Velothon Wales 2015 – Part 1

Woohoo – a new event!  And not just new to me – new full stop.  And it was a big’un too – Velothon Wales!  In the absence of a closed road foreign road event on my calendar this year (*sob*), 15,000 riders on Welsh closed roads sounded like a pretty good Plan B to me, so I signed up sometime in the far and distant past, booked my hotel, and pretty much forgot about it…

Until this weekend of course.  Which saw me, and a great many other cyclists, all heading down the M4 to Cardiff on Saturday afternoon, those that weren’t going to be doing the same on Sunday of course.  I reckon around 20% of the many cars patiently queuing at the Severn Crossing toll booth had bikes either on or in them!  Of course adding all of us to Cardiff’s usual Saturday afternoon traffic made for slow progress from thereon in…

OK, so I’d booked my hotel, the Big Sleep in Cardiff, through Velothon’s partner of choice.  I knew they had limited parking.  I was hoping that by getting there early I would stand a chance of getting a space.  As I sat there in stop/start interminable traffic, eventually able to see my hotel but still not getting there, I felt my chances slipping away…surrounding by car parks with big red “Full” notices, and no alternative booked…  So you can imagine how relieved I was when I finally pulled up the (very steep) ramp to the car park and found spaces if not galore, certainly sufficient for my needs! *phew*.  Although my paperwork had said check in was at 2pm, and I was marginally early for that, it turned out that is oft the case, the paperwork sent by those I had booked through was wrong, and it was actually at 3pm.  Probably explains why not everyone else was there yet and why there were spaces…but whatever the reason I certainly wasn’t complaining.  I was where I needed to be, when I needed to be, and my little red car was happily parked up.

Registration Enervit

The weather wasn’t great, mild but damp.  So given an hour or so to kill, I sorted some stuff out with the car and bag and such, grabbed my waterproof jacket, and headed back to the hotel to use the toilets and ask for directions to Cardiff Castle, which is roughly where I knew registration was.  As it turns out another gentleman, aka a cyclist (not always the same thing!), was doing the same, so I acquired company by the name of Charlie.  We headed off in the drizzle, me with the map of course, apparently it’s a girl thing 😉  We jay-walked our way there in grockle fashion, and eventually reached the event village by City Hall. To be fair, a couple of signs wouldn’t have gone amiss!  The signs once there weren’t all that helpful either, but we figured the large white tent not noticeably selling anything and with a few people queuing out of it was probably registration which indeed it was.  Having been open since Thursday, and with anyone else checking in to the City probably aiming for 3pm, the various number-related queues were pretty short, and mine was non-existent.  For a change having been asked to bring photo ID with me, (I only have my passport and I really don’t like having to take it to sportives and then leave it in the car), I was actually asked to produce it.  Which I did, of course.  I was clearly me, so I was allowed to have my essential envelope and a goody bag which I gather in some cases contained hair conditioner which is useless to your average MAMIL and which might have actually come in handy for me.  I just got some fliers and a pack of Craisins!  And a voucher for a free Enervit bottle which, once Charlie was likewise sorted, we both went and collected.  He also got one of their complete race nutrition – before, during, after – packs, which he’d reserved.  I passed.  Surprise, surprise 😉

We wandered around the village a bit.  He needed a new bottle cage and gas canisters – which he found.  I was handed the bag containing all these as he paid, as ever, a girl would only be there as someone’s wife, right?  *sigh*  My new marital status was the cause of quite some amusement 😉  Muc-Off were also there and I remembered I’d run out of their Chain Cleaner, so I picked some of that up too (saves paying p&p right?).  But there wasn’t much else to do, or pay attention to, especially in the damp, so we headed back to the hotel to respectively check in at last, having duly killed the necessary hour to make our presence permissible.  It turns out that the hotel is co-owned by John Malkovich, which is a tad surreal, as was sharing my room with a photograph of him staring out at me.  Still, my room seemed, if basic, perfectly pleasant, though the fluffy curtains were a tad weird.  So, what to do now?  Charlie had work to do…due a presentation of exciting accountancy stuff on Monday morning apparently, whereas I had no such ties on my time.  Since he had suggested I might like to join him and his club – iCycle from Bedford- for the meal they were all having that evening, although I wasn’t sure I would, it being a tad outside my comfort zone, I figured I should get some cash just in case, and hey, a girl needs to hydrate, no? 😉

