Having marketed the Tour of Pembrokeshire for the past couple of years I have become more and more interested in the possibility of taking part.
It was with the 27th of April in mind and a fair few miles under my belt, when the chance to take on the challenge of the long Tour of Pembrokeshire route with organiser Peter Walker arose, I jumped at it.
It was great to have someone to ride it with who knew the route rather than standing by the roadside checking a map or relying on a GPS, the words ‘recalculating route’ never fill me with confidence when I’m out in unknown territory.
The 108 mile route was initially a little daunting, I’ve been road cycling for the past six months and run regularly but never anything like this distance, so I was glad to be attempting it with an experienced rider.
Once out on the road we found a pace that I was comfortable with and began covering the miles, firstly on flat open roads and then after a few miles turning into the coastal lanes. I’ve lived in Pembrokeshire all of my life, so I’m used to the type of countryside and coast we are blessed with but saw it with new eyes whilst riding my bike. Long country lanes sweeping down into one coastal village after another with every variety of climb imaginable taking us on to the next. We passed the Pendre Inn feed-station in Fishguard and soon arrived in Llanychaer where the 75 mile and 100 mile routes separate from the 50 mile route with a sudden and arduous 25% climb, it was really steep but I made it to the top; tick, one real challenge completed.
As we wound on through the lanes I knew that we would soon be climbing further up onto the moorland area topping out at Bedd Morris, one of the greatest views on the route, it was a long climb but the view was well worth it.In additon to what I could see, my prize was a fast technical descent into Newport, where I was careful to watch out for the sheep!
Rather than the towns and villages, each notable climb became my next target and it wasn’t long before we were faced with a serious challenge out of Moylegrove with a dreaded bend halfway up. Peter had given me some great ps for climbing along the way and I needed them all for this one.
At the far north eastern point at Poppit sands, we stopped for a Torq bar and coincidentally met one of the RNLI boys who’ll be helping us on the day, before con nuing on through the Abbey in St Dogmael’s and eventually reaching The Boncath Inn where we enjoyed a flap-jack.
The landscape and topography changed as we turned inland, the hills became longer and more gentle than the sharp descents and ascents along the coast. We con nued through the countryside past Pentre Ifan and then got ready for the next big event, the climb up to Bwlch y Gwynt, the highest point on the Tour of Pembrokeshire at 1317 feet.
We basked in glorious sunshine as we made the two mile climb and we stopped at Tafarn y Bwlch for more Torq before pushing on to the summit, another tick in the box and another rewarding descent. We continued through villages and past ancient farmsteads, around mountains and through valleys whilst we enjoyed the stunning views for miles into the distance.
It was time then to get ready for the final headline climb on the Tour, which is heralded by a fast descent in to the Gwaun Valley and a beautiful ride along the valley floor. As we rode, the ascent built in my mind long before I actually saw it rising in front of me beyond the tree line. It was a tough climb with a sharp turn left out of a junction on half way up breaking my rhythm and making it all the more difficult but we made it to the top in good shape and then climbed further to Mynydd Cilciffeth, one of the best all around views on the Tour where you can see right the way back to St Davids.
Another sweeping descent broken by a sharp right-hander Peter called ‘Tom’s bend’, named a after his son who’d once had a ‘moment’ on it and onwards, ever onwards. We eventually came to Letterson, site of The Jubilee Inn feed station and the home of nutrition sponsor Gwaun Valley Meats, who provided us with a tasty faggot each, (that will be available at some of the feed stations on the Tour) they were excellent and really lifted the spirits.
By now I was in uncharted territory in terms of the number of miles I’d covered and glad that, barring a few hills, it was a relatively flat run into the finish. There were some great views at Berea of Ramsey Island and Carn Llidi which marked our finish.
Suddenly, we were riding the final sweep down into St David’s, over a bridge and turning into the Cathedral grounds, a sharp right turn onto a really steep incline reminded me of all the hills I’d climbed that day and then we arrived at The Grove Hotel and Oriel y Parc. I’d done it, my first century ride under my belt, it was a great day and one I’ll never forget.