Velothon Sportive 2018 Cardiff

DSCN3337 recroped

Velothon 2018 turned out to be an amazing event attracting cyclist all over the Europe. Now well established  in its fourth year this edition was going to be by far the Hottest event as rides braved a July heatwave. The completely closed road Sportive attracted over 9000 riders for the tour around South East Wales,  with 1800  meters of climbing to be negotiated over the 140 kilometers of varied terrain.

20x30-VELF1991With the early morning start around Cardiff’s Civic Center, thousands of cyclists where organised into eight starting pens, which were released in ten minute intervals  with the first being released at seven. Temperature’s were already into the low twenties and organisers were trying to ensure that riders carried sufficient amount of water, with additional water stops on route added.

The first twenty miles towards Magor were into a head wind, especially  along the exposed  Newport flats. Getting into a nice working group was easier  on the legs along the opening miles. Our small assembled  group did work extremely well sharing the work and passing hundreds of riders from earlier released groups. After Magor the terrain altered to underlating  roads and groups started to splinter. Up and around the Celtic Manor, fast descents deserved caution with riders filling the narrow roads.

Usk was the next town on route, but suddenly the event came to a stop in a narrow lane, nobody knew what was going on. The 10 -15 mins delay was due to  a thoughtful homeowner had set up a private drinks stop causing chaos and blocking the narrow lane as many riders took up the opportunity to fill their bottles. With the  Usk feed stop with drinks  being just a couple of miles away it was a little frustrating, especially for riders who were planning to set a good time over the distance.

Usk was a popular stop for many as long organised queues formed for generous varied food supplies and water. Mechanics on hand to sort any bike issues and medics to sort out any injuries – all needs catered for..

DSCN3341 recroppedAbergavenny’s Tumble Mountain was going to be the next  test, being the highest point of the route at 512 meters. 10 miles of rolling roads between Usk and Abergavenny were ridden more gently to conserve enjoy for the  mountain climb. The Tumble is a tough climb with 15% gradients at its steepest point, over the 5km length. Some riders are reduced to walking parts of the climb, and the heat added extra difficulty. Once negotiated a long enjoyable descent to Pontypool.

The decent passes through a couple of villages with some of the most enthusiastic cheering crowds on the roadside, all getting involved with the Velothon atmosphere with barbecues and party’s as the riders passed by. Many squirted water from hose pipes into the road  to cool the appreciative riders.

Into the next feed zone and the Velothon helpers were amazing chatting and ensuring riders were okay, giving out food, water and sun screen to protect from the 30 degree heat.

Crumlin, Newbridge and Ystrad Mynach were next on route with a few climbs to negotiate, once again the organisers had concerns with minibuses parked along the way to pick up  riders who were finding it difficult. It’s not just experienced riders taking part, many maybe new to riding long distances and the hills and heat was taking it’s toll and help I’m sure would have been appreciated from the organisers.

20x30-VELL6432Onto the Llanbradach bypass and the flat road down to Caerphilly where the final climb awaits – “Caerphilly mountain”. This is not a long climb, but sure does takes a lot of strength to keep riding it.

Hose pipes again were being used to spray water into the road from kind homeowners at the start of the steep climb as the gradient  veered upwards, many again dismounted to walk parts of the climb understandably. Whatever your fitness  level this climb is never going to be easy, but after a couple of minutes of painful effort the top of the short climb was soon in sight. Hundreds filled the final  feed/drink zone  to prepare to ride the final fast  kilometres into Cardiff to Finish.

A Tour de France style finish line was built to greet the riders in Cardiff with photographers and cheering crowds lining the finishing straight.  Soon after the finish line marshals quickly handed out water to everyone before moving on to receive a medal and a gift bag to recognise the 140k ride achievement.

This is a great event and a pleasure to ride along side so many other thousands of cyclist. it is a privilege to ride with closed roads, with no motorist and no stopping at  junctions. The Velothon must employs hundreds of helpers to ensure the smooth running of this event, every road junction is marshaled along the 140k route. It’s hard to believe they get permission to close the roads which affect so many residents along the route who are unable to use their cars as main roads are shut down for hours.

Hopefully the Velothon will again be organised in 2019, as this event is one Sportive to be considered..

More Photo’s from the event :- Click Here

National Cycle Route 33 – Somerset

Jeff at burnham-on-sea for web

In late June Jeff Matthews, Club Chairman, travelled to Burnham on Sea for modifications to his campervan. He took the opportunity to ride his mountain bike to Weston Super Mare to visit relatives.

Sustrans Route 33 runs from Bristol to Ilfracombe but I was only going to ride from Highbridge/Burnham on Sea to Weston Super Mare, a 32 mile return trip. The attraction of this ride was that it was almost perfectly flat and around seven miles each way would be along the beach. When the tide is out the hard sand is available for walking, cycling and sections for car parking. The tide was out on this day, so far out that the grey, sticky mud of low tide could be clearly seen and needed to be avoided.

I had cycled the beach section a few weeks earlier but planned to go further today and travel the newly opened Brean to Weston cycle path. Mistake number one was having changed my tyres ready for my holidays. I had dis-guarded the knobbly tyres for ones more suitable to harder surfaces, on sand these were very little help to me.

After a cooked breakfast on the promenade, I took to the beach just before the lighthouse at Burnham and immediately I had problems finding sand firm enough to be able to pedal comfortably. This was very much a walking/cycling day. At one point, when I was going really well, I hit some soft sand, came to a dead stop and fell off the bike.

The tarmac section to Weston was a refreshing change but more problems when the Fire Service had blocked the track to fight a hay fire in the fields. This meant that I needed to go into Weston along the busy A370. After sandwiches on the promenade and a cup of tea with my cousins I sought out the cycle path again.

I picked the path up at the boat yard in Uphill, a pretty little village on the edge of Weston. The surfaced track passed right alongside the hay fire so I needed to get off and walk here to stay safe. A fireman told me that it had caused about £50k loss to the farmer. I soon reached the sand again and foolishly thought it would be better in the other direction. No such luck. Hard cycling and walking was my only way forward.

My legs were very heavy when I arrived at Burnham so I was pleased to get onto the promenade as soon as I could. It was not too far before I found the ice cream seller for a very welcome cornet. The cycle route through Burnham to Highbridge was quite straight forward but after a very hot day and 14 miles fighting the sand I was glad to see the comfort of my campervan.