Event Review

Tour de Mon REVIEW

by Sean Lacey

The Tour de Mon REVIEW

Essentials:

Date: Sunday 1st September
Distances: 103, 75, 40 miles
Entry fee: £36, £32, £28
Participants: 900 entrants
Start: Newry Beach, Holyhead, Anglesey, facilities available on site and a small amount of parking on streets nearby, car parks recommended
Feedstops: 4 across the routes
Catering: Hot/cold drinks and food available before and after the ride
Timed: Yes (electronic chip on seat pin flag)
Signs: Yes, with marshals at most junctions 
Roads: Great coastal route on quiet roads with a mostly rolling profile and a couple of bigger climbs. Sag wagon and NEG riders on route to provide assistance if needed. 
Goody bag: Welsh slate coaster, crisps, seed mix, keyring and T-shirts available if ordered in advance 

Always Aim High Events, fresh from their second year success with the Dave Brailsford endorsed Etape Eryri, have expanded their mass participation cycling event portfolio with a brand new event, the Tour De Mon. 

Set on the Isle of Anglesey, and taking in a tour of the island's spectacular coastal regions, the only surprise is that no one has organised a large scale sportive here before; it's a beautiful part of Wales and absolutely ideal for it. 

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The beautiful Anglesey coast

The HQ was set up at the Holyhead Sailing Club, which would host the event over the weekend. Registration was open from midday - 9pm on Saturday, and there was also an optional pasta party. You were able to resister on the day if you weren't around Saturday too. Once checked in you were given a bag, which, as you then went around the tables collecting your personalised bike number and timing flag, progressively filled with sponsor goodies too. 

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Registration expo the day before the event

Arriving back early on Sunday morning from a B&B just a stone's throw from the beach, the road outside the Sailing Club was transformed; closed to traffic for the day, and now lined with stalls from sponsors and local businesses, the road was full with riders lining up at the start gantry in between. 

Set off in waves initially by the local councillor into the cool and breezy morning, we headed out from the harbour towards the lanes and beautiful coastal scenery surrounding the South Stack lighthouse. Following the coast through Treaddur Bay then cutting across to Valley, we had the unique chance to attempt a timed flying mile along one of RAF Valley's runways. From possibly the fastest section of the ride to the slowest, as the exit at the rear of the base meant taking a rough dirt track then a section of campsite field to rejoin the road, not ideal but I can see it was unavoidable. 

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Riders preparing for the off

Back following the eastern coast, past the motor racing circuit at Abberfraw and the forests at Newborough, we then ran along the Menai Strait before crossing the iconic Menai Bridge, circling the roundabout on the mainland and doubling back onto the island. The road here gave stunning views across the Strait to the mainland, and some extremely pricey properties to dream about owning on the run into Beaumaris. There was a feed set up at one of the large hotels here, and I had a brief stop for a DIY filled roll and snacks / fruit / water top up. 

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The impressive Menai Bridge

Next up was the biggest climb of the day, which opened up with a sharp rise followed by a sustained, energy-sapping gradient, but rewarded riders with fantastic views from the top. More coastal riding followed, into a brisk wind now however, before briefly cutting inland for some welcome shelter. The respite was short-lived, and before long we were back following the coast, spinning through the pretty Bull Bay and Cemaes, before heading south, back towards Valley. This last section was a constant series of small rises and dips that drained the legs somewhat, before meeting up with our original route though Holyhead, back past South Stack, and finishing with a downhill run to the finish. 

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A view of the hills on the mainland

With their experience in running and triathlon events, and the Etape Eryri, the Tour De Mon was a slick event from start to finish. The registration and expo the day before was a nice touch, enabling you to get things in order without rushing around on the morning. The route was great, sticking to the scenic coast roads as much as possible, with the additions of the flying mile and Menai bridge crossing adding to it.

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There was great local support across the entire route as well as at the finish

The feeds were well stocked, my only observation was that the energy drink provided was from a sponsor, Kinetica, which I don't think many people had tried before; a new product can be risky if you don't know if you get on with it, and I think this put many people off. Maybe send samples out when riders register to try it first? 

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Riders get stuck in at one of the well stocked feed stations

The signage was excellent, plenty of it and AA style signs around the island well before the event warning drivers of the event. Also, there were marshals on most junctions, and Welsh marshals have the ability to stop traffic unlike our English counterparts, which made for smooth progress. Another nice touch, albeit out of the organisers control I suppose, was the level of local support - people were out all over the course to cheer on the riders so it seemed to have been embraced by the local population too.  

Overall an event hard to find fault with, and highly recommended. 

Route info:  http://app.strava.com/activities/79264735

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Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 6 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 10 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 10 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 8 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 9 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 9 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 8 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 9 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 10 out of 10
Overall Rating 87.8%




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