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Cycling a stage of the Tour of Britain

There are few sporting events that mere mortals can emulate better than a professional road race. Fancy a knock-up on the centre court at Wimbledon? I don’t think so. How about a kick-about on the hallowed turf at Wembley? Dream on. But a chain gang along the same roads as the pro cyclists? That’s entirely possible, as I discovered when I joined NFTO pro cyclist Dean Downing and some fellow hacks for a taste of Stage 3 of this year’s Tour of Britain – an epic 180km route through Mid Wales from Newtown in Powys to the Tour’s only summit finish on The Tumble in Monmouthshire. Cue some climb stats: approx. 450m of climbing over 6km at an average gradient of 10%. Yup, it hurt.

The Tumble

Fueled with the obligatory pre-cycling sustenance of porridge and coffee our mini peloton left Drover Cycles in Hay on Wye – led by owner Luke Skinner who organised the ride – to complete the final 80km of the Welsh leg of the Tour of Britain, the UK’s biggest professional cycle race that sees 20 teams of six riders vying to claim the coveted gold jersey over eight stages. As we wound our way through the Monmouthshire countryside it was abundantly obvious why the county is known as the cycling capital of Wales and is a popular training destination for major road cycling teams. Undulating roads with long, sweeping descents and the occasional punchy climb, which made me curse that my bike wasn’t fitted with an 11-32 cassette, were the order of the day. As was coffee and cake at the rather spectacular Gliffaes County House Hotel that overlooks the River Usk.

Number crunching my Garmin stats it certainly put into perspective the sheer pace of the professional peloton and the incredible speeds that the pros attack climbs. My reasonable 10km/hr pace up The Tumble was made to look entirely pedestrian when Dean powered past me and was a speck on the horizon within seconds. But this part of the world is not one you want to speed through without raising your head to absorb the visual beauty of Mid Wales and the Brecon Beacons; unless, of course, you’re getting paid to stare at your stem in a pro peloton.

Although Stage 3 of the Tour of Britain route officially finishes atop The Tumble, after taking in the breathtaking view at the summit there was one more thing I had to do: descend. 28 minutes of tough ascending were transformed into 5 minutes of 50km/hr downhill exhilaration. Highly recommended. As is road cycling in Mid Wales.

The Friends Life Tour of Britain started today in Liverpool City Centre and the pros will be tackling Stage 3 through Mid Wales on Tuesday 9th Sept 2014. For more information visit www.tourofbritain.co.uk.

For top-notch accommodation in the area Danyfan is a beautiful self-catering house at the foot of Pen-y-Fan in the Brecon Beacons, where the owners Emma and Stevie will ensure that all your cycling needs are met. For booking enquiries or information about many other cyclist friendly accommodation in the area visit www.breconcottages.com


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