This is the fifth year that I have joined the Balti Bike Club of Stafford's annual ride to the Welsh coast. Their main rule is that it must be at least 100 miles long passing through Snowdonia. This year it was to be 116 miles to Criccieth and we duly undertook the ride on Saturday.
Our meeting point was at Stafford Castle for a 6am start. Nine bleary eyed cyclists arrived with Andy heading the back up vehicles. He soon wakened us up with his bbc style interviews on his camcorder so our thoughts are recorded for posterity. I hope that I did not make a mug of myself!
Snowdonia beckoned. It was a 40 mile warm up over beautiful Staffordshire countryside to reach the Welsh border where the hills start.
The sun rose crystal clear in the sky and as we left Wem, it started getting hot. I had some factor 30 German suncream from a previous ride and on one occasion I plastered so much on my nose that I was asked by another rider if I had taken tips from Shane Warne. Well no, but my suncream became very popular with some of the others. At Llangollen, I was ringing wet with perspiration and had drunk 2 litres of milk (best drink for these conditions) as well as lots of water.
At Carrog while the others were enjoying lunch beside the River Dee, I cycled up to have a quick look at an old steam engine.
Lots of people have a nostalgic fascination with steam trains including me and I do not know why. Cycling is more fun though and I was relishing moving on.
We left Carrog for Corwen and Bala where by now we were in Snowdonia. The peaks were stunning in the glorious sunshine. How lucky we were with the weather. A wind blew up to cool us off. We had all spread out a bit because of the terrain.
Our fabulous back up crew kept us replenished with home made cakes and water. They always give magnificent support. There was the most enormous downhill through Ffestiniog. It would have been a killer if we had been cycling in the opposite direction. Becky and I whooped with joy as we passed 100 miles then I realised she might have been filming me.
The twist in the tale was at Maentwrog where with just 10 miles to go there was a 1:6 hill that did its best to break us. After that it was an easy ride into Criccieth where we had that mixture of elation and weariness that goes with a good challenge. A hot shower, dinner of roast lamb and a pint of cider soon replinished me.
Balti Bike Club's website can be found here and you can follow me on twitter.