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Plans Advanced to Make Abergavenny the Cycling Capital of Wales

by Holly Blades

Abergavenny is set to become the cycling capital of Wales if an initative to develop the town's annual Festival of Cycling for the future takes place. Talks to get the plan from the drawing board into action have taken place between Monmouthshire County Council and the organisers of the Abergavenny Festival of Cycling in recent weeks.

And the talks are at an advanced stage, with the plan expected to get the go-ahead soon in an initial way for this year's Festival which is from July 12-15. Then the plan is to go full-on for the 2013 event and beyond.

The Abergavenny Festival of Cycling has been a fixture on the town's calendar for decades. It was launched 25 years ago and, after a break, was revived again in 2006. It has always received outstanding backing from businesses in the local community, while Abergavenny Town Council have been major supporters since the Festival of Cycling was first launched.

Now Monmouthshire Council have stepped forward with the plan to turn the town, which is a mecca for social and serious cyclists, set, as it is, next to the Brecon Beacons and the county's countryside, into the centre of the sport in Wales.

Monmouthshire Council's Sport and Physical Activity Manager Adrian Woods said: "We realise that cycling is a popular sport. More and more people are taking it up and the Cycling Festival is huge in the town..

"It is one step at a time, of course, but the idea is to keep it (the Festival) going this year and make it massive next year."

Wales' reigning Olympic Games champion Nicole Cooke wins the 2009 Women's British Road Race Championships in Abergavenny, backed by thousands of fans on Frogmore Street

Festival organiser Bill Owen added: "We are delighted for Abergavenny that Monmouthshire Council have come up wtih this idea of developing the town into a cycling centre for Wales.

"Abergavenny is one of only a handful of places in Wales which hold annual mass participation rides where the public can enjoy the beauty of the countryside in a social, friendly and family environment..

"Over the years, the Festival of Cycling has brought in thousands of pounds to the local economy during its' annual weekend, with hotels and restaurants booked out heavily and shops benefiting from an influx of enthusiasts.

"Cycling holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the town's public and beyond. Abergavenny has a number of cycling clubs, which hold regular meetings throughout the year, plus more specialist cycling shops than any other town its' size in Wales. All of this interest culminates in the Festival of Cycling each year.

"And, after the fantastic support of organisations like Abergavenny Town Council and sponsors who have been there from the start, like Robert Price, it is fantastic that Monmouthshire Council have now picked up the baton in this Olympic year and helped us push the Festival on further towards the future."

Abergavenny Town Council deputy mayor Cllr Roger Harris said his authority backed the initiative. Cllr Harris said: "I think it is a great idea, there is no doubt about that. Anything that helps put Abergavenny on the map has to be supported. As far as I'm concerned, I cannot praise it (the Festival of Cycling) enough and long may it continue."

The Rapha boys tackle the Iron Mountain Sportive, 2011. Image by Phil O'Connor

The Iron Mountain Sportif, which is linking with the Tour of the Black Mountains ride this year, has been the mainstay of the Festival over the years. However, major races have added to the interest in it - and brought much-needed cash into the tills of local traders over the years.

Professional cycling stars from across the country descended on Abergavenny for the British Road Race Championships, were held in the area  in 1996, and returned in 2007 where Tour de France stage winner David Millar triumphed on a glorious day in front of thousands of spectators along the 100-miles course through Monmouthshire and over the Tumble Mountain between Govilon and Blaenavon.

In 2008, riders from across the world rode in the Grand Prix of Wales International race before the biggest Festival of all in 2009. That was when a remarkable crowd, estimated at over 10,000, packed around the roads of the county to watch the most famous cyclists of all, including the likes of Olympic Games champions Nicole Cooke, Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas and reigning world road champion Mark Cavendish, ride in three back-to-back National Championships races.

It was the first time in British cycling history that all three of the major national road race championships - the Junior, Senior Women's and Senior Men's events - had been put together on one weekend. In addition, the Town Centre Criterium races around the streets of Abergavenny on the Friday night put the town and Festival on the Welsh map when live news was broadcast from the races for BBC Wales, BBC Cymru and ITV Wales.

The Festival of Cycling also continues to be used by many riders to raise much-needed funds for charities and good causes, something which is hugely encouraged by the Sportif organisers.

Meanwhile, entries for the Iron Mountain Sportif and Tour of the Black Mountains, which are available for all ages and abilities over three distances in both events during the weekend, are open via the online booking section of the Abergavenny Festival of Cycling website on

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