John Malkovich

On my way into town I walked past the kind of pub I always want to go in, all historic and tiled and stunning…but you can’t see inside so it’s a tad scary and, giving in to fear, I walked on by.  Having found cash, the centre of Cardiff on a Saturday afternoon was a whole heap more scary though!  And I don’t just mean the sheer quantity of hen/stag parties.  They have an excuse (kinda!).  I’m talking the other denizens prowling the streets!  Oh, so classy…and I’d better add a big NOT there!  All the central pubs, including a Wetherspoons which can sometimes be a good option, were heaving and loud and just not where I wanted to hang out in a quiet corner, mostly because there wasn’t such a thing anywhere to be found.  So I was brave.  I went back to the other pub.  It was empty.  And as I wandered around a bit downstairs, as stunning as I’d hoped.  I went back to the main bar which was purple, with pink crystal chandeliers over the bar, and Perroni on tap.  On ordering my pint from the softly spoken barman, it occurred to me that I wasn’t in Kansas in anymore, but I was probably somewhere where Dorothy would have a lot of friends.  So once I was sat down I googled it.  Yep 😉  Hey, it made no odds to me – the beer was cold and wet and wanted, my seat was purple and comfy, it was quiet, and a lot lighter and airier than I’d expected, so I curled up to read my Kindle happily for an hour or so 🙂

Golden Cross Perroni

That done, I figured I’d head back to the hotel if I was going to have another one, and chill in my room sorting stuff for a while instead, as I was getting a bit chilly rattling around the place on my own.  So I did just that.  Whilst doing such upstairs, pinning numbers on jerseys and the like, and then resting up on my comfy bed, Charlie texted me to say I was indeed welcome to join them all for dinner and he was getting a taxi at 18:45pm if I wanted to.  Just for once, maybe inspired by having been brave with the pub, I decided that I would.  Unaccustomed as I am to being sociable, I thought I’d give it a go 🙂

rider pack

I was nearly late, having got stuck filling in a Human Race survey that took far longer than it should have done.  But I made it down in time, and we headed off to Demiro’s which turned out to be in Cardiff Bay, just down the road, where I’ve been before, and I like it there.  Good start 🙂  By the time we’d all arrived there were about 25 of us, and I was somewhere in the middle of the table, which was nice, and made it easier to meet people.  The menu was a tricolore of Welsh, Italian, and Spanish – an interesting mix!  – but it had a whole heap of carb-loading options for those that needed them.  Since gluten-free didn’t seem to be an option and I didn’t want to ask, I went with squid rings and then crab cakes.  Not safe, but safer 😉  Oh, and also pretty good!  As was the company, as it turns out.  Lots of the usual cycling conversations, and quite a lot of good-natured banter 🙂  I’m not sure any of us were expecting cabaret…but they had singing waiters!  One younger, one more Tony Bennett.  Both quite good, especially so according to the lady of a certain age, and part of a large party in a middle of the room, who really got into the swing of things…extra entertainment!  Bet her head hurt the next morning 😉  Having eaten well, drunk well but less than her, and done the usual splitting the bill shenanigans, Charlie and I eventually found another taxi and headed back to the hotel for a quiet drink putting the world to rights, before heading off to our rooms for a relatively early night.  Bikes to ride an’ all that.  No Dangerous Liaisons for me, y’hear? 😉  I was dead proud of myself for being brave twice in one day, both of which had gone well, and amused to have been both married off and adopted in one day too.  Funny old world 😉  So far, so good…

Cardiff Bay

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