As a Primal Europe ambassador each year I take a look at the events that they are sponsoring and try to ensure that I attend at least a few of them.
I had seen the Primal Two Ton Tour advertised last year and it looked amazing, but I was unable to attend on the dates it was booked for so I had resolved I would join in in 2019.
The event is described by the organisers as ‘a proper cycling weekend’, ‘2 days, 200 miles, 20,000* ft – Ride from the rolling Herefordshire lanes, over the Cambrian mountains, to the seaside at Aberystwyth…..and back again’…
With the route including actual mountains, and quotes from previous years participants including “Tougher than the Fred Whitton” – which is well known as being a challenging event I knew this weekend would be a real adventure.
So naturally I set about enlisting some friends/club members who I thought would be likely victims (sorry, participants, I mean participants) to join me…
I am super lucky to be surrounded by many like minded cyclists and soon Hasan and Gavin were signed up to join me on this adventure!
We drove to Ludlow on the Friday evening (quite a long way from home in Essex) and stayed in a lovely B&B very close to the start line of the event which was situated at Ludlow Brewing Company. A quick trip into the town centre for dinner and then we were off to bed trying to rest before our big adventure.
Saturday morning we were up around 7am, had breakfast, packed our overnight bags and headed down to the start…
Registration was a quick and easy process, sign in, get 2 numbers, one to fix to your bike (which had all the emergency contact details typed on the reverse) and one to attach to your overnight bag. The organisers were taking one hand luggage sized bag to Aberystwyth for all the participants which meant we didn’t need to take too much with us on the bike, just supplies to get us through the first day.
A quick briefing and we were on our way, out of Ludlow and towards Wales.
I expected the route to be quite pretty, the Welsh countryside can be stunning, but nothing quite prepared me for how gorgeous the route really would be.
Day 1 had a fair amount of climbing, but it felt quite evenly spread, until a 25% incline aptly named ‘the Devil’s staircase’… We saw this coming as a few motorcyclists were riding down it as we approached and it certainly put the gradient into perspective! A rather aggressive start to the climb then became slightly less aggressive but overall my average speed for this section was 2.8mph! Before this ride I genuinely presumed that it was impossible to cycle at less than 5mph without the bike falling over, but turns out 2.8mph is my new slowest recorded speed! Who knew!
Luckily with all the pretty scenery around the strong climbs were soon forgotten as I looked around at all the views and took plenty of pictures!
Throughout the day there were 3 checkpoints/rest stops, riders stopped to sign in (this lets the organisers keep track of where everyone is on the course) and also gives the riders a chance to have a break, grab some food etc. and prepare for the next stage. The final rest stop on Day 1 was particularly welcome as it was after the toughest of the climbs, so although we didn’t stop for long, a quick stop to get off the bike and refill water bottles does a great job of quickly refreshing your legs.
Towards the end of Day 1 there were a few miles of easier riding, it flattened out a bit and we managed to gain some speed and wake our legs back up, we headed into Aberystwyth and along the coast for a little while, stopping to take pictures of the seaside! Rather relieved and excited to have made it! Then the last mile or so was uphill towards the university, one last climb, just to remind the legs that Wales was tough.
Included in the event cost is a 1 night stay at Aberystwyth university, dinner that night and breakfast the next morning! This is amazing as it takes all the logistical elements out of taking part in a multi-day event… Literally just get yourself, your bike and an overnight bag to the start, the organisers transport the bag to the mid way stop, exchange your bike for your bag (bikes are locked in a storage unit overnight, with some of the organisers sleeping on the floor in the unit with the bikes!), you get given a key for a flat in the university, where you can head up to shower and get changed before joining the other riders for dinner in the canteen on campus. Dinner was a great selection of food and desserts. Perfect for refueling after a long days ride. I do confess however that an hour or so after dinner I also went to the local chip shop… I enjoy carb-loading and love chips, so having noticed a chip shop near the entrance to the university campus I just couldn’t resist! Plus – I think we earned our double dinner!
