WELCOME! I've been cycling through the Southeast Valleys of Wales since 2010 and I can't say (or show) enough about the place. I just love it. So if you've got the interest and would like to spend some time... sit back and let me show you some of the fabulous places I've discovered.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

55 FOR 55 EVENT - DAY 18 
Breaking Down the Route - Part 1

I must admit that my mind is still a bit frozen from the end of yesterday's ride, but through the frosty haze I thought you might be interested in reading about the route itself. So today I'll start a three-part guide on my ride - providing some specific details.

FRIDAY, 18 MARCH - I designed this route with one main priority; I wanted a 55-mile circular route as flat as possible. Having ridden a large portion of this route in several 50-mile training sessions, I modified the Newport section slightly by adding a few extra miles going around Tredegar House Park and up through Bassaleg to Rogerstone.

Section 1
Starting/Ending Points: Oakdale to Usk
Distance: 20.1 miles
Travel Time: 2 hours.

Oakdale to Pontypool: The start of the route begins in Oakdale near the entrance to the village playing fields. I first cycle up through Oakdale and Croespenmaen. Then dropping down through Treowen and Newbridge, I continue on through Crumlin to Llanhilleth. These first six miles of the ride are mostly downhill and/or flat. It takes me about 30 minutes to complete. It's a good little workout and I generally feel pretty warmed-up by the time I reach Llanhilleth, which is good because at this point I enter NCN Route 466 and encounter the steepest climb of the day.

Looking out over Crumlin from the Swffryd Slog...

From Llanhilleth I climb up the "Swffryd Slog". It's only one mile, but I get the pleasure of climbing 150 feet in elevation gain. It definitely wakes up my thighs and opens up my lungs. But the good thing is that after that brief struggle, I get seven miles of ease and joy!

So, From Swffryd I zip through Hafodyrynys, cross the A472 (pedestrian controlled), down past the terrace houses and re-enter the traffic-free NCN 466 cycle path. This is just a short section that takes me down to where Old Crumlin Road joins the A472. Which I will then cross back over! It's a terrible crossing that can take several frustrating minutes... and I cannot emphasize enough "use EXTREME CAUTION". The traffic whizzes through this area at well over 50 mph and it can be quite busy. There are no pedestrian controls. (Note: Many cyclists race down the A472 to avoid having to cross the road twice. I, however, prefer to avoid the cars, buses and speeding lorries... even for just a mile!)

Abandoned spaceship along Old Crumlin Road...

Once across, I then cruise along Old Crumlin Road all the way into Pontypool. It's a great road. Not the best surface in places and cars can come along rather quickly, but it's marked for cycle use AND I'll generally see other cyclists along the way. Often too, I can ride the entire three miles and not see a soul. Brilliant!

In Pontypool, I snake down the High Street to the bottom roundabout where I enter the city park at the entrance to St. Alban's School. I go down through the park to exit at the far end by Usk Road. I then zig-zag through the back alley of Fountain Road to Pontymoile Boat Basin and enter the Monmouth & Brecon Canal Path. WooHoo! It's scenic cruise time. At just under a mile, it's a lovely section to just slow down, catch my breath and relax. It's not the most direct route, but it's a great way to continue moving and enjoy the views.

Because... the next section is CRAZY FAST!

Pontypool to Usk - Normal Route: I exit the canal path by the small lay-by at Usk Road. This is commonly called the "Horse & Jockey Hill". I generally pedal like mad down this fairly steep hill reaching speeds upward of 30mph so that when I get to the bottom roundabout I can enter the A4042 as fast as possible. It's crazy fast and such a rush after the lazy ride along the canal, but I love it. WooHoo!

Traffic is generally very light at this time of day. The road is quite wide and smooth, while the visibility of merging traffic is excellent and open so that it's an easy merge onto the 50 mph dual-carriageway.

It's literally a straight-forward run - pushing the pedals down at 20 mph down for one mile to the next roundabout, then straight across for another 1/2 mile to exit right onto Berthon Rd. (A472) at Little Mill.

From there it's straight on for four and a half miles into Usk. Traffic is generally okay. You do get a few lorries, but I think so many cyclists use this road that most other traffic are aware and prepared to see folks on bikes.

Pontypool to Usk - Weekend Route: Road construction on the train bridge at Little Mill and subsequent temporary road closure forced me to find an alternative route from Pontypool to Usk on the weekends. Yet as I discovered; it's a better route! It's pretty much the same length, but has a few more climbs... however, the payoff comes from quieter lanes, fantastic scenery, and a wonderful two-mile descent into Usk. Aren't those the kinda things we all look for in a great ride?

So, instead of cycling along the canal, I come out of Pontypool City Park and turn left on Usk Road, head up the hill to the first roundabout and turn right onto Highway Road. This leads me out past the "lovely and modern Pontypool Train Station" to Golf Road, where I turn left into the housing estate.

From here it's straight up to the junction of Jerusalem Lane. I turn left again and head into the countryside! Now it gets wonderful. I sit back and roll along this fabulous little lane to Glascoed. I cross straight over the junction at Wern Lane and head up toward Woodlake Park Golf Club.

Gotta love the cute little Mt. Zion Baptist Church... This entire area has the kind of rural charm I recall from when I was a child and living in Davidson County, North Carolina. Even the junk yard on the right has a certain look that I recall. Spooky and wonderful memories.

Looking very much like the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina...

At the next "T" junction check yer brakes. Is everything fastened down? Then turn left again and hold on tight cuz yer gonna race down the mountain! It's narrow at first, but then the landscape opens up and you can see far ahead down the lane as well as across both sides. It's spectacular. And FAST! WooHoo!

I bottom out at Llanbadoc junction just across from the lovely church (interesting story here... must revisit!). I then turn left and head into Usk crossing the bridge and cruising down the high street - wind blown and grinning ear to ear.

Either way I come; the first stop is at the Green Flute Cafe at the Rural Life Museum. Time for "hellos" to Christine and all the gals, a latte, and perhaps a peanut butter cookie!

That's it for now... I'll try to get "Section 2; Usk to Newport" posted soon.

cheers! ~ cm

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