UK Sportive – Au­tumn Epic

A Welsh clas­sic brought back from the brink two years ago to re­claim its place as the must-do late sea­son chal­lenge

Bikes Etc - - CONTENTS -

A crack­ing ride through the test­ing hills of mid-wales.

What’s it all about?

As a reg­u­lar fix­ture in the sportive cal­en­dar since 2005, the Au­tumn Epic has con­quered the heights of the sportive rank­ings over the years – not to men­tion most of the hills in the area – to be­come one of the most pop­u­lar late sea­son rides on the cal­en­dar. It nearly all went to ruin a cou­ple of years back, though, as the orig­i­nal or­gan­is­ers de­cided to call it a day. But a well-loved event won’t die off so eas­ily and Andy Dawson of Ride­ven­tures ran a free trib­ute ride the fol­low­ing year, then brought it back as a full event there­after. What this ba­si­cally means is that you can still try one of the pret­ti­est, most de­mand­ing yet re­ward­ing rides Mid-wales has to of­fer.

What are the route op­tions?

The ride which has been run­ning since 2005 tra­di­tion­ally had one clas­sic 150km route. This would take you from the small mar­ket town of Knighton in Powys in an an­ti­clock­wise loop through some of the most spec­tac­u­lar ar­eas of Mid-wales, tak­ing in a fin­ger buf­fet of the most de­lec­ta­ble climbs your lungs and legs can de­vour. If you didn’t make the time cut at Rhayader, around 35 miles in by mid­day, you were sent on a short­cut which dropped the loop around the Elan Val­ley. This 130km route is now an op­tion in it­self, along with an even friend­lier 80km ride that af­ter 45km turns back in to the clas­sic route. Head­ing back over the high moors, you’ll still reach over 1,200m (4,000ft) of climb­ing, though, so it’s no easy es­cape. The 150km clas­sic re­mains the flag­ship route though, and to miss out on any sec­tion of the scenic route would be a shame.

You said some­thing about climbs?

Yes, there are plenty of them and they vary from eas­ily man­age­able and hard but pretty, to re­ally quite bru­tal. From the start, the road heads up­ward and you’ll be gen­tly climb­ing for most of the first 15 miles be­fore head­ing down to start on the saw-tooth pro­file the rest of the ride pro­vides. High­lights in­clude the forested climb of Abbey-cwm-hir – keep an eye out for the red kites cir­cling in the sky close to Rhayader, as the renowned bird of prey feed­ing sta­tion is close by at Gi­grin Farm – and fol­low­ing on to the stun­ning loop around the Elan Val­ley and the reser­voirs, eas­ily one of the most beau­ti­ful parts of the coun­try. From this point, you head east back to­wards Knighton, but don’t let the turn fool you as there are plenty more test­ing hills to tackle first, with the in­fa­mous Glascwm – less than a mile in length but with ramps at a leg-wreck­ing 25%. By now, you’ll have bro­ken the back of the day’s climb­ing, but there’s a sting in the tail; with less than five miles to go, you’ll push hard once more for a steady 5km climb up past the Space­guard Cen­tre over to your right, be­fore a fast and fu­ri­ous des­cent back to the HQ in the town and nearly 2,500m (8,000ft) of el­e­va­tion in your legs!

What does the en­try fee in­clude?

Fol­low­ing the stan­dards set and im­prov­ing on the ex­cel­lent pre­vi­ous edi­tions, the ride pro­vides all you would ex­pect – com­pre­hen­sive and clearly way-marked route with de­tailed route cards to down­load as a backup (Clas­sic 150km and Short Cut 130km only), plus elec­tronic tim­ing. (In fact – pub quiz fans –the Au­tumn Epic was re­put­edly the first ever cy­cling sportive to use elec­tronic

tim­ing back in its orig­i­nal in­car­na­tion). To keep you fu­elled, there are two feed­ing sta­tions on the route with enough food and drink to get you to the fin­ish (one feed sta­tion on the 80km), and when you do fin­ish, there’ll be plenty of com­pli­men­tary hot food. On the road, there are broom wag­ons, me­chan­ics and First Aid sup­port should things not go to plan for ei­ther you or your bike.

How do I get there?

Knighton is right on the English/welsh bor­der and is a lit­tle re­mote, how­ever the road net­work around Shrop­shire and Mid-wales is good and travel by car is the eas­i­est op­tion. Travel time by car from Birm­ing­ham or Cardiff is around an hour and 40 min­utes, from Manch­ester two and a half hours and Lon­don three and a half hours. There is a train sta­tion in Knighton with ser­vices run­ning from the near­est large towns of Shrews­bury, Wrex­ham or Here­ford.

THERE ARE PLENTY OF CLIMBS ON THE ROUTE, RANG­ING FROM EASY TO RE­ALLY BRU­TAL

Scenic, traf­fic-free roads are among the many at­trac­tions for cyclists in Mid-wales

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