On the 8th July 2018, one of the hottest days of the year in Wales cycling fever spread from the Tour de France to South Wales as I decided to take on the challenge of competing in the Wales Velothon. Taking on a grueling course covering 140km on closed roads around South Wales starting and finishing in the heart of Cardiff and including two of Wales most intimidating climbs, the Tumble and Caerphilly mountain.
I arrived at my starting pen at 6:30am excited and a little apprehensive to what the day had in store and the challenge I was about to face. The route on leaving Cardiff to the east would take me through Newport and Usk, before entering the Brecon Beacons National Park, home of the legendary Tumble climb. The route then heads south via Pontypool and Newbridge on its way to Caerphilly for one final climb up the stunning Caerphilly Mountain, before finishing with a fast descent towards the finish line, in the heart of Cardiff City Centre.
Whilst on the ride, the trip to Usk seemed to go by in the blink of an eye, a relentless pace with the adrenalin flowing and the peloton pushing the pace. However, as we approached Abergavenny the nerves started to rise as I knew that I was approaching the Tumble climb. At 6km in length and with a 10% incline it was all about a steady climb to the summit where there was an ice cream van and refreshments waiting to refuel those tired legs! In the heat of the midday sum I reached the top of the mountain with a huge sense of achievement but still with the anticipation of over half the ride still to run.
The final hurdle before I was able to enjoy the ride back to Cardiff was Caerphilly Mountain, despite being just 1.28km long this climb packed a punch with a maximum gradient of 22%. This was by far the toughest challenge of the day and all I could do was to grit my teeth and try to keep the pedals turning! I have never been more relieved to reach the top of this climb and knowing that from this point on its all downhill to the finish.
Riding down from Caerphilly through Cardiff I was met by my family cheering and willing me along to the finish. Obviously, I did all I could as I rode passed them to look cool, composed and like it was all easy. On reaching the finish line in Cardiff City Centre I reflected on my journey, starting out in January as a complete novice, the frustration of training and the mechanical failures miles from home. As these thoughts and the lactic acid flooded my body at the finish I was overcome with emotion, I set off 5.34 hours ago on a personal journey and at times had to really dig deep to get to the finish.
This was one of the greatest experiences of my life and one that I will treasure forever I would like to thank my family for the unbelievable support and to Luke Rowe of Team Sky for his support, advice and encouragement, see you at the 2019 Tour de France!