Posted by: audaxing | May 23, 2011

Irish Mail 400km ride

My final qualifying ride for PBP was the “Irish Mail” 400km at the weekend. The reason it is named the Irish Mail is after the A5 road that it uses on the return. The A5 was built in the 18th century to carry mail by horse carriage to the port at Holyhead for delivery to Ireland. The A5 is a beautiful road to ride

The event for me began with a a stay in the hall at Upton Magma. As it was May and I was indoors I assumed that a sleeping bag liner would be fine to keep me cosy. But that night the sky was clear near Shrewsbury, there was a frost. I didn’t get the best nights sleep, the cold kept waking me up. Never mind..
In the morning we had a good breakfast

In the hall at Upton Magma, 5:30am

In the hall at Upton Magma, 5:30am

The upside to a cold clear night was a loverly clear morning for the first part of the route, a fast trip to Lake Vyrnwy. This time I was determined to stick with the fast group for as long as possible. On the flat it’s pretty easy, just hang on the back. I even did a 5 minute turn on the front. I got 50km with them until a bit of my mudguard fell off

Following the fast bunch to Lake Vyrnwy

Following the fast bunch to Lake Vyrnwy, Martin in yellow

I picked up the mudguard piece and hooked it on top of the saddlebag. The piece would fall off the saddlebag again later and this time it’s bid for freedom would succeed. In the meantime I did the last few km to the control near the lake on my own, it was a loverly morning

The turn off to Lake Vyrnwy

The turn off to Lake Vyrnwy under blue skys

I passed quickly through the control and then it was onto a difficult section. First we climbed up to the highest surfaced road in Wales on the Blwch y Groes.

Threatening view from Bwlch y Groes

Threatening view from Bwlch y Groes

Then there was a manic descent followed by more climbing on a traverse of the mountain road to Trawsfynydd. This was a loverly road, with gates across it to keep in the sheep.

The next stop off was the mountain bike centre at Coed y Brenin. Had a nice cup of coffee there. The MTB shop downstairs were stamping cards for the event and gave us all a freebie Torq bar. Audax riders are easily pleased…

Next the route went up to the top of Pen-y-Pass above Llanberis. We got our cards stamped at the YHA there as the weather got worse. The descent down to Llanberis was, I believe, the worst I’ve ever experienced for fierce headwind and heavy rain. We arrived at the marvellous “Pete’s Eats” in Llanberis very much colder and wetter

Pete's Eats, Llanberis

Pete's Eats, Llanberis

After eating a lot at Pete’s Eats we set off again into rain the size of eggs for Holyhead. Fortunately, as we got onto Anglesea the rain eased off and stopped. There was a fierce tailwind. Tailwind is good, but it’s a out – and – back route, with Holyhead as the turn around point.

After turning round at Holyhead then the most difficult part of the entire ride occurred, a fight against gale force winds back to mainland Wales.

The next control was at a services in Bangor. My Achilles tendon was playing up, it was starting to get dimsy
and there was still plenty of headwind left to fight. I left the control with another guy and we steamed up the A5.

Near the RAF mountain rescue office there were tremendous views of mist shrouded mountains in the evening light. No pictures I’m afraid. I was too busy controlling my bike against more gale force winds. Once the road dropped down a bit the wind wasn’t so bad. As we went past a big lake there was a wonderful tailwind, the road was flat and I was doing 40kph with no effort for a little while.

The evening was drawing on and I noticed that my loverly german made B&M and Schmidt lighting system wasn’t working at all. I think the rain had been a bit much for it. I descended at high speed to Capel Curig. I was cold and my lights needed sorting out so I stopped at the first sign of civilisation, the Bryn Tyrch Inn. As I was stopped at a warm, inviting Hotel/pub/restaurant it was a no brainer to order a pot of coffee and have a five minute breather. Another rider, Scott, also stopped there. After getting my spare battery powered Dinotte and an extra base layer out of the bag I was off again.

The weather didn’t improve on the way to the next control point in a village hall on the A5. I got to the warm, well organised night control about 1am, ate some pasta, put on some clean dry socks and carried on. To be honest, this process took the best part of an hour! Thankfully the rain had now stopped. The remainder of the ride was fairly incident free. The batteries on my light just about ran out but I got the generator front light going again. I missed a turn 10km from the end but used the GPS on my phone to get back on the right road.

I was too tired to be pleased as I rolled into the finish but after a cup of tea I happily admitted to myself that I now had an SR series and so qualified to go to Paris


  1. […] met Scott at The Bryntyrchinn Hotel in Capel Curig on the Irish Mail 400km event. I had stopped because my main light had failed and I was feeling a little bit cold from the […]

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