Me, in my stealthy Gimp suit, at the ToP 2013
After procrastinating for some time, I've finally decided that I WILL be revisiting St David's for the 2014 Tour of Pembrokeshire Sportive. 100+ miles of Welsh hills and God knows what weather will test the metal again next April.
This was my only sportive of 2013 but turned out to be a great way to keep my motivation for riding through the winter months. Coupled with this, it was also an amazing day's riding over the rolling Pembrokeshire hills and moorland, so it seemed only right to head back to start 2014 in a similar way - by "getting amongst it" with Rule 5 & 9.
Having done a few UK sportives now, I have to say this one is the best so far. It's not just the scenery and the riding, its the location, the route and the organisation that combined to make the day. Its also the little details like the start and finish points, bringing the route through the Cathedral and the free food and drink coupons too!
I will never forget the crowds of people lining the walls of the Cathedral, clapping and cheering as I emerged from the sharp 15% climb in the final metres of the route. I recall thinking that this was move was pure evil after 107 miles of riding in 40mph winds, but the the people waving flags, clapping and lining the streets all the way to the finish line made those hellish few hundred metres like riding down hill with the wind behind me. Of course, all of these people were purely my fans and there to see my long awaited arrival after 7 hours of cycling, but they really didn't mind cheering all the other (quicker) people whilst they were waiting! I really hope 2014 is just as good but I think it will struggle to top this years...
The day had started out badly for me as I'd woken in the early hours at the hotel with a bout of violent sickness that left me feeling awful and, for most of the morning, unable to hold anything down. This was helpfully topped off by a stupid crash which saw me swimming in cow shit and left with a buckled front wheel! Those first 30 miles were perhaps the worst miles I've had on a bike, but by some miracle something changed and, once I realised that my energy drink was happy to stay down and I managed to get to the second feed station where me and banana Malt Loaf got acquainted. To this day I swear this gooey, squidgy banana goodness is what got me through the agony, particularly over the Preseli hills. Talking of which, that descent on the other side is a pure joy, with speeds of around 50mph and at least two slippery cattle grids thrown in for good measure - add to that the buckled wheel and I was really hanging on for dear life at times!
Once I'd gotten over my icky start, the rest of the day was always going to be easier - despite the relative challenge that lay ahead. I was relieved to eat some free stew and down a well-earned beer with the tokens awarded as I crossed the finish line. The sun was out (though still a little chilly) and I just sat about swapping stories with other finishers and generally talking shop whilst waiting for my friend Paul to cross the line. Despite the incessant wind, it was a great day's riding on on a challenging course in comical, if sometimes desperate circumstances!
If its anything like last year, the 2014 tour should be just as epic and training will start in earnest in March - though the key is not to be off the bike for any length of time during the winter months!
For those of this particular persuasion, here's my Strava log of the event in all its gory detail and, for the avoidance of doubt, a Suffer Score of 249 is a personal record!