It’s safe to say that the Tour of Pembrokeshire and I have history. Years of it. I’ve done the Prologue ride a few times. I’ve done the actual Tour quite a few times, and done every route from the short to the long. Not the very long route they had one year, even I’m not that daft – I’d still be out there!

But that’s when I was riding a bike. These days well…thanks to my health (mostly) and life…it’s coming up for a year since I actually rode out on the road, and it’s been a fair few months since I even sat on the spin bike at home. Such is life, etc.

So I had no intention of being anywhere near this year’s Tour of Pembrokeshire. Why would I? I’m not much of a one for being a spectator in life, if I’m not taking part, then what’s the point? I’d rather spend a few hours doing something than watching others doing it. A little bit of me was a bit sad about it. I know all the guys who run the Tour. We may not quite be what one would call friends, but we’ve all hung out quite a bit, in friendly and amicable style. And it’s a shame when traditions fall by the wayside.

Now whether or not they felt the same way, or whether they were just short of volunteers to help on the day, we may never know…but a couple of months prior the event, and a couple of phone calls from Peter, the organiser, and somehow we’d agreed that we (being Matt and I) would be there, and that we’d spend the day interviewing riders at one of the food stops to help with the post-ride promotional video that they were planning on making. Now I know a lot of you think I’m a extrovert, and that that kind of thing is probably very me. Believe me, I’m not, and it’s not. But given the chance to spend another weekend in Pembrokeshire, and to catch up with some folk, with the addition of a little curiosity as to whether or not I could push myself out of my comfort zone thrown in and…there you go.

And so, once more, late on a Friday evening, we spent another few hours retracing our now very familiar steps back to Crug Glas, HQ for the Tour for the last few years. By the time we’d made it down there, the pre-ride evening do was drawing to a close. We were just in time to grab some of the fish & chips laid on for dinner though, which went down a treat. Peter was as busy as ever, unsurprisingly, though we did manage to grab the odd five minutes with him so as to pick up the camera & kit, before getting our briefing from Griff as to what kind of thing he was after on the day. Slowly all was cleared down, the remaining riders retired to wherever they were planning on getting a good night’s sleep before doing the Tour, rather than just talking about doing it.

We all followed suit, with Peter playing support vehicle to make sure we got to Preseli Venture(who are one of the Tour’s Adventure partners), where we were staying without getting lost, which was good as we could easily have missed it on the dark narrow country lanes! So then, time for couple of beers in the bar, and a couple of games of pool, methinks. The bar closed pretty early, around 9ish, but she was happy to leave us to our own devices in the club room, so we chilled out for a bit, and then had a relatively comfortable night’s sleep on a couple of mattresses pushed together on the floor, as neither the two single beds nor the bunk beds in our room appealed…

The sun rose, seemingly actually shining, and at some point so did we. Not at the usual hideous o’clock that is associated with actually riding the event however, which I can’t be said to have missed. These days the only sport I could compete at is sleeping, and I’m very good at it once there! We were due to spend the day at the Bluestone Brewery food stop, where even the first racing snakes through wouldn’t be there until a fairly reasonable time, and being such, the chances were they’d not be wanting to stop and talk to us either! Post breakfast, well for him anyway, we headed off in the sunshine, both suitably attired in a range of Tour kit, past and present. And jeans in my case. No-one wears cycling shorts unless they have to, right? 😉 I wanted to make sure that we looked at least vaguely official – rather than just a pair of numpties walking around pointing a camera/mic at random people!

Which worked, albeit in a slightly counter-productive sense. As we parked up outside the brewery, and emerged blinking into the slightly breezy sunshine, (yes, it was sunny, yes this is not entirely unprecedented for the Tour, but it is rare, and I am going to keep mentioning it), we were accosted by a couple of riders, one of whom had recently had an unfortunate incident with a support vehicle, on his brand new, very swish, and no doubt expensive bike. Although the back deep carbon rim wheel was probably worth a little less than it had been, what with it being slightly buckled… 🙁 We did out best to help, until Griff appeared from nowhere, and we passed them on to him, in true pass the buck style!

Time to get to work. It’s harder than it looks videoing people. For starters, it was getting busier. There was loud music being played. Lots of chatter. And a fair few rookie errors. Like, did you know it helps to turn the microphone on before talking to people? And that the mic is fairly directional even when it is working? And that I get fairly flustered doing such things, although I did get better as I got the hang of it. It’s just hard approaching people, interrupting what they’re up to, be it eating, chatting, or just trying to avoid you! We did our best…and both thanks and apologies go to our victims!  Basically everyone was having a good time, the weather was great, they loved the route, the organisers were friendly and helpful, and the food stops were amazing. Imagine many variations of that theme over, and over, and over…  The atmosphere was lovely, the sun was still shining, though it could get a tad chilly on the few occasions where it hid its face or the breeze blew a little stronger. I had thought I might feel nostalgic, or a bit sad, left out, whatever. But no. I know the Tour. I know that whichever route you do, it’s bl**dy hard work, and I didn’t find myself missing it at all! The best part of the ride for me has always been the stunning scenery, and I was still getting to experience that, without slogging my guts out or ending up sat on the roadside in tears again. I’ve done it. Nothing to prove here, it’s on my palmares. Job done 🙂

Back to doing this “job” then. Which we did. Then the battery ran out. We had a spare. What I wanted to do was put the spare in, and put the old one on charge. However as it turns out, the only way to charge the battery is to plug the camera (complete with said battery) into the wall. I really didn’t want to risk ending up with no battery at all, especially considering that the first charge didn’t seem to have lasted all that long.

