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Tour of Pembrokeshire REVIEW

by Holly Blades

Words by Rob Low: The Tour of Pembrokeshire, my third, took place on Sunday 12th June 2011.  I arrived on the Saturday afternoon to register at the Village Hall in Saundersfoot, and everything seemed to be organised very well, as usual.  I detected a slight communal atmosphere of denial, but thought nothing of it and retired with timing chip and plastic number to find some food.

Having gone to bed on Saturday night on a beautiful early summer's evening, I was woken up, early, by the sound of mid-winter wind and lashing rain.  Nothing ventured, I thought, and it always sounds worse in the tent than it actually is outside.  Alas, a tentative nose out of the tent door revealed sheets of rain scudding across the campsite and shredded flags on poles.  It was at this point that something strange started to happen.  

I considered the weather, fully, and decided that it was entirely reasonable to bail out to Pont Abraham services on the M4, with tail between legs for a nice coffee and the paper.  With this in the forefront of my mind I started putting my cycling kit on (?!), with the very vague justification that I'd come this far so I might as well go and have a look.

On arrival at the start a serious case of Britishness seemed to have broken out, with everyone walking or riding around with what can only be described as stoic purpose.  This was not going to be fun, but we've said we're going to do it, and do it we bl**dy well will.  I found myself getting my timing chip registered and setting off up the brutal first hill out of Saundersfoot - what was I thinking?

Off we went, duck-tail sprays coming from back wheels in a sad, soggy procession of orange and yellow jackets through Narberth, and north to the split for 60/80 or 120 miles.  At this point I was again overtaken by rashness as I found myself turning right onto the long route, along with about 40 other brave (and foolhardy) souls.  

The view from the top of the Preseli Hills was wonderful - the roadside fence - and the following descent down narrow lanes (this is the worst and most dangerous bit of the course) was tense.  Anyway, 'chapeau' to the woman who always leans out of her kitchen door cheering us on in Dyffryn Gwaun, and on to the first feed-stop at Fishguard.

And on, and on.  Worth mentioning that until about 3 o'clock it absolutely lashed it down, and the wind was so strong it was taking low-profile wheels away from you as you passed gate openings - truly a shocker.  People riding high profile rims must have been nervous wrecks after a while.  After 100 miles, when it honestly didn't matter how wet you were, I almost enjoyed riding through 50' long puddles on the Castlemartin Peninsula, and raising a laugh amongst the fantastic feed station crew when I admitted that I hadn't had this much fun since the dog died.

Having negotiated the sting-in-the-tail at Freshwater East, I stuck it in the big 'un and mashed down the coast road towards Tenby.  The climb out of Tenby proved testing with the tell-tale signs of the man-with-the-hammer pushing me backwards, and I was all too pleased to plunge down the road into Saundersfoot to finish the ordeal.

The low turnout was reflected in the small number of people enjoying the very tasty and filling after-ride meal, all demonstrating the 1000 yd stare preceding the onset of PTSD on the way home.  As an indication of the severity of the conditions, my time was 50 minutes slower than the last two years, and I think (hope) I'm a bit fitter.

And the thanks.  Yes, to organisers, sponsors and fellow riders (the few I came across!), but most of all to the people from the Rotary Club manning the feed-stations.  My idea of fun isn't being huddled in a small covered livestock trailer for 10 hrs on Castlemartin Range, handing out energy bars in a cold monsoon to the clinically insane.  But to do it with a joke to hand and a welcoming smile is fantastic.  Thanks everyone, this is always amongst the best sportives that I do - I think I'm pleased I did it this year......?

[*Stock images from a much sunnier Tour of Pemrokeshire! - Ed]


16th June 2011 9:38am malovibond wrote:

Sound like great fun!!

20th June 2011 1:15pm wrote:

Great summary Rob, where were you at the start? I had 120 lonely miles on my own and could have done with some company out there... To add to all the fun of the day, I punctured with 10 miles to go and my pump packed up! I had to almost drag a young lad off his bike in order to get rescued. See you next year! :-) Brent

20th June 2011 3:43pm wrote:

Definitely the hardest ride I've done to date, almost entirely because of the weather (and that was despite being prepared for it). As with bholmes above, predominantly rode the 120 miles by myself. Could have packed at about 50-60 miles, but decided to soldier on and was glad I did. Freshwater East wasn't as bad as I remembered either. Descents, on the other hand, were largely a nightmare - my brake blocks were shot when I got back to Saundersfoot and it meant you couldn't really get your average speed up. Still, a good test of survival instincts and willpower. And the massage at the end was worth its weight in gold.