(If you are wanting to read in chronological order, day 1 is here ) So after having been noisily awoken, I couldn't get back to sleep - so I got up and looked out of the window. It looked like a warm day was on the cards, so I dumped some warmer stuff into my drop bag and put on a short sleeve jersey and arm warmers instead of my long sleeved jersey I'd been wearing the previous day.
A bit of 2nd breakfast and I was ready for the off. I'd still got some decent time in hand, leaving the control with an hour in hand. I'd slept, the day looked to be a cracker, everything was going well really - I was pleased.
I was now riding with the AC Hackney boys as they were leaving at the same time as me. Jordan (The Kid) was riding his first 600 and looked in good form still - impressive stuff for a 21 year old!
The day gets going with a big climb up to Cross Foxes - the Hackney boys soon stretched on ahead of me. I rode within myself and let them go. The descent on the other side was a real hoot - I took it fairly steady as it was my first time - but still well over 70kph down there. Many were hitting way over 80km on the smooth tarmac.
The stage was reasonably long at around 80km, and I was starting to get hungry again about 30km from the next control. I was out of snacks and, being fairly early on a Sunday, there wasn't much open to restock. At around 20km to go, I really was hungry and could easily of knocked - but then a huge sign with CAFE OPEN appeared before me - superb! I had a lovely bacon and egg sandwich, coffee and a cake in what was a quite odd (but nice place) - Machinations - a combination of a nursery, cafe, a museum/shop about automatons and Rabbit World (lots of rabbits running around a very plush enclosure). Diversification is clearly key in rural economies and this place had got it sorted it seemed. The cafe was really good and hit the spot for me. I sat at the window and watched a number of cyclists spot the sign and look at the place but carry on. Real shame, but with 20km to the control, understandable.
Another big(ish) hill and onto the next control - a village hall in Aberhafesp. Again, we were well taken care of with food and drink. We'd now got about 150km to go - the day was getting ever warmer, but we all had decent time in hand, so it was time to enjoy the day really.
Pretty soon after the control came what is actually the biggest (in terms of height) climb of the ride - it was superb, a beautiful climb - I really enjoyed it. It felt great to be out in short-sleeves and shorts, climbing a cracking hill - it was everything good about cycling.
A quick stop in Knighton for the first ice cream of the day! Lovely.
As this stage to Weobley progressed, we very suddenly left the lovely Welsh main roads and hit a section of very tricky rough English lanes - it was quite a surprise after 500km on good road surfaces - but I did enjoy them really.
Weobley is the final control point of the ride with around 75-80km to go. It is a shop control, with a small village green with benches littered with cyclists. It is a perfect place to sit and reflect with others on the ride, if the sun is shining. I could imagine that if the weather were not good, it would be a miserable place to stop with little shelter from the elements. But we were blessed with good weather - so ice cream was being consumed by the bucketload as we sat outside. Mark Rigby was there chatting with riders (a legendary ride organiser who runs many rides in Wales, and used to organise the BCM) - he said that the final section was fairly flat but had a real stinker of a climb in Llancloudy.
There was already quite a lot of pink sunburnt skin on display - I was pleased to not be suffering, having used suncream earlier in the day.
I reckoned I'd be back around 8pm - 2 hours ahead of cut-off. I was pleased, it wasn't my fastest 600, but it was quite over-distance and did feature 8000m of ascent.
The last section is very beautiful - apart from the climb at Llancloudy, which was very steep and challenging for tired legs!
Once around Monmouth, the route follows the River Wye and it really was beautiful. A couple of points it did climb away from the river, but we had some nice sections right alongside it. It was fabulous.
The sun was starting to get long, and I was really pleased to see Tintern Abbey looking so pretty in that sunshine
One last climb (which I was really struggling on - the tops of my feet were really sore for some reason - not really had that before. I was cycling with my shoes completely undone by the end!). We then rolled down the hill into Chepstow and Arrivee.
It felt great to end the ride, as always. It had been a superb ride - everything that it's reputation suggested. Masses of scenery (in the true sense, and the audax hilly sense) and history. Seeing the whole length of Wales in a weekend is brilliant. The climbs were, on the whole, really enjoyable, long alpine style ones. The controls were brilliant - we were so well looked after. Kings YHA really is a highlight of the weekend - the contrast of the first visit and the carnage of the second visit was already quite amazing on a weekend with good weather - had the weather been bad, I can imagine it is really grim on the second visit.
Whilst the ride hadn't gone perfectly (do they ever?), I'd finished with a couple of hours in hand, didn't actually feel too bad (other than feet) and had really enjoyed it. I see why the ride is so popular. I can also see that I will be back - maybe next year, who knows.
I feel I can now talk on the level of other UK audaxers - I have ridden the BCM - I have succeeded on the rite of passage!
The ride also completed my second Super Randonneur series of the year and my first AAA SR (an SR series with all rides scoring AAA points).
I have another 2 600s booked before LEL - the Brimstone and the Pendle - both tough rides (especially the Pendle, which looks like a really, really hard ride). I will mix it up with some faster work now, maybe a couple of 200km dashes down to the coast and back. I am pleased with the build up to LEL so far - couple of months to maintain and build fitness further. I should be a Hyper Randonneur by the time LEL comes around, and I reckon that should serve me well on the ride - very much looking forward to it now!
Edited to add the obligatory Strava goodness - http://app.strava.com/activities/55281905