Isla had planned the route, so we might have known there’d be a few offroad sections, and she’d done us proud, with a nice little over-the-top detour to avoid the main road into Mallwyd and warm our legs up for the long slog up Bwlch-y-Groes.
And then the pass itself, brutal and glorious. We each took it at our own pace, Mike sprinting off in the big ring; the rest of us happy to trundle up in the lowest gears our bicycles would permit us, admiring the vast corrugated cliffs off to our right, and the smooth, sunny tarmac stretching relentlessly upwards ahead of us.
After a few minutes at the top, passing round the hipflask again and gazing north at the giants of Snowdonia and the clear, bright sky behind them, we zipped up our jerseys and turned east, anticipating a fast descent, and then an effortless spin along the southern shore of Lake Vyrnwy to the café stop.
As it turned out, this was the most challenging section of the ride. Much of the Vyrnwy road had been in shadow all day, and was still covered in lethal sheets of ice. We braked (and occasionally walked) cautiously down the descent, then spun gingerly around the lake, anxiously scanning the road surface as we went, trying to tell the difference between tarmac, water, slush and ice.
One after another of us ended up sprawled on the road, doing considerable damage to clothing, skin, derailleur hangers and dignity, and after restorative pots of tea and plates of beans in the Artisan Café, we all agreed to reroute the remainder of the ride onto A roads, knowing that once night fell we’d stand no chance of avoiding the ice on the tiny lanes, and suspecting that the offroad route Isla had planned between Llangadfan and Cefn Coch would end up claiming at least one of our collarbones.
So we formed ourselves into a reluctant chaingang and raced back through the freezing fog, arriving home with all our limbs intact, and tucking into huge plates of curry as we agreed that we’d just have to go back and ride the full route some other time – perhaps when the mercury was a little above zero.
Today’s distance: 133.58km
Km completed: 318.98
Km to go: 181.02
Today’s lesson: Discretion is the better part of valour.
Three more days to go. Will Emily complete the Festive 500? Will she overdo it completely? Stay tuned!