Early, oh so early, on Friday morning, as the sun was slowly rising in the east, I was following the slowly waning moon west. Anyone would think it was sportive season which, it being January, it so isn’t. But it was time for this year’s Tour of Pembrokeshire Prologue ride, which meant being in Newport (no not that Newport) by 10:00am. Hence the unpleasant 5:30am alarm call, to get me out on the road in time to head towards the equally unpleasant weather that was forecast. There’s a reason sportives are generally later in the year…but having said that, last year’s Tour of Pembrokeshire was in April and boy, was the weather hideous. And hey, it was only a forecast, right? Besides, it’s not just about the ride, the Prologue has a hefty social element to it, with lunch all together afterwards, and it’s run by those who are now friends of mine so even if cycling around a wet and windy Pembrokeshire didn’t exactly appeal, in for a penny in for a pound, right?
So welcome to Prologue HQ, at Llys Meddyg in Newport. Parking was at somewhat of a premium as riders were already gathering, but I was assisted in squeezing my little red car into a little space in the hotel car park. Since I was staying there that night, I guess I was entitled I stuck my head inside, made my presence known, and headed back to the car to get ready. So far the weather wasn’t too bad, and it was pretty mild, which made the inevitable faffing a lot easier. I had considered washing the bike beforehand but, all things considered, I figured it would have been a waste of time. Oh and let’s face it, I’m lazy So out it came, complete with mud, and on went the necessary layers. I think there were forty other riders, or thereabouts, all milling around doing similar; registering, drinking coffee and the like.
As the time to depart drew near, we were sorted into ability-based groups, with me firmly in the softie group. I still had/have a stinking cold and inability to hear, haven’t done much exercise in a couple of weeks, and riding at all was possibly less than advisable, let alone doing it and trying to keep up with others. Besides, it looked like we were going to be a fairly sociable group, to be led by mein host Peter & his son Tom on their tandem, and there was even another girl for company – Nikki – which made a nice change.
And that’s pretty much how it worked out. Fairly sociable, stopping and starting to regroup, and just about slow enough for me. Yes, the downhills were fun, but there isn’t much flat, and why is it I always forget how hilly Pembrokeshire is? It is. Very. Hence the slow. Even doing the softie route, which meant cutting out the last big climbs, our 34 mile route included over 3000 feet of climbing! Man there was a lot of up – a real taster of what the real Tour is like. Sadly there was absolutely nothing in my legs, and going uphill literally hurt. I had lead for legs, but that’s unsurprising really I guess.
The first half of the ride was fairly pleasant, that not withstanding. It was still mild, only occasionally damp, with the odd hint of blue sky, and of course the scenery was as lovely as ever. It is beautiful around there, especially around the coast. For a little while it looked like we might make it around our loop before the weather came in. We did not. Oh no. Definitely not. In came the rain and serious amounts of wind. The sort that knocks you sideways, pushes you backwards, and generally just makes everything harder whilst completely failing to be behind you at any useful point in time, if at all. Hence the lack of photos. It would appear that this is the kind of weather I bring to Pembrokeshire, and as I coated yet more roads with snot, and coughed my way up yet another hill, I did wonder what on earth I thought I was doing, and why on earth I was doing it…
The last half of the ride was definitely a slog. I’ve done much longer rides that didn’t feel as hard work as this one did, and it was a great relief to get back to Newport and stuff the (even muddier) bike back in the car. I was geknackert. It is just possible that, considering my current being ill state, cycling 34 miles of wet windy Welsh hills was not the best idea ever… Still no-one ever said I was the sharpest knife in the drawer
Cycling time: 2:54
Distance: 33.4 miles
Avg: 11.5 mph
ODO: 7449.7 miles
Once I’d checked into what turned out to be a very large & lovely room and I’d had a long hot shower, I felt restored to as close to human as I was going to get, and it was time to rejoin everyone for pheasant casserole & post ride debriefing downstairs. It sounds like those that had braved the full route had had some hairy times in the wind up on the mountains, making the route we took seem like a very wise choice. Not that I feel we needed that vindicating, as I’m just happy we didn’t have to do any more climbing! I know, girly wuss The après ride more than made up for my dismal performance on the ride, and what’s more, I felt like I’d earned it!
The Tour of Pembrokeshire 2015 takes place on 25th April and over 1100 have already signed up. It’s a great event, that I’ve done several times, and it promises to be just as good and just as challenging as ever. Due to other commitments, this year I’m not doing the Tour proper, but that probably means they’ll have their best weather ever! It’s one of my favourite events, and if you haven’t signed up already, why not do so now and make the most of the inevitable sunshine? *grin*.