Band of Climbers ambassador; Ed Laverack had designed the route for us. Ed loves hills, and he'd planned one hell of a route over the Black Mountains. Starting from the excellent Coal Town Coffee in Ammanford, the route ahead was 100km, with almost 2900m of elevation. This was to be the 2nd toughest ride on our UK Tour this summer.
Unfortunately, minutes before the ride began, bad luck arrived on Ed's shoulders. First up a puncture. Easy enough to fix usually but getting his tyre back on the rim took a team of 4, supported by a peloton of tyre levers. The tyre in question being as stubborn as the hills were tough.
Puncture eventually repaired, the group set off, with the climb of Heol-y-Mynydd hitting us after just 2km of warm up on flat roads out of town. Immediately the road ramped up to over 10%. The climb itself was 1.6km at almost 10%. That's where the 2nd dose of bad luck landed on Ed Laverack. His jockey wheel jammed, and gave up, meaning he simply couldn't ride. It sounded like a valid excuse to miss a day of suffering, so off home he went. He did however make a video on his YouTube Channel, which you can WATCH HERE.
After the climb of Heol-y-Mynydd, a second, short, steep climb awaited. 1.3km at over 9%, two steep climbs back to back started to create splits in the groups as the riders tried to find their own rhythm, before the first of the longer climbs arrived, taking us up over stunning moorland as we headed to the Black Mountains.
At this point, the skies began darkening and the light drizzle started. What lay ahead was the high point of the ride, the climb to the summit of Black Mountain. We would ride the mountain from the western point, the STRAVA SEGMENT showing as almost 5km at over 5%, with spikes of 15% in places. As we climbed higher, the drizzle turned to rain, and as we turned onto the main road to the summit of the climb, the headwind began. The final 1km of the ascent being ridden in dark, cold and wet conditions.
We had planned to run our mobile feed station by OTE SPORTSat the summit of the climb, with stunning views around us in the July sunshine. Unfortunately, the Welsh weather gods had other ideas. Standing on the summit of the mountain in the rain and wind was not the best idea, so we pressed on over the summit, and rode down the mountain to slightly warmer, milder conditions for an OTE SPORTS Feed Station in Brynamman.
After a couple of Caffeine gels and Anytime Bars, the group pushed on. Back together again after a few splits on the climb and descent of Black Mountain, we headed back towards Ammanford. With 45km still to ride and 6 more climbs to come, we needed the fuel.
The final 2 climbs of the day were arguably the toughest. Having already ridden the Northern sides of Heol-y-Mynydd, and Heol Glyn Dyfal back to back, it was time to ride the Southern Sides, with 25% switchbacks coming late into the ride, with legs tiring and lungs empty. One or two riders faced cramp and had to dismount, with the others grinding their way over the summits, before a fast descent back to Coal Town for Coffee at the finish.