DISTANCE 35 miles (56km)
MAIN CLIMB Climb Ffrith, from Minera to World’s End and the Horseshoe Pass
TOTAL CLIMB 1,306 metres
ACHTUNG! Watch out for sheep along World’s End road, and the descent to ford is narrow and gravelly
Until June of this year, Rob Partridge had been living and racing out in Italy. He and fellow Welshman Dale Appleby had joined the Italian VC Seano team and based themselves close to Quarrata, the Tuscan base of the GB under-23 squad.
Rob explains: “We were actually out there a month before we started racing. Then it was a week before the first race and they said there was a new ruling that two foreign team members couldn’t ride together in races.
“So there had been Dale and me training together and thinking we would be attacking together and going two-up to the finishes. It never happened. I’m sure there was some misunderstanding, as the ruling had apparently been around for ages. The first time I actually raced with Dale was at the National Champs this year.”
Although there had been enough racing at the beginning of the season for both Dale and Rob, things started to look less promising as the races “kind of fizzled out”. After competing in the Thuringen Rundfarht in Germany with the U23 GB squad in June, a race in which Ian Stannard came fourth overall, Rob had a call from Recycling’s John Herety.
“John rang me and just said he’d heard about my dilemma and offered me a place back on the Recycling team,” relates Partridge. “I jumped at it. With doing just the Tour of Ireland and Tour of Britain it worked out that I would have more racing than I would have had for the rest of the year if I’d stayed out in Italy. So it was an opportunity to get noticed and get some results. I don’t regret coming back from Italy, apart from the fact that there is no summer here,” he quips.
We set off on the ride from the Partridge family home in Cymau, Flintshire in north Wales. We head in the direction towards Ffrith before finding the first climb as the road heads towards Minera. There is little respite before Rob turns right onto the single track road that climbs up the Esclusham Mountain and on to World’s End which describes the landscape perfectly.
“I like World’s End because it’s so bleak especially in winter,” enthuses Partridge as he pedals through the carpet of purple heather on this sheep-inhabited moorland landscape. The road descends from the plateau down through the forest and crosses a ford which is taken with care. It’s a favourite part of the ride for Rob as the road undulates under the shadow of Eglwyseg Mountain.
“It’s good looking up at the cliff faces that come down to the road,” comments Partridge as more spectacular scenery appears along this section known as ’The Panarama’ and includes the hilltop ruins of Castell Dinas Bran. This ancient castle is steeped in folklore from the days of King Arthur and the Holy Grail.
Rob descends down to the main road and meets up with training partner Steve Lloyd, the current Welsh road race champion, for the planned cafe stop in Llangollen.
The busy canal crosses the Dee via the famous Pont-Cysyllte aqueduct back down the road at Trevor. Designed and built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop, the 19-arch structure rises 126 feet above the river and spans over 1,000 feet to make it Britain’s highest and longest aqueduct.
Llangollen is a pretty market town nestled by the river Dee and Rob and Steve cross the famous 14th century Dee Bridge to drop in at Fouzi’s Cafe Bar which has an Italian connection for Rob: “It’s run by an Italian guy and he knows how to make a good coffee.”
Coffee stop over and Rob and Steve set out for the Horseshoe Pass. They pass the old Llangollen railway station where steam trains still operate along the seven and a half miles of line to Carrog.
The two pedal fluidly up the Horseshoe past the Moel-y-Faen slate quarries whose activity is evident from the waste scree that comes down to the road edge. Rob will test himself from time to time on this climb. “It’s a pretty good climb for this country. Out in Italy the climbs could be 45 minutes for some of them, so this feels like nothing,” grins Partridge.
“October’s Horseshoe hill-climb is shorter and starts from the Britannia Inn to the layby on the left near the summit, but I use the whole stretch from the bottom to the Horseshoe Pass sign at the summit, riding good tempo at threshold for 15 minutes. I don’t spin that fast but I don’t like to use big gears either,” Partridge says.
Some more training tips are revealed as we near the summit. “I like to do a lot of race-style simulation in training. Make an effort before a climb or something. You’d do that in a race. Also, I like to do the last five minutes of a climb by maybe doing 20 seconds on and 40 seconds off, pretending you are attacking someone, trying to wear them down. That’s the way a race might go. It makes intervals not so mind numbing,” says Partridge.
Over the summit the pair descend to towards Rhydtalog and continue to Treuddyn where Steve carries on as Rob takes the right turn back to Ffrith and home. This last section of road follows part of the famous Offa’s Dyke, which runs for over 170 miles roughly following the present day Welsh-English border. It is named after King Offa who ordered it’s construction during the 8th century to separate his kingdom of Mercia from neighbouring kingdoms that now form Wales.
YOUR GUIDE: ROB PARTRIDGE
* Rob is 21 and currently back living with his parents in Cymau
* Born in Wrexham
* Relaxes by listening to music and hanging out in cafes with friends
* Second in 2007 Tour of Pendle. “I should have played a bit more cat ’n’ mouse but I didn’t think we had enough time”
FROM Cymau start in the direction of Ffrith to turn left (TL) on to B5101 to turn right (TR) on to B5102 direction Minera. Cross A525 to continue on B5426 through Minera. At New Brighton TR on to single track road direction World’s End. Continue to Trevor Uchaf to TR on to A539 to Llangollen.
Continue out of Llangollen on A542 and over Horseshoe Pass. At roundabout TR on to A5104. Continue to Rhydtalog and continue on A5104 in direction of Treuddyn. Near Treuddyn TR on to B5101 to Ffrith to TL back to Cymau.