WENVOE WHEELERS NEWS
It’s been a while since we caught up so here goes. We had our first trip to the French Alps in June this year when 20 members either drove or flew down to Bourg d’Oisians for a week’s cycling. Those of you in the know will know that Bourg is at the foot of Alpe d’Huez a proper cycling mecca. We had a variety of accommodation, some stayed in apartments in the town and others on a couple of campsites near the foot of the climb. The advantage of a pool, bar and restaurant at the campsite over an apartment in town was soon apparent.
You can never be sure of the weather in the high Alps which means you have to do the big climbs on the days when the forecast is good. A good forecast for our first day meant the ascent of the massive Galibier, all 2648 meters of it. From Bourg the ascent is about 1645 meters and it’s 45km to the top with about 5km of flat from Bourg to the foot of the climb. The astute amongst you will note that that is a 35km climb! We naturally divided into two groups, the speedy ones and the slower steady grinders who set off an hour ahead of the speedy group. We were helped even more by the speedy group opting for crepes at the slowest hotel on the planet giving us another 40 minutes advantage. Nonetheless, they still caught us – but not until after the Col de Lauteret at 2000 mts. From there it is a further 8km and 648 meters of ascent and you really start to notice the altitude from then on. But this happy chance of the head start meant that we were all on the col at the same time and no one had to hang around for ages for the last member to make it to the top (yep, me). There were massive whoops of celebration, shouts of encouragement and relief (not all of it printable) from everyone. Having done it last year and having sworn never to do it again, I surprised myself by finding it a teeny bit easier than before. I’ve still sworn never to do it again though. We had the obligatory club photo at the top courtesy of one of the many motorcyclists also celebrating their ascent. The views are absolutely stunning all around including the massive Mieje glacier which you can see on the way up to the Lauteret. The descent is terrifying bearing in mind the longest descent we can manage in South Wales lasts about 5 – 10 mins at most, compared with at least 30/45 mins to descend from the Col de Galibier. You gather so much speed so quickly your hands and forearms ache with having to brake so frequently. Those beers tasted like nectar when we finally got back to Bourg.
We had pretty good weather for our trip but rain on the final day of our week. This didn’t spoil the planned rides though which obviously included a climb of the iconic Alpe d’Huez itself making sure we all went through the town to get to kilometer 0.
That was another big day as we didn’t stop there but went on to the Col de Sarenne, descending to the Chambon dam and then another climb up to the Balcony road. Eye popping is not the word! It’s a tiny road clinging to the side of a cliff with one of those small French parapets that wouldn’t stop a leaf. If you suffer with vertigo, it’s not for you. That was another epic day but my favourite was the day we rode out to La Berarde, a remote valley, out and back but so, so beautiful. I was struck with the huge variety of wild flowers I passed, many of them I recognised from my own garden but growing wild there in vast swathes. We simply do not have such a variety in our fields and hedgerows anymore. We had a glorious lunch at an Auberge in La Berarde before making the return journey.
With all of these long days in the saddle we needed a rest day so we rode out to the Venosc ski lift and took the cable car up to Les 2 Alpes for coffee. We all thought this was hilarious as we wheeled our bikes into the cabins and were taken up the mountain. And I couldn’t possibly say whether bike computers were paused to account for cable car assisted elevation. The cost of each person and bike to ride the cable car? 3 Euros each. Yep you read that right. Compare that with the cost of a trip up the cable car in Fort William which a friend paid recently for one way – £25.00! Everyone fell in love with the Alpes and there is much enthusiasm for a return trip next year.
We didn’t rest on our laurels after the Alpes as we recently had our Wheelers weekend away. This is traditionally a 100 mile ride on Saturday, an overnight stay and then a shorter ride back on Sunday. This year we went to Hay on Wye from Wenvoe, heading out via Pyle to the Afan Valley and ascending the Bwlch – a mere bump compared with the Alps – down into Treorchy then up and over the Rhigos, down towards Hirwaun then over Penderyn. From there we joined the A470 descending to Brecon and a rather long tiring slog out to Hay. We stayed at Baskerville Hall a large old country pile of faded grandeur and the kind of 1970’s renovations you don’t see so much these days. It was perfect for us, though less perfect being about 2 miles outside Hay meaning an ‘active recovery’ walk there and back for our curry that evening.
Sunday,s ride home left Hay via the road for the Gospel Pass but due to much confusion as to whether it was open (it is, at least for bikes) some went a different way which seemed to involve a lot of steep punchy climbs but a better road surface whilst one group did ride via the Gospel Pass but the road surface is appalling – even worse than the roads in the Vale of Glamorgan!
Despite a very good cooked breakfast that morning we all stopped at the bus station café in Abergavenny for coffee and more snacks. Did you know a fried egg bap is called an egg banjo? No, nor me. Anyway, we had a good pace back via Usk, Caerleon, and the Newport flats to Cardiff where, for the first time (for me at least) that weekend, it literally poured down. It was so heavy that we were all soaked within about a minute just as we came to Newport Road. Oh well, considering the dire forecast I thought we had done rather well, chasing the rain rather than being in it. We had another drenching as we rode through Ely but made it back to HQ (Wenvoe Arms) in good spirits for well earned beers.
We have a sportive event arranged for 24th September in memory of Paul Davies who sadly left us this year. We last held this event in 2019 but obviously due to the pandemic we haven’t been able to run it since then so we are quite excited to get it underway again. It is a signed route through the Vale with 2 different lengths, an 80 mile route and a 40 mile route. We will have marshalls out on the route and two refreshment stops probably well stocked with Welsh cakes which were extremely popular last time. Registration will be in the Community Centre. Fingers crossed for good weather!
As you can see we are a very active club but always keen to have new members. We don’t have a children’s/youth section I am afraid but what we do offer is a friendly cycling club where you can make new friends and get out in the fresh air regularly. We have regular Saturday morning club rides with 4 different paced groups, our slowest and chattiest is the social group but if you are a speed monster you will need the steady group. If you want to join, just find us on Facebook