I’m sure some of you already know that in March 2007 I cycled from the Millennium Stadium to Croke Park, Dublin for the Ireland game. I had the idea to do this back in the summer of 2006. The furthest I had previously cycled in a day was about 35 miles along the canal paths in the Midlands, so I started telling more and more people about my plan so that I could not back out of it! I was going to raise money or Ty Hafan Children’s Hospice in Barry, Gol and the Wicklow Sports Promotion Unit (SPU) in Bray, near Dublin
I only started training semi seriously in January and soon realised how unfit I had become! Mornings were spent on the exercise bike reading Lance Armstrong books for inspiration, whilst 1 day every weekend I would head out into the local countryside.27 miles became 35, then 42, then 60, then 77. I would spend longer on the bike and try to find as many hills as I could to try and prepare myself for the journey across Mid Wales! I was looking forward to the challenge but nervous of the worsening conditions and how that could really affect my plans.
Here’s how it went!
Monday 18th March - I packed my bags, energy drinks, cycling clothes etc and headed on the bike to catch the train from Tamworth to Cardiff. Rob Elliot from Macdonald Hotels had kindly sponsored me to stay at their Lodge Hotel in city centre so I could start fresh and early next morning. I watched some football on Sky and BBC (FA Cup replays) and tried to get a good nights sleep knowing that the weather forecast was not kind for the next few days
I was up early on Tuesday about 5.30am, had some breakfast and got ready to go to the Millennium Stadium where I met Paul Sawyer from Ty Hafan, Neil Dymock, Dylan Ebenezer, BBC Cymru and Bryn Law, Sky Sports. Oh yes and my parents who decided to come and support me en route and carry my bags, etc!
After another quick interview with Tommo from Radio Ceredigion, I finally left the stadium at 8.15am and off I headed out towards the A470. Before I even got around the castle, a lorry driver tried to run me off the road!
I decided to avoid the A470 as much as possible. My route took me up the A4054 to Taff’s Well, Treharris and
up to Merthyr. The strong headwind didn’t help at all and I soon fell behind my schedule of 13 mph. I
eventually made it to Merthyr about an hour behind schedule and then joined the A470 to Brecon. The climb
out of Merthyr was not fun. There were times heading past the reservoirs and Nant Ddu when I was so exposed
to the wind that it was knocking me off balance. I think the slowest I got was down to 4 miles an hour on
those hills as the wind kept blowing. By now my parents had caught up with me and stopped every few miles in
a lay by. Every time I passed them they seemed to be enjoying the view whilst drinking hot tea and enjoying
a sandwich! I finally made it to the top of the hills and it was then down hill for about 7 miles to Brecon.
That was more like it. I was soon in Brecon and after a quick hot drink and tea cake was back on the bike.
By now I was over 1 ½ hours behind schedule and was in danger of not making it to my overnight stop
Llanidloes on time.
From Brecon I went really cross country across MOD land on the B4520 to Builth Wells. I knew it was going to be hilly but it was worst than feared. It even started snowing at times and on more than one occasion I questioned my sanity!! I got to Builth Wells about 4pm so had about 30 miles to Llanidloes. I had cycled close to 70 miles and was knackered! The road to Rhayader was much flatter and I made up some lost ground. I was soon on my way to Llangurig and got into a much better rhythm out of the wind. The last 5-10 miles or so my father drove behind me with his lights on as it was getting dark quickly. Eventually I saw the signs to Llanidloes which motivated me to get going over the last few miles. By the time I got to the B&B it was gone 7pm and dark! I had cycled about 100 miles and was well and truly tired! I made some phone calls, had a long soak in the bath and was soon in bed.
I got up nice and early on Wednesday, had quick breakfast and off I went before 7.30am. I was relieved that the wind had gone and although it was a very fresh morning it was clear and sunny. Once again I went cross country, this time via Llyn Clywedog on the B4518. En route I met Tommie Collins from Porthmadog who had very kindly offered to cycle with me through the day. For those who don’t know him, TC is a very keen cyclist, with a far more suitable road bike than my adapted mountain bike. He was soon in his rhythm whilst I was having to work to keep up with him - as he was just cruising along. The views around Llyn Clywedog were stunning and helped ease the pain of some of the hills. At one stage I hit 45mph free wheeling downhill! It was excellent to have company during the day and it certainly helped keep me going. It wasn’t long before we were discussing Saturday’s game and various tactics!
We rejoined the A470 at Llanbrynmair and headed off towards Cemmaes Road and then on towards Mallwyd. TC had already warned me about the hills from Dinas Mawddwy to Dolgellau and he was not wrong! After a slow gentle 2 or 3 mile incline, you are at the bottom of a mile or so hill which at times hits 20% incline. I could not keep up with TC and let him go on ahead. I caught up with him at the top and we covered the 5 or 6 miles the other side downhill to Dolgellau in no time!
We continued along the A470 passed Nant yr Arian mountain biking centre and Trawsfynydd Power Station and were in Porthmadog before 2pm. The scenery through Snowdonia National Park was stunning – I had plenty of time to admire it! There was plenty of snow on the higher ground. After a quick lunch at Mrs TC’s café I headed off to Caernarfon and was there by 4pm. I stayed with TC that night in Port.
Thursday morning TC took me back to Caernarfon and I was on the road again before 8am. I had 25-30 miles to go and was booked onto the Midday ferry to Dublin. It was a good feeling crossing over the Britannia Bridge and making it into Sir Fon / Anglesey. I followed the quieter A5 to Holyhead and knew I had plenty of time so did not have to push myself. It was a miserable day, very dull with light drizzle. Despite no hills, the road was quite straight and rolling and kept me working. I was only a few miles from Holyhead before I saw the first signs for the town. After a slight detour via Trearddur Bay I arrived at Holyhead just before 11am – very happy and relieved to have made it! Tuesday’s long uphill battle against the wind seemed a long time ago now.
The ferry crossing went quickly and I was first off into Dublin. My map of Dublin wasn’t the best and coupled with their road sings it took me a bit longer to reach Croke Park than anticipated. I could see the stadium but not a way in or any signs to the Gaelic football museum where I would finish my ride. After going down a few side streets to find locked gates, I saw my partner Kirsty waiting for me. She pointed to me to go around the next street and a minute or so later I was cycling down to the stadium. Out came the flag and I waived it above my head – the locals looked at me very bemused. Bryn Law, Sky Sports were there to meet me as was Dylan Ebenezer, BBC and of course Kirsty!
After a few more interviews, we were just about to leave when from around the corner appeared my brother Ceri and two friends Steve and Paul “Blew” Lewis. Despite arriving in Dublin at 9am they still did not make it to the stadium on time!! Ceri had my ticket so I was glad to see him! I was ready for a pint by then!
All in all I covered over 215 miles and spent nearly 21 hours in the saddle. Those padded shorts were worth every penny…! To date, I have raised over £2,000 with more promised!
Just in case you are interested, I did not throw the bike into the Irish Sea after finishing! It has made it home (thanks Dave W), and has been now “resting” in the garage for a few weeks!
Thank you to everybody who has generously donated so far. I would also like to thank Neil Dymock, Tim Hartley, Bryn Law (Sky Sports), Dylan Ebenezer (BBC), Tommo (Radio Ceredigion), Paul Sawyer (Ty Hafan) for their support and coverage. Extra thanks go out to my parents for keeping me going on Tuesday, Tommie Collins for accompanying me on Wednesday, and of course last but not least, my partner Kirsty for believing I could do it and encouraging me all the way!