So, what to do? Take refuge inside the brewery of course! Where they were conveniently selling their very nice, and cold, beer. Weight off feet, time to cool down, and recharge the batteries. (Do you see what I did there? 😉 ) The barman was a cheerful chatty chappie, quite amused by the fact he didn’t think he’d ever had so many people around the place while selling quite so little beer…! Not surprising really, but we weren’t the only ones indulging – chapeaux to those who thought that they could cycle the rest of whichever route they were on after a beer or two – I know I couldn’t! On the other hand, as well earnt pints go…

Break over, and we got back to work, as the flow of riders lessened to a trickle, and we decided to head back to the Start/Finish and see if we could chat to people there instead. One last chat to a lovely lady from China (possibly) who was doing the long route, who was possibly the last en route, and even though it was her first event, and neither her bike, helmet or kit marked her out as a “cyclist”, was totally un-phased when we had to tell her (she asked!) that she had a good three hours or so ahead of her. On our way out, we followed the road through the still beautiful Gwyn Valley, and passed her walking up an incline. We checked she was OK, and left her behind us, still with a massive smile on her face, determination writ large.

Back at HQ the place was full of lycra clad bodies sprawled all over the place, debriefing with friends, cold beverages, and the free food on offer for riders. Live music, massages, hustle, bustle, on one of the best days weather-wise that the Tour of Pembrokeshire has ever had, if not THE best. We collared a few more, slightly more willing, victims for post ride comments, to be told again what a great event it was (it is!), how much they’d enjoyed it, and that they would both recommend it and ride it again. Well, apart from the poor lady who had snapped her gear hanger (or something equally technical and hard to fix at the roadside) and had had to be rescued by the broom wagon. Better luck next year!

Having finally had enough of getting up enough nerve to talk to complete strangers, we decided that, in the spirit of being supportive and sportive, we would take our food, and a glass of something appropriate, and wait by the finish line for our cheery girl. I’ve been on my own and amongst the last in at sportives a fair few times, and it can be an rather lonely experience, which is sad when it comes on top of such an achievement. So wait we did. And quite some time later, about 3 1/2 hours after we’d last seen her, there she was, with a couple of other stragglers, all of whom summoned the energy for a brief sprint finish together, to be cheered over the line by us, a few marshals, and a family with many offspring still waiting for Daddy to get in. Our girl was still as smiley as ever, and I gave a big hug and congratulations, without hopefully being too patronising. She was inspirational! And last seen buying every piece of memorabilia and kit to remember the day by – who can blame her?

Right then. Time to make our way “home” again. Sadly the bar had closed by the time we got back, and neither of us had any change for the pool table any more. A slightly anticlimactic and unsociable end to the day, but luckily we had some provisions with us, so we hung out in the club room, and used the wifi to watch TV on the laptop for a while before bed beckoned again.

Good day sunshine! One of the best things, to my mind, about the Tour of Pembrokeshire, is that it takes place on the Saturday. Which leaves you the Sunday to go out and enjoy the area in a more leisurely fashion, should you so wish. Thanks to having helped out on the day, we (and a few similar) were in for a treat. Peter had organised a schedule of boat trips with Falcon Boats, the Tour’s other Adventure partner, around Ramsay Island to see the wildlife. It was fab. We were the first group, of around 12 or so, to head out. The sea was as flat as we’ve ever seen it, the sun was shining, the boat was fun, and came with a very lovely skipper who spent the ride doing her best to tell us all about everything we were seeing. Unless a seal popped its head up of course, in which case she got completely upstaged! The sea was beautiful, the range of birds on the island was amazing, the rocks and cliffs and caves were stunning, and the seals were just fabulous. Sadly the little resident pod of Riley’s Porpoises was nowhere to be seen, but hey, no complaints here.  Well unless you’re Matt. He would have liked the sea to be much more bumpy and the boat to have hurtled and bumped around a lot more. The lady sat behind me would not have done however – it was quite bumpy enough for her as it was! *grin*.  Sadly all good things come to an end, and it was back to shore where, after a brief wait for the bus, we were deposited back in St Davids to go our separate ways. Which in our case involved a pub lunch sat outside the pub, with views of the Cathedral, watching jackdaws thieve leftover packets of biscuits from the table next to us. They’d take them up to the roof next door, open the packet, drop the plastic bit, and fly off with their bounty. Someone is going to be mystified next time they clear out their gutters….! A very pleasant end to a very lovely weekend 🙂

Tour of Pembrokeshire 2019 done! Well, sort of 😉

– Jennifer Trotman