Wesley May Super Grimpeur


I set off at sunrise this morning. Cold mist wafted up from the Loughor estuary. A sheep stood to watch me pass, exposing a warm damp patch where it had been resting in the otherwise frosty field.

Sheep in a frosty field

Today’s challenge, the Wesley May Memorial Super Grimpeur, 2931m of climbing in 100km of riding. I’ve been wanting to find my way up into the Brecon Beacons. This seemed the perfect opportunity.

The hard bit wasn’t Black Mountain itself — that’s a steady, shallow climb on well-surfaced roads — it was the rolling hills before and after. Rolling isn’t the right word, though. These hills crash into you, steep and sudden. On the way down, the sunlight slashes through the trees, attacking with bright light and black shade. The roads are strewn with nuggets of granite, tree branches, potholes and decomposing badgers. Even after a few dry days, water streams across them. You swallow insects and cling to your brakes.

Me on Black Mountain

It is all quite staggeringly beautiful. Ten minutes from leaving an industrial estate in Llanelli, and you’re here, on top of the world, the chimneys of Port Talbot smoking on the horizon. There was an uphill time-trial, the national championships, I think, on the north face of Black Mountain. The real specialists ride a fixed wheel. I saw a large hawk with swept back wings and an arrow shaped tail. My cycling companion couldn’t help but laugh at the way I mispronounced Cwmllynfell. Many thanks to Dai Harris, Bynea cycling club, for organising such a great ride.