Anatwine Charity Bike Ride 2020

At the start of 2020 an idea was hatched for a small team of volunteers to cycle from our HQ in Cheltenham (UK) to the Adidas offices in Amsterdam (with a tour of some of Anatwine’s other partners along the way) in order to raise money for our chosen charity, Acorns Children’s Hospice. Originally planning to complete the cycle in July, the group set about their training in preparation for the cross-sea trek back in January.

Then, alas, Covid-19 struck and the UK-wide lockdown was imposed, causing the team to re-evaluate their plans. They initially considered postponing the tour until the Autumn, but erring on the side of caution they pushed it back to 2021 and decided on a “training” cycle across Wales instead. Anatwine’s MD Dewi Thomas set about planning the route, and settled on a challenging 4-day trek including multiple climbs accumulating higher than Mt. Everest (8,848 metres) in total!

On 11th September six cyclists; Dewi, Chris, Rob, Helen, Jay, & Kaine embarked on the “Tour de Wales”,  traveling up mountains, through forests, and along the West Wales coastline, supported along the way by their support driver, Ben, who kept them fueled, hydrated, and most importantly of all, motivated to get through the intimidating journey!

Cyclist Jay has broken down the trip to give us an insider’s perspective on each day’s exploits, along with some breathtaking imagery for an immersive read. Sit back with a cup of tea and read on…

DAY 1

Route: Ludlow to Port Talbot

Stats: 95 miles and 1,665 metres of climbing

An early start to Day One as we all left our respective homes and met ready to set off from Ludlow train station at 8am. Armed with as much food and drink as we could carry,  we set off full of anticipation for the journey ahead.

(L-R) Rob, Chris, Jay, & Dewi all smiles before they set off from Ludlow Station

After making great time on the first leg of the day, we made a quick pit stop for lunch before heading off again. We split into two groups to manage pacing and were treated to peaceful roads and beautiful views across the Brecon Beacons.

Then it was time to tackle the infamous Devil’s Elbow of Brecon.  After another pit stop and refuel, we mentally prepared ourselves to take on the challenging climb (200 metres). It was undoubtedly tough but the personal pride we all felt, not to mention the spectacular views, made it so worth the effort. 

The final part of the day was a little easier physically - the descent of Devil’s Elbow and a flatter route over to Port Talbot (via Neath) to reach our hotel for the night - but admittedly this part of the journey did see a few of us hitting our first low of the trip. After a quick regroup and feed we powered through and made it to Port Talbot relatively unscathed!

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DAY 2

Route: Port Talbot to Llandrindod Wells

Stats: 90 miles and 2,322 metres of climbing

Spirits were high now we had the full team together and we woke up on Saturday raring to go. An added bonus for day 2 - special guest Tina (Dewi’s wife)!

(L-R) Chris, Rob, Kaine, Jay, Helen, Dewi, and Tina ready to set off from Port Talbot

Just as we had the day before, we split into two groups and set off for another amazing day of cycling. 

Saturday was full of peaks and troughs. The first climb of the day was the Bwlch (300 metres). Long stretches of road snaking around the hills and mountains was truly a sight to behold, and a marginally less daunting feat knowing our support driver, Ben, was awaiting us at the top with plenty of snacks!

The ascent of the Bwlch was naturally followed by the descent down the other side, and this was a particularly exhilarating one with some of us reaching speeds of 43mph. An experience to remember without a doubt! Following that we faced another climb (286 metres) to the top of Rhigos, and were rewarded with yet another beautiful view from the top. Another speedy descent followed this climb, and after a trip back through the Brecon Beacons we stopped for a spot of lunch.

After we’d been fed and watered and taken a well earned break, we continued on through the Brecons, past Pen Y Fan mountain (which, thankfully, was not on the itinerary!), then on to our hotel destination for night 2.

DAY 3

Route: Llandrindod Wells to Llan Ffestiniog

Stats: 101 miles and 2,181 metres of climbing

We started day 3 feeling a little nervous about the distance and climbs ahead of us, but after some breakfast and a quick warm up we pulled our socks up and were ready to tackle the day.

(L-R) Dewi, Kaine, Helen, Rob, Jay, & Chris departing Llandrindod Wells

A little off the beaten track, the route took us along a river in Rhayader on Sunday morning and down some smaller country lanes. After some insane climbs and a fair few sheep sightings the team met Ben at the top of a hill with the most breathtaking views of a lake in Trefeglwys.

A few sweets, photos, and laughs, the team then headed to Dylife for another sunny mountain climb. Along the way we realised we were behind target and needed to pick up speed to reach our final destination in time. We decided to ride in close peloton formation which allowed us to pick up speed and blast along the coast in the sun, making up for lost time.

Sunday afternoon involved an accidental detour thanks to a technical hitch with the Garmin, which resulted in us having to walk along train tracks, cycle across a wooden footbridge, and then climb a hill with a casual 25% incline to get back on track.

With the hotel in our sights, after a huge day of cycling almost 100 miles (a milestone for the majority of the team!) there was one final push up a 150m climb to reach our penultimate resting place. 

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DAY 4

Route: Llan Ffestiniog to Ludlow

Stats: 82 miles and 2,428 metres of climbing

Not only was this the last day of the tour, it was also the hardest route of the trip. The morning saw us picking up where we left off the previous day continuing our climb up the mountain.

(L-R) Jay, Dewi, Chris, Rob, & Kaine ready for one final day!

After soaring past some beautiful scenery, we all arrived at Llangywer to tackle an epic 35% incline we’d all been slightly fearful of.

Despite our worries everyone conquered the climb, and in high spirits we flew down the next descent and met Ben and Helen for a quick break. A nice flat route along the lake followed which, unbeknownst to the team, would turn out to be the last smooth part of the ride for a long time. The next several hours saw back roads behind farms with monster climbs, uneven and poor road surfaces, intense heat from the sun, and a few bike crashes thrown in just to keep things spicy. Despite morale being at a low ebb we soldiered on to our resting spot for lunch.

After refueling, the next several hours consisted of a few more nasty climbs. We were really feeling the strain, but we banded together and did all we could to keep morale high and push through to the end. Thanks to Ben and Helen for their surprise appearance with food and water - that really helped us power through!

A few more grisly climbs later we were on the home stretch, and it was smooth sailing for the last 10 miles. Exhausted but feeling accomplished and proud, we finally made it back to Ludlow station with smiles on our faces.

This trip was an absolute blast. We built stronger friendships, beat personal goals, collectively cycled over 1,886 miles, and, most importantly, raised over £2,500 for Acorns.

We all wish to say a huge thank you to anybody who donated or sent us kind words of encouragement. A special thank you to Ben, as without his support we really would have struggled to get through.

All I can say now is bring on Amsterdam 2021!

We did it!