Sunday was always going to be the tough day. Our only full day in the saddle, 53 miles and 2,000 metres of climbing would ensure a good appetite for dinner and a good nights sleep that evening.
In reality it was a day of two halfs. We completed most of the climbing in the morning, mainly on small lanes. The afternoon was primarily offroad and much more challenging.
After a great nights sleep, some rank porridge, and the luxury of a warm shower, Jason and I got to work on the Shropshire hills early. It was cold - maybe 3 or 4 degrees so I wore an Endura MT500 over a jersey for the first 15 miles or so. It's amazing how tarmac helps when climbing hills an we both enjoyed this period of the morning.
Less pleasurable was the final haul up to the second point of the day on Stow Hill & Holloway Rocks. It was meant to be an out and back but we noticed the bridleway continued past the point and towards Knucklas where we'd planned to have lunch. The bridleway up to the point was rough and technical and we didn't want to return down it, so we continued onwards. It was a good idea as it reduced our mileage and we covered much of the ground quickly. We did find a really boggy section which slowed us down but we found ourselves at Knucklas for around 12:00; an hour earlier than expected.
On entering the Castle Inn, we were apprehensive that we'd get good food, but looking at the blackboard, coupled with suffering real food withdrawal symptoms, we plumped for starters and mains, genuinely to mitigate risk of small portions. We needn't have worried though, I was half full after the garlic mushrooms starter and the main course of lasagna comprised of 2 large slices of lasagna, chips, garlic bread and salad. I couldn't have finished it if I tried, and I didn't try as to ensure I could still ride the bike all afternoon.
Waddling out of the pub around 13:00, we initially struggled with full bellies. The large road and then bridleway climb onto the Beacon Hill was a challenge. Unfortunately, once on the plateau, it became apparent than climbs aren't the only challenge this hill would provide. Grass, peat bogs, and tough singletrack resulted in a 3 hour epic for only 12 miles travelled. It was disheartening - we still had another plateau to cross before reaching our campsite at Llanidloes and it was higher and longer than this one.
The second climb of the afternoon onto this plateau was going well until we reached a saddle. Glucose levels were low, and we struggled to navigate properly. Jason's sat nav refused to stop spinning for a while, and we followed compass bearings and the map for a short while before finding the final climb up to the wind farm. Again, navigation was difficult and we ended up climbing over a locked gate to follow a service road between the turbines. Energy levels, tiredness and frustrating were kicking in, but the great 2 mile descent bucked the mood for a short while.
We really were glad to complete the final busy road section to Llanidloes where a shower, change of clothes and promise of food raised morale.
A great dinner
Being nearly 8pm on a Sunday evening, the prospect of food in Llanidloes was marginal, so we decided to drive into Newtown. As passenger / navigator I found La Terrazza on the internet, phoned them up and booked a table. When we got there, we were a little worried about the chance of having our bikes stolen off the roof racks, but the excellent and friendly waitresses allowed us to bring them, mud and all, into the bar. They even had to move some customers to facilitate this!
It was a great family run Italian, the menu simple, but the food was excellent. Maybe it was the Italians love of bikes, but the chef came out to give us a free course to ensure we were fuelled sufficiently for the last day of the event. We eat until we popped, and then returned back to the campsite for another early evening. Jason even slept well in a tent...