Event Review

REVIEW: Welsh Wild West Sportive - Aberystwyth Cycle Festival

by Emma Osenton

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Welsh Wild West Sportive - Aberystwyth Cycle Festival

Date: Sunday 25th May
Distance: 26 or 70 or 114 miles
Entry Fee: £30 
Start: Blaendolau Sports Centre, Llanbadarn Fawr, Aberystwyth, SY23 3SR
Feed stops: 3 plus 4 additional extras.
Participants: 500
Timing: chip timing on event number
Signs: black arrows on yellow Background
Roads: A mix of lots of little lanes with the odd main road
Goody bag: Bottle, meal, drawstring bag, maps of the area, cycling info. 

I do love Wales and Welsh events, it's probably best just to say that first. Each time we go we get a wonderful feeling of community and friendliness, and Aber Cycle Festival was no exception. There's no denying that it's a fair jaunt down from where we live, the rain was lashing down as we made our way along the seafront in Aberystwyth. The downhill event was just wrapping up, crazy descents down the cliff face next to the funicular railway. There was also still some evidence of the night before town centre crit. We thought we'd see if this was where the sportive was happening as we could see the huge Continental inflatable at the end of the prom. The staff there were very helpful, pointed us in the right direction and even told us where our campsite was! 

Morning came and we headed down to the sports centre base, a compare was calling out amusing details whilst letting off the riders in small groups, music played. Registration was a swift and simple process. With the event having only 500 competitors it still retained a small event charm even though Continental were having a black and orange decorating party with flags and banners, livery vans, a mobile mechanic and a mechanic base tent. 




Soon we were off and back up the climb past the campsite, winding our way through brightly coloured houses and onto the seafront. Aber seafront is beautiful, it arches round with tall Victorian buildings in pastel colours, and the pier juts out into the sea. Leaving the town with cheery waves from every marshal we skirted the coast, and enjoyed stunning views in every direction as we headed for Borth, the Cambrian Mountains like dark shadows on the skyline.  

I must say for coastal roads that are prone to rough winters the surface was really good, I'd been expecting to meet pot hole but they were really good, a pleasure to ride in fact. As we rode inland we found the first feed station, straight past the cakes to the sausage rolls for me - I do like a savoury snack! Then began one of the climbs that Wales is famous for, contouring it's way round the hill side, a little slither of a road with stunning panoramas of the landscape (do you want me to shut up about how pretty is was? It's an ongoing theme). Then from the top a beautiful whooshing descent to the Nant-y-Moch reservoir, seriously, we were riding along just saying to one and other "wow, just beautiful, why haven't we been here before, I want to come back and explore more". 

We wound our way on to Ponterwyd and towards Devils Bridge for our first visit there before beginning the second loop. We were just loving the little back roads that we were riding, one small issue where my rear mudguard decided to spit it's bolt out nearly stopped us but I managed to take the cable ties from my rider number using the edge of my finger nail to loosen it and fashion a repair. There is some use to a number on your bars eh!  




Following the river Afon Ystwyth along the valley bottom gave us a gentle break from the climbing before we turned back inland and back onto the tiny roads. At the top of the climb was one of the best feed stations I've encountered....honestly, no word of a lie: freshly brewed tea, sausage rolls, Welsh cakes, flapjack, energy drink, water, a separate toilet for girls (nobody wants to go where the smelly boys have), and to top it all off.... Tom Jones was playing 'It's not unusual' from a CD player in a plastic bag with Welsh Dragon bunting strewn around. The lady at the stop was so friendly, she even had Welsh Dragon earrings and told us about all the Tom Jones gigs she had been to. 

Laughing our heads off we descended back down towards Devils Bridge and began to wind our way back to base. Only to find all sorts of bonus feeds set up by the locals! Little hamlets with folk just out for the craic, handing out sweets and cheering the riders. I do wish some of the English villages would get this involved. The sense of community was brilliant. 




Soon we were back at base, eating hot chilli and just missing the downpour by hiding under the tent. The Continental vans were still busying about, the mechanic looked like he'd had his work cut out as this event was included in the Continental tyre amnesty. His poor thumbs swapping all those tyres over! 

All in all a great day out. Highly recommended. Thank you Wales and see you again soon.

Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 10 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 9 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 8 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 8 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 10 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 10 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 8 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 9 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 9 out of 10
Overall Rating 90.0%