. Our objective was the Elan Valley visitor centre for a planned stop and then on to the next transition at Glasbury some 70 odd miles away.

Leaving Machynlleth the navigating was fairly straightforward until we hit the forest whereupon you see the limitations of 1:50,000 maps and forest trails. Even the main gradients within the Forest are just guesses on the map and it’s more of directional indication rather than the exact representation of what’s on the ground. Clearly we were getting stressed here again and confidence was lacking in the navigation. We made a couple of major errors and I split the team up inadvertently by carrying on ahead at some point to the top of the hill. I paid for it later by having to come back down and pick up the guys and then carry on back up. At that point we carried on far too far past the western edge of the  forest and ended up going back in the wrong direction towards Machynlleth. The weather here was just solid rain and wind. Eventually we recovered the situation and piled on back down the hill to what then became quite technical section of track itself quite enjoyable even crossing a major river at Afon Hengwm before climbing back up on track and byway along the edge one of the many (Nant-y-moch) reservoirs.

Steve during the long nighttime MTB
Steve during the long nighttime MTB
Sleepmonsters come out to play
Sleepmonsters come out to play

It was here I experienced my most vivid sleep monster, which was déjà vu. It is difficult to describe how real this felt. I was utterly convinced that we done a section of track before, even the crossing of the river on the rusty old bridge that we did. It was really weird the fact that I knew what we were doing but couldn’t tell you the outcome, the fact that I thought we’d been here before. Of course logically that was impossible. But the feeling of déjà vu was a real and as vivid as I have ever experienced in my life. I just had to plough on with a puzzle in my head nagging me. It was a recurring theme from here on until the end in Cardiff, every time I got close to exhaustion again the déjà vu would return and I was absolutely certain that whatever I was doing at the time we’d done it all before on some previous occasion.

Technicalities of the track eased somewhat as did the navigation the undulating hills and steep rises in gradient did not however. We were all fairly tired by the time we got to Devil’s Bridge itself. The cafe was closed or rather closing but we managed to get a cup of tea and a piece of cake at that point but no hot food. Dripping copious amounts of water all over everything, the weather was utterly atrocious and had been all day, we dried maps out on top of the coffee machine in the cafe, the staff were helpful and sympathetic but oddly silent.

Once dried out a bit, it stopped raining and we got on with the special stage which was to pick up the control within the Devils Bridge Waterfall Park. We all paid our £2 to get through the turnstiles and followed the path all the way down to the river, the spectacular waterfalls coming into view at every turn.

The control was on a picturesque bridge crossing the river at the bottom of the steep valley. We then we climbed all the way back up the steps, the blister on my foot now giving me considerable pain, to our bikes.

Continuing on the road from here, our objective was the Elan Valley visitor centre where the promise of hot food and possibly another sleep was enough motivation to keep us going. It was late afternoon – early evening and indeed the setting sun and the views along the valley were outstandingly beautiful and helped considerably to keep us all going

Somewhere along the valley a car past us with jumpy James hanging out of a window with a camera stuck to his face, again we hammed it up for effect. A bit of light relief given the considerable effort we were having to put into cycling.

By the time we reached the visitor centre it was pitch dark and we been cycling along narrow lanes and tracks some considerable time the route never seeming to end.