We headed up to the university bar for a quick drink before heading back to our rooms for the night.
Sunday morning the sun was shining when I woke up and I was so pleased! Day 2 has a lot of climbing very early on and I was so happy that the weather was so perfect! long climbs in the rain can feel like even more of a challenge, so I was really grateful for the bright dry weather!
Headed to breakfast and forced myself to eat, I love food, but I hate eating early in the morning, really I would prefer not to eat until at least 9.30/10am, however with the ride starting at 8am and a long climb in the initial section I had no choice but to eat. Some Crunchy Nut cornflakes, scrambled eggs and beans later (not all in the same bowl i promise), I was ready to head out and get back on my bike.
A reverse of the night before’s process, collect your bike this time, and hand in your overnight bag for transfer to the finish line!
Off we went. Day 2 starts with a very long climbing section, up out of the town, then roads quickly become rural, with much of the climb going through a forest up into the mountains, for quite a while I wondered why there was even a road in this location, it seemed to have little purpose, then eventually about 10 miles later – the road evened out a bit and revealed the most beautiful valleys, with lakes, sheep, reservoirs and genuinely incredible scenery. At this point we couldn’t resist a quick stop for some photographs, I would say this area was my highlight of the ride, even the pictures can not show how amazing it really was.
The first rest stop of Day 2 was near a play area and I couldn’t resist a little play on the swings, much to most other riders shock and amusement, I really was enjoying my adventure through Wales.
Back on the bike, more climbing – of course! But the gradients were manageable and the views were still stunning so whilst we weren’t cycling very fast (lots of inclines have a crazy effect on legs and speed) the time still passed quickly. Until about mile 50, at mile 50 I realised I hadn’t eaten enough, my energy levels were dropping and at the top of one short but steep climb I got off my bike, I took a gel which is rare for me on a long event, but I needed to gather some energy and head to the next checkpoint. At this point I wasnt sure I could recover enough to be able to continue and debated whether I would need to ask the organisers to take me forward to the 80mile checkpoint as there was still a fair amount of climbing to do between mile 60 and mile 80.
At the rest stop I made a peanut butter sandwich, sat down for a bit and one of the medics made me a cup of tea… My sandwich took me forever to eat! I was struggling, but eventually, with the help of 2 cups of tea I felt a bit brighter, I looked at the route profile and worked out that there was only one quite short climb to go, then a few easier miles, before a long climb of approximately 4 miles, if I could make it over the climb at around 70 miles the rest of the route was less demanding.
So off we went, onto the last of the climbing, and it actually wasn’t that bad! My sandwich and tea had worked wonders and the gradient was manageable and soon the top of the climb was reached with far less trauma than I had anticipated!
Things got a lot quicker from here, with lots of long straightforward descents and flatter stretches, a very quick stop at the 80 mile checkpoint just to sign in and we were on our way to the finish! The last 20 miles were easy riding, flat for the most part and soon my legs had almost forgotten the first 50 miles ever happened.
I arrived at the finish with the biggest smile on my face, having genuinely had one of the best weekends ever.
This event isn’t for everyone, its tough, you need some strong legs, and unless you are used to these climbs an even stronger mind – put it this way – there are no hills anything close to the ones on the event anywhere near where I live. So if like me at some point your legs aren’t sure about the continuing climbs, you need a strong mind to persuade them to keep spinning.
But if you can comfortably ride a 100 miles, and want a challenge, love being around unspoilt areas of natural beauty, and are excited at the idea of 2 days of amazing cycling experiences then its absolutely one for you to try!
It really was one of the most fantastic experiences I have ever had and one I will remember forever. I hope the pictures go someway to illustrate the beautiful challenging adventure and if you are a cyclist I hope this post also triggers a desire for you to sign up and join in next year.
You can find out more details about the event on their website here or feel free to send me a message with any questions.
As a Primal Ambassador my entry into this event was gifted, however all opinions and views in this post are my own.