Former Pro rider Dave Lloyd wanted to ride a sportive that would prepare him for the tough European events, but looking through calendar there wasn’t anything that was hard enough so he set out and devised his own, the MEGA CHALLENGE.
The long established European Sportifes have become legendary because they are hard, plain and simple. The original vision behind them was to give those who didn’t want to race, or those who did race but fancied a different challenge, the opportunity to be timed over the famous Alpine Col’s or trace the route of an actual Tour de France stage.
It’s this ethos that Dave believes is missing from many UK events, so armed with a lifetimes knowledge of the roads of North Wales, the roads that made him the rider he was, he set out to put together the toughest combination of hills he could. It wasn’t easy and the route has taken a couple of years of tinkering to perfect but here it is, the Mega Challenge.
Based in Ruthin, there are three distances, the 70, 100 and the MEGA, 150 punishing miles over the hardest terrain this part of the country can deliver. There was a last minute change of course, the event was planned to finish atop the ludicrously step Bwlch Penbarass but for ‘logistical reasons’ this was dropped, or maybe Dave had gone soft on us.
There was still plenty of climbing though, featuring amongst others, the climbs of, The Shelf, ‘Worlds End’, ‘Moel Arthur’, the ‘Road to Hell’ and the brutal Bwlch-y-Groes, a narrow, twisting 20% grind into the wild. The weather on the day was far from what you’d expect on the Summer Solstice, it was dull, over cast with mild drizzle and a few showers.
The ride although excellently organised, with very professionally stocked feed stops was unlucky to fall victim to some mindless vandalism. Following the climb of Mole Arthur a number of signs had been removed or placed in the opposite direction sending many riders off course and creating a fair amount of confusion.
After the event, there was plenty of frustration but no anger as everyone accepted that it was impossible to prevent idiots causing havoc if they really wanted to. With the majority of Sportifes on the calendar well over subscribed it puzzles Dave that his didn’t sell out.
It’s a fantastic route in fantastic scenery, maybe the distance scares people but it shouldn’t, it’s perfectly achievable and you have to remind yourself that this is a challenge, it’s meant to be hard and it’s meant to test both your body and mind so next year come and give it ago.
The Organiser – Dave Lloyd. 09:07:28
Still as competitive as ever Dave rode his own event and aimed to break the 9 hour mark, but he fell just short. “I lost a bit of focus because of the problems with the missing signs and this along with the dismal weather and having to wait for my mates on top of Bwlch-y-Groes left me behind my target. It was a real shame signs were moved and we will consider painting the arrows on the road for next year and after 2 years of rain we are due some sunshine.
Sportive Sound Bites
Rebecca Easthope 11:16:17
A great day out, weather wasn’t too bad and the scenery was beautiful. I’d listened to all the scary stories, the ones that keep a lot of riders away from this event but I wasn’t phased and as it turns out it wasn’t that hard. I went through a bad patch at 70 miles, but I kept going, kept eating and although I wasn’t going for a time I just missed getting a silver by 1 minute.
Gill Crane 11:55:24
I rode with Alistair Swales, we are both from Clifton Cycle club in York. I alos rode last year but this years modified route was much tougher, the Bwlch-y-Groes was just amazing. All the riders were very friendly especially the fast guys who all said hello when they came whizzing past.
Alistair Swales 11:55:24
Hard day on the bike but very rewarding, paced myself well and got round in a respectable time. Had a real, ‘Oh my God’ moment when I first caught sight of Bwlch-y-Groes why would you build a road that steep over that mountain! I snapped a chain, bust a value in my front inner tube, went of course but I made it round and didn’t have to walk once.
My Cyclo-Sportive – Paul McGuigan 09:18:35
I decided to set off around 7.30 and together with my club mate I waited around at the start for a decent sized group of fit looking riders to form so we could share the early pace. This duly happened and about ten of us began together but within half a mile this was whittled down to 4, then by the time we topped the first hill just there were just the two of us, so much for that plan.
We rode conservatively, but always pushing, wary of the distance but also keen to do a decent time, the key was to find the right balance. Continually catching and passing riders was the format of the day, bar one, when Ben Bardsley came past us bouncing along the top of the Worlds End we let him go, he was pushing too hard and we had to be careful not to over stretch ourselves.
I kept drinking, refueled on the plentiful energy gels and powders at the feed stops and felt confident. My team mate had been ill during the week, and come out with just about every excuse he could think of, he was riding OK but started to fade on the run in to Bala and when we reached the separation point for the midi and mega rides he threw in the towel. Rule number one, ‘Never leave your wing man’, but he knew his body and knew he wouldn’t make it so I continued alone.
I was on a high after the fast decent to Bala and familiar with these roads from child hood holidays I charged along the lake towards Dolgellau. Then I had a wobble, the heavens opened, it went up hill, I was alone, cold, and the enormity of the task dawned on me, but I pulled myself together and pressed onto the next feed.
There were a few riders here, but in all the time I was there, no one left, safe, and in company they wanted to put off the accent of Bwlch-y-Groes as long as they could. I broke the deadlock and set off, what a brute of a climb, but I knew once conquered, even though it was still a long way home the worst was behind me.
I’d begun now to talk to myself to keep moral high as there were long stretches were I wouldn’t see another sole. Standing between me and the return were the stingers, they really hurt but were short and sweet and I eventually arrived back in Ruthin and was very pleased with my time.
For more information go to Dave Lloyd Mega Challenge official website