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Abersytwyth Cycle Festival – Heather Kay

Aberystwyth Cycle Festival is a celebration of cycling in Mid Wales, including town centre criterium racing, downhill mountain biking and a mass participation ride – the Continental Welsh Wild West Sportive, covering all the best roads in Ceredigion. What can be better than a festival and downhill race in your home town?

It’s Aberystwyth Cycle Fest week: 10 days of cycling events and races. It’s also the last week of my degree, so it’s going to be a fine line between biking and revision with one huge celebratory bank holiday weekend at the end.

For me it all started with my Breeze ride leader training course, great to meet other ladies and listen to their stories of finding cycling, getting inspired and empowering women. Monday evening was a social mountain bike ride followed by food and beers, puncturing on the first decent made it more of a game of catch up for me but it was so much fun to get out and the weather was perfect. Tuesday evening was a Watt bike competition in my local pub. I’d never been to one before and it was cracking fun, my mountain biker legs set up a fast time for the roadies to have a go at beating 😉 and somehow, I came away with the win in the women’s cat. Must remember not to do gate starts on a Watt bike though as they have a tendency to tip forwards!

The rest of the week was a blur of intense exam frenzy, building up to what is for me the pinnacle of Aber Cycle Fest: Conquer the Cliff. What can be better than a downhill race in your home town? I set off from home, along the seafront, the sun was shining, and I had a smile on my face. First run of practice was terrifying; I felt like I’d forgotten how to ride a bike, super loose gravel and dust, stairs that aren’t a hardtail’s friend and a dodgy front brake. I almost went home (it’s not far). Luckily, I’m not much of a quitter so went back up again and the second run was much better. It was great catching up with friends I’d not seen in a while, all the usual biking banter, and looking out from Consti Hill at the festival below us.

Then came racing, I got a tidy first run in and came out in first place just 0.200 seconds in front of Cerianne Summerhill, there was a bit of a wait for the second run and it was tricky to balance the nerves and adrenalin (I was definitely going to have to go faster on my 2nd run). 2nd run was great, I was feeling good and came in 2 seconds faster than my first run. It wasn’t quite enough though as Cerianne found 2.5 seconds and took the win, with Marky Dynkova in 3rd and my 4X buddy Rachel Powis in 4th. It was so glorious standing on the seafront cheering on the other racers, chatting with the ladies, getting fed brownies by Gayle and basking in the atmosphere of the Cycle Fest.

The next two days were my volunteering days and it was a great way to wind down the week. It was fantastic watching my friends challenge themselves to the Sportive on Sunday and despite a stonking hangover I had a good time trying to marshal spectators on the Hill Climb event on Monday. How the cyclist rode up that hill in the searing heat is beyond me. I was sad to see the festival come to an end. All credit to the organisers and volunteers who make it happen every year, it was incredible, and you should be proud of yourselves. Bring on 2019.