I did the latter half of the Saturday on the Mille Cymru with Toby and Paul
Toby and Paul always ride together and make a great team.
Toby was the stronger of the two that day but you could see that without Paul’s inane banter he might well get bored or give up or otherwise have a bad time. As it was, they were both happy.
The first thing that happened was as we were tearing up the A road out of St Davids. I was behind Toby as I was intending to take a turn on the front but Paul said “hey Jamie, you have a problem. Your lockring is loose”. I stopped and saw that in fact the lock ring wasn’t loose but it looked like it was. The bearings in Ambrosio Zenith Hubs have almost no wet weather protection and we’d all got very wet earlier in the day. The hub had obviously sucked in enough mud and dirt to damage the inner race in the freehub. This caused a lot of lateral play in the freehub. This would explain why my gears weren’t working anywhere near as well as earlier in the day. But I’d had this happen before and done hundreds of km on a similarly damaged freehub. I got back on and accelerated to 45kph. Paui and Toby eased up as I caught them.
Paul and Toby now were discussing if Toby should go ahead. “If I got there ten minutes ahead and ordered it, then it would be ready when you got there”, asserted Toby. “Yeah but if I was more than ten minutes it would be cold”, countered Paul. This was an important part of their randonneuring technique, stopping for takeaways.
When we got to Fishguard there was a brief hunt for a takeaway. I was slightly dubious about getting a takeway to eat outside as it was raining. But I need not worry as the shop doorway of a Bettabuy was dry and out of the wind. Paul and Toby were a bit dubious about my mushroom fried rice. “You need chemicals”, said Toby. “See this?”, he indicated to a battered chicken nugget item. “This is stuff full of every chemical possible. Eat this and you’ll be flyin'”
The stop for a chinese took 20 minutes. Normally I would avoid stopping for that long during an audax but sticking with Paul and Toby seemed like a good idea, hot food seemed like a good idea and on reflection 20 minutes is no big deal on a 300km stage.
After that it was only 20km or so to the official control. We were going to “bounce” (get through as quick as possible) the control. The control was in a pub were there was a lot of blokes singing loudly in Welsh. The main thing they sang when I was there was a song where each person took it in turns to make up a verse and the chorus seemed to mostly be the words “Bing Bong”.
Despite being in “no messing around” mode there was time to ram a piece of cake in my face and grab a couple of sandwiches for the saddlebag from the pile provided for the event.
It was dry as we left the pub but as we hit the big climb of the day it started to rain. Our clothes were already wet. None of us had put our coats on as it was too hot with coats. As it got dark, a long steady climb started. Toby set a slow, slow pace but it was just right.
After a while I said to Paul that maybe it was time for a food stop, maybe under a tree out of the rain. “Nah, trees are no good. You get wetter under a tree. All the rain just drips through”. Ten minutes later we got to a bit of road that was dry on the right hand side. “It’s in the lee of the trees” I said. “Hey Tobes, it’s dry here! Let’s stop!” shouted Paul.
We ate a few things and then cracked on. The climb developed into a singletrack road pitted with potholes across a moor. It was raining and getting a little colder but I was starting to get the sleepies. I asked Paul what they talked about to stay awake. “We like to bitch and moan about people” he said. He gave a couple of examples and then Toby did too. I managed to chip in but I’m afraid that this kind of repartee doesn’t sit well with me.
The road got worse and then we reached the top. The descent was a bit hairy as the road surface was poor and whilst not super steep we did easily pick up speed. And of course it was very wet, although thankfully not raining so much.
Half way down I was behind Paul and Toby but I had to stop. All through the ride I’d been worried about my front wheel. It seemed that when it got hot it punctured itself. Maybe there was a sharp spot on the rim. This dicey descent meant a lot of front braking so I stopped to let the wheel cool.
Paul and Toby had gone on but Toby’s pulling on the front had put me in the right sort of mood for a good fast pace. I caught them again at the junction of the A483 and A470 near Llandovery. As we turned onto the flat A road to Llandovery I got on Toby’s wheel and he accelerated to 40kph. This was fun. But not for Paul. “Hey Tobes you might as well go” he said. I elected to stick with Paul. Unfortunately Paul wasn’t feeling sociable. “I just want to listen to me tunes” he grunted when I tried to strike up a conversation.
I lost him in Llandovery when I stopped to eat a pasty. I then had a horrible time getting back to the sleep stop at Llanwrtyd Wells. I still had plenty in my legs but my head wanted to sleep there and then. Eventually I managed to put enough effort in to stay awake and got to the hall at 1:50am
The next morning I saw Toby and Paul sitting at a table. “You look happy” I remarked. “Yes!” exclaimed Paul. “This is how we do it! It’s a laff riding. Happy smiling faces us. If we see someone else having a bad time it just cracks us up. During LEL we saw a bird wearing a bin liner, off her bike, making a mobile call by the road. We laffed so hard we couldn’t pedal up the hill”
“Yeah”, said Toby, “but it turned out she was the european cross country mountain bike champ and she finished a day before us and then went and did a 24 hour event the day after”
Next time I saw them to talk to properly was right at the end. They’d had a great time. As you might imagine….