Epic scenery, brutal climbs and more than a fair share of hike-a-bike. As Tom Townsend himself put it over on his Instagram, this is “proper adventuring” if we ever saw it!
If you caught our recent blog post, you’ll know that our friend and Stolen Goat Race Team member Tom Townsend is currently taking on the GB Divide: a gruelling test of endurance that is essentially LEJOG, off road. You can read the post here to find about more about Tom and the GB Divide.
For now, catch up with Tom’s progress so far…
Prologue and Stage 1: “This event has a reputation for breaking both bikes… and people.”
Easing into the hard stuff? Not on this adventure! Tom started the 35km prologue to Stage 1, assuming it would be a fairly easy task. Instead he was greeted with 20km of almost unbroken rutty single track, leading to plenty of hike-a-bike sections. It took almost 3hrs to cover 35k, which served as a reminder of just how tough the terrain can be and why this event has a reputation for breaking both bikes… and people.
Undeterred, Tom started Stage 1 – 100 miles with almost 2500m climbing – and was thankfully greeted with far more favourable terrain on the Cornish lanes.
Stage 2: “Proper adventuring.”
Stage 2 kicked off with a major landmark: the infamous Dunkery Beacon, which is the highest point on Exmoor. This was Tom’s first time riding up to the summit – the highest point of Exmoor – and was rewarded with some incredible views across the UK. Next stop: Wales!
Stage 3: “This was without a doubt one of the most epic bike rides I’ve ever done…”
Starting just south of Bristol, on tough but manageable terrain, Tom soon crossed over into Wales via the Severn Bridge bike path to be greeted with some awesome gravel roads.
The main event of the day came in the final 20km – crossing the infamous ‘gap’, which is at 600m and is covered in loose rocks – and called for a 5km hike: “After 7hrs on the bike, this was brutal and a proper test of will and determination… an hour after starting the 5km crossing it was over, and the reward was an outrageous dinner where we were staying on the other side.”
Making it through this huge test of strength was a big reminder of why this route is both incredibly brutal, but also extremely rewarding all at once.
Stage 4: “An amazing bike ride from start to finish, rather than just a crazy adventure!”
Hearing about Stage 4 of Tom’s trip has made us want to grab some gravel bikes and immediately head to Wales. If 70km of Welsh forest tracks – built for lorries in the logging industry, meaning they’re both wide and perfectly smooth – sounds like your thing, you’ll probably want to join us!
Tom described these roads as the best riding he’s ever done in the UK, setting a pretty high bar for the upcoming Scottish roads to beat!
Stage 5: “the infamous Bwlch Y Groes”
Tom has described Stage 5 as “without a doubt, the hardest stage yet.” The day started with a climb up the infamous Bwlch Y Groes. With that in the bag, Tom thought the worst of the day was behind him. But there was a surprise waiting 70km down the road, in the form of two climbs which were considerably tougher than Bwlch Y Groes: “on a loaded gravel bike, after 32hrs in 4 days they were both pretty touch and go at points.”
We don’t know about you Goats, but our hooves are aching just thinking about it.
Stage 6: “Another big day out”
Stage 6 was another long day in the saddle, with 100 miles and 2300m of climbing. If that wasn’t tough enough, the majority of the gravel, climbs and inclement weather were all concentrated into the final 60km! Hopefully the stunning landscapes and gravel hairpins made up for it…
Tom has now crossed over into Scotland, with more big days in the saddle, amazing gravel roads and incredible scenery to come. Make sure you follow Tom on Instagram for daily updates as he makes his way towards John O’ Groats!