Well, Saturday 13th July saw another renewal of the Dawn ’til Dusk ride, this year not as a charitable event but just for the fun of it!
10 riders were scheduled to tackle the new route, swerving Widnes / Runcorn / Liverpool in favour of the addition of The Great Orme (not you Al ! ) – 8 Wheelers and 2 guests from the Liverpool Century. So it was a surprise to see 13 riders roll up at Twelve50 Towers at 3.30am – Danny Emmett, James Male and new 2nd claimer Paul Heywood, the intention being to ride the opening 83 mile leg to breakfast and then a dash home for a ‘nippy’ 140+ miles morning ride. As always we had the benefit of motor support from the unflappable Ciaran Pickering in the mean Golden Machine.
Leg 1 – Frodsham to Llanwrst
The group rolled out on schedule at 3.45am and almost immediately the drizzle began. This drizzle would bug us off and on until late afternoon. On leg one which took us up the Welsh coast and cutting in to St Asaph the wind blew in our faces, but we made good progress through the leafy Clwyd lanes before cutting North to the coast at Colwyn Bay before tackling the Great Orme with powerhouse Andy Brookfield doing an enormous amount of work on the front. As we arrived at Rhos On Sea kind hearted Dianne Turner offered her healing hands to the knees of a sheepish looking Michael Boyes.
A proper hoolie was blowing at the North Wales coast and the group splintered as we ascended the rock, conditions were tricky and this was made trickier by the road being littered with debris blown of the mountainside or kicked off by the goats and seagulls! It was here that it was apparent that one of our number was struggling with an injury and the group split in two in order to hit our Brekky deadline with the wonderful Lyndsey and the team at La Barrica in Llanwrst.
Unfortunately, due to a puncture in group 1 at Trefriw the 2 groups merged just as the rain started again and we rolled in pretty much as one group for well earned Welsh Breakfasts. It was here that Ged Barrett took the hard decision to bail and save it for another day due to a knee injury, Ciaran coming to the rescue and delivering Ged back to the station at Llandudno Junction. Danny and James returned home as planned but Paul Heywood was enjoying the craic so much that he decided to ride the full event. So 13 became 10.
Leg 2 – Llanwrst to Barmouth
Bang on schedule the group left La Barrica and prepared for what was expected to be the biggest challenge of the day. After passing through Betwys Y Coed and a brief spell on the A5 we cut West to Penmachno and the ‘Cwn Penmachno’ climb. The scenery around Penmachno was really pretty and traffic sparse making for really pleasureable riding, until, that is the climb itself. At this point one of our Centurian guests Michael Boyes announced that he was not feeling tip top (he used another expression!) but we rolled on and the group splintered as we all tackled the big climb of the day. Sadly the climb was not quite as picturesque as last year as a lot of logging had taken place (noted in various areas around the route! Hmmm). The hill was conquered by all and after a display of obscure stretches by Kevin Sales we headed West towards the coast.
This stretch of the ride is absolutely spectacular, a really fast descent on lovely quiet roads until we hit some holiday traffic at the coast. At Harlech we sent the ladies on to alert our hosts at the lunch stop whilst Nathan Morgan-Astle self indulged in a one man café stop at Harlech Garage! (Cheeky). A super fast final stretch to Norbar saw us arrive just ahead of schedule (which as you know makes me very happy!). Norbar again did a great job, supplying great food very quickly, jugs of iced water and after a wonderful lunch and another display of quad stretches from Kev and various applications of essential oils from the ladies leaving the diners blushing we rolled out towards Bala. Unfortunately 2 more riders, Michael and Nathan were suffering with injury but plugged on.
Leg 3 – Barmouth to Bala
We headed out of Barmouth (rammed!) still under heavy skies and headed inland. Having endured a headwind for much of the first leg westward, we expected a tailwind at this point but it wasn’t to be. The steady climb into Snowdonia was a real slog with big sections of road being covered in slushy loose chippings followed by sections of still sticky tar. Sadly Michael was still feeling very dodgy and at our mid leg water stop he elected to sit out the last 27 miles to Llangollen in Ciaran’s car. A hard decision but one that maybe paid off. The section from the start of Bala Lake to Corwen is ‘Lumpy As’ and it was here that Nathan really started to suffer. This was made worse by the heavens opening again on the approach to Llangollen (although by the time we arrived it was sunny!).
When we arrived at Cottage Tea Rooms (looked after well as always) the group was looking distinctly tired and there was an impromptu strategy meeting. The decision was made to head east on the final leg rather than tackle the Horseshoe Pass (which I had quite gratuitously added to the route in 2018) and Di celebrated with a G&T. Before we set off Michael having appreciated his rest decided to ride on while sadly Nathan decided it was best to throw in the towel and rest the knee (which was looking a funny colour – perhaps due to something Di had been rubbing on it?). So 9 became 10 became 9!
Leg 4 – Llangollen to Frodsham
The group left early the revellers of Llangollen and now finally the sun shone and this was reflected in our riding. The pace picked up, and up, and up!!!! Finally the wind was in our favour and we really flew through the sunny Welsh lanes to Holt for a final drink stop and photo (Cleo’s very kindly offering the use of their lavvies).
It was incredible in the final miles with over 200 miles in the legs how you can ride so strongly. It’s only partly in the legs, it’s more in the head and positive vibes flowed through the peloton. At 8.35 a full hour ahead of schedule we rolled into Frodsham, greeted by Danny Emmett as we turned into the High Street and as bemused locals looked on we shook hands, hugged each other as we realised we would soon be enjoying a wash, a gin or a beer.
As always it was a massive pleasure to share this special day with such great people. There was some suffering out there and we supported each other with humour and essential oils of course!
Again a massive thank you to Ciaran Pickering for great service and assistance. It would not be so pleasurable without you. And so the roll of honour for 2019’s D2D: Dianne Turner, Michael Boyes, Stephen Wright, Christopher Mark Dixon, Ged Barrett, Kevin Sales, Nathan Morgan-Astle, Brigid Wilde, Andy Brookfield (Machine), Paul Heywood, Danny Emmett, James Male. Whether you rode some of it or all of it – Thanks for some special memories.
Marco (FW International Correspondent and occasional ride leader!)