Rob’s Bwlch and Rhigos hill climb weekend

This from our hill climb specialist, Rob Jones, who raced last Saturday and Sunday up some iconic valleys climbs:

“I left a leaving do at a well known vodka bar prematurely on Friday night with a double header of hill climb events in my weekend calendar – The Bwlch from Treorchy on Saturday afternoon and The Rhigos from Rhigos village on Sunday afternoon. This is the first time since I’ve been riding competitively that we’ve had anything in South Wales District other than a Triple Hill Climb event ahead of the Welsh Championship Hill Climb. So I was keen firstly to support it by riding, and secondly to use it as preparation for one of my season targets of ‘Top 10 and / or 1st Vet in Welsh Champs Hill Climb’.

Event 1 (The Bwlch) – rode over with mudguards and wet weather gear on a cold blustery afternoon into a horrid headwind. Got to the bottom of the climb cutting it very fine and then realised I had no idea where HQ was. After heading off in the wrong direction for a bit I turned and headed the other way into Cwmparc where I luckily saw another rider warming up and got directions. Smallest HQ ever, would never have found it by myself. Anyway I stripped everything off my bike in seconds pinned on a number and got to the start just in time and suitably stressed. I was 14th to go with only Ed Laverack of JLT Condor starting after me. It didn’t seem that long until he eased past and I finished at a wild summit 2 miles on from the start with a time of 8m 18secs in first place. Well behind Ed and a fair way behind Hefin Evans (2018 welsh crit champ) who finished 2nd. Still I got on the podium and had my photo taken alongside a Professional so was pretty happy with how things went. I rode home tired into a cold headwind (how does that happen!?!).

Event 2 (The Rhigos) – rode over on a fresh but sunny afternoon, having to use far less energy than the previous day riding to Treorchy. I also made sure I got there in plenty of time, although I know the Rhigos Rugby Club well so finding HQ was not going to be an issue this time. This time I have my skinsuit, a lighter cap and am thinking the longer climb will suit me better. So I’m feeling good! On route to the start I see Luke Protheroe warming up (riding for Merthyr CC on this occasion for tactical reasons – their club hill climb championship event, which he won). Seconds later a huge Alsation is running at me along the middle of the Rhigos Road. I narrowly swerve the dog to Luke’s amusement, wish him good luck (more so with warming up on his turbo when said dog returns than with the hill climb) and continue to the start.

As the countdown gets to zero I find myself at a funny angle propped against a slab and the kerb. Rather than sprinting away from the start, I slowly fall sideways, only to be kept off the verge by the starter and timekeeper. Eventually I sort myself out and get away having lost a bit of time but mainly pride. My power is down 10% on the previous day no matter how hard I try and I look down to see my bottle with the drink I meant to leave at the start too. Things like this annoy you when you’ve gone to the trouble of doing things like find a lighter cap! The bottle soon gets ditched by a sign so I can pick it up on way back down, and it seems like only a few minutes until Ed is flying past me (again). Anyway time continues to pass quick despite the headwind, and I arrive at the summit 3.3 miles on from the start with a fairly strong finish.

My time is 14 mins and 7 secs. I think Ed puts best part of 3 minutes into me this time and Hefin over a minute and a half too. Both their power is up on the previous day despite the longer climb, so they obviously recover as well as ride up hills much better than me. I scraped a podium place by 4 seconds despite my poor ride and won another fiver back towards my entrance fees. I also got an identical prize presentation photo with Ed and Hefin.

After some much needed cake (the afternoon start time meant I missed out on lunch), I rode back home over the Rhigos mtn, and as hard as I could up the climb. Not sure why but it just happened. And after the climb it was a good route choice as the valley sprawl back to Cardiff was unusually quiet and the wind seemed helpful. I reflected on a good weekend of hill climbing and hopefully some good preparation for the Welsh Hill Climb Championship on The Tumble next Sunday.

The Bwlch and Rhigos hill climbs will be going ahead next year too, but this time one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. This makes a lot of sense to me. Please come and ride these low key but rewarding events or they will disappear again to be replaced only by more A40 or A465 drag strips. The hill climbs like most time trials are for all abilities and I think the age of entrants varied from a young girl doing her first ever time trial on the Rhigos, to a legend called Dai Parry of Cwmcarn who is firmly in the veteran category.”