Port Talbot Wheelers 2-up '25' 2011

This event is the usual curtain raiser for my racing season, and it’s also the first 2-up event that I ride each year and as such gives an indication of how Team Grumpy‘s form is at this early stage in the season.  Usually, we also take advantage of the journey over to Wales to visit interesting archaeological sites, previous visits having included the Avebury stone circle, the Uffington White Horse and Wayland’s Smithy.  This year was slightly different: we stayed in Bath for a couple of nights en route to Wales.

I’d never visited Bath before – we enjoyed traipsing about seeing the Royal Crescent and visiting sites such as the Assembly Rooms, the Roman Baths, and the Herschel Museum.  Bath appears to be astonishingly well endowed with restaurants, and we visited a fish restaurant (One Fish Two Fish) and a Moroccan restaurant (Cafe Du Globe), both of which were excellent.

On to Wales for the main event, and the signs were ominous.  Gerry’s training programme had recently gone slightly off the rails, while as observed over at the Team Grumpy blog, I had suffered an extraordinarily painful back injury three weeks before the event which not only prevented training but threw my participation in the event into question.  To add an interesting frisson of excitement, it transpired that the Team Grumpy entry had been lost in the post, and only a phone call of enquiry from Gerry earned us a start in this event.Absorbing medical advice, I did in fact manage to recover in time turn up in South Wales in a relatively pain-free condition.  All that remained was to see how we’d perform on the day.

In time-honoured fashion, we conducted our usual preparation: consumption of sufficient energy drink. Thus fortified (and indeed entertained by 80s pop music courtesy of Sky TV), I retired to dream soothing (and deluded) dreams of time trial success.

The morning of the event dawned rather cloudy and cool – but not as cold as the sub-zero conditions faced by riders in the 2010 edition of this 2-up.  We set up the bikes with clear apprehension: what would the consequences of our combined lack of training and form be?  And would my back hold out for the whole 25 miles?  More to the point, what was the road damage on the second half of the course to which riders’ attention was drawn on signing on?  And, indeed, how significant was the presence of traffic lights on the same section (to which the instruction that riders must ‘obey the highway code’ was appended?

In an effort to answer these uncertainties, we mounted the bikes and nipped out for a brief warmup. It was quickly apparent that (a) the road was in a shocking state, and (b) the traffic lights were at the top of a climb and looked like they could present real problems if at red.

With reconnaissance over, and all too soon, we were lined up and ready to go.  We launched ourselves onto the course (see map below), with only a brief backward glance from Gerry.  The opening dual carriageway stretch proved to be very fast, with a gentle tailwind.  We were pleased that we were able to fall back into 2-up mode straight away.  After the first turn, the going got a little harder, as the head wind was nagging.  We were gratified to see our “Manager” on a bridge apparently videoing proceedings as we made their way past the start area (see video below).  Once off the dual carriageway, the usually efficient Team Grumpy changeovers became rather ragged as the pitted and potholed road surface made it difficult to judge whether a rider was pulling out to let his team mate through or merely to avoid crashing through a pothole.


 A massive sprint pulled us into the traffic lights on amber, but at the cost of a bit of an oxygen debt: this rendered the approach to the turn somewhat arduous.  Returning to the traffic lights, delays were once again avoided.  This was just as well, as by this time we were hanging on for grim death, looking for the finish line, which seemed to take an eternity to arrive.  Eventually it did, at 1:04:36.

This wasn’t an excellent result (though not as bad as it sounds: the course is rather hard at times), but enough to take a composite team prize.  More to the point, at least Team Grumpy proved their ability to ride well as a team, even after a lengthy winter lay-off.

Results are here.