The Tour de Shane
Now not having been on a road bike since August 2015, I thought I would attempt the Tour de Shane 70 mile route. To see what was installed for the 300 or so riders that have signed up for the inaugural TdS.
First up was taking the bike down to Bierspool Cycles, Pembroke Dock for a quick service and to unseize the not so moving parts, the trip was well worth it as Andrew was quite excited about the tour and offered to sponsor rider goody bags and have his business partner be involved on the day with maintenance and advice, which is much appreciated.
For my recce ride I did have the benefit of picking a glorious day to set off on this little venture, now the route is not new to me by any stretch of the imagination, I’ve cycled all sections numerous times, driven it even more and researched it in detail for the TdS planning, However I still got those nerves I set off partial due to visualising certain sections a bit too much!!
Now my bike for the day had a triple set on the front (and that is about as technical as I get) the main reason for that is I am 15 stone and there are a lot of hills in Pembrokeshire and some are very steep, maybe not the monster climbs you will get elsewhere in the UK but it is lumpy with very little easy miles on offer and therefore I recommend you choose a bike and gearing that is fit for purpose!
Anyway the course
Starting at St Davids Rugby club I took it easy as I headed north on the coast road the first 6 miles are ideal for warming up for the half day / day ahead, pretty flat and wide country roads with good visibility.
However as I was riding along mental notes start popping into the head, like don’t forget to tell that farmer so he can alter the times of his cattle crossing the road and caution signs are needed on that junction and so on!
The first little lump in the course and a reminder to me of what the next 20 miles would be came on the 5.5 mile mark, first there was a nice little descend out of Berea just before I hit the first climb (very minor) at Cwmdig Waters now in reality this climb is nothing, but it reminded me of heading up the first slow traction assisted pull on the Megaphobia rollercoaster, it’s all about the anticipation of what’s to come!!
Then as I approached the village of Trefin fully warmed up I managed to get into the top gear and down on the tri bars, (which won’t be allowed on the day) however this was shorted lived as I quickly reached the first decent descent at a rate of knots and quickly tried to slow down to negotiate the corner and bridge ,which is a real pain because once done you are immediately met by a wall to climb with no downhill momentum to help you up, as I quickly sorted my gearing out and came out of the saddle for the first time, it came to me this section is mirrored in Abercastle and Little Haven and Solva to an extent. Anyway I passed through Trefin a bit quicker than time has!
Now I’m not going to mention every hill along the course but next up was Abercastle and this one always gets me, as explained you have to slow down to negotiate the bridge and be mindful of traffic and then the initial climb is steep but I was feeling OK bar a few shouts out loud of “Come on” and a few expletives thrown in but overall it was pretty straight forward! but then the false summit got me yet again! As you pass the cottages and round the corner you reach the peak and start to descend and I thought “easy” but then just as quickly the ascend starts again and it’s pretty much a climb all the way to Mathry a hill fort settlement, which says it all really.
That was the first 10 miles done and I was feeling fine, the next 8 miles I really enjoyed around the Strumble head peninsular a mixture of narrow lanes, short sharp climbs broken up by some nice open sections picturesque hamlets and cottages combined with coastal and hill views.
Then it’s the ski jump hill of Goodwick! I was talking to someone the other day who said they may well push their bike down this section!!! Just remember it is a sportive – so take it easy! As I started the descend and passed through Stop and Call (that’s the name of the estate!) it reminded me of a training session I once did. 10 x up that hill and on about the 5th up an old man who’d been sat in his garden watching each one shouted at me “what the f@%k is wrong with you” That’s IM training for you!!!
Now once I reached the bottom of Goodwick Hill (if its wet please be careful) I prepared myself for the next 8 miles, knowing what was ahead basically a steady climb broken by some short lived downhills. How a couple of things got me through these 8 miles, 1) the sun was shining. 2) The views in some sections were great – straight across the rolling hills to the Irish Sea 3) I knew that coming up was a 10 mile stretch which was on nice open roads and mainly on the decline.
And eventually on 26 miles I reached the start of the said decline and it didn’t disappoint the roads were quiet and in good condition with nice views across the valley to the county town of H/west.
However I did start to question the pace or lack of that I was travelling at, the commitments I had later in the day and whether I’d get the full 70 in and after all this was only a recce ride and I needed to take my time looking at a number of issues riders may face on their way around! And the real reason I was having these thoughts were my gluteus maximus was killing me! A lack of sitting on a bike and conditioning the body to the strains of going long was taking its toll!
Funny enough the term and meaning of gluteus maximus was taught to me back in the sports science days in Llanelli by none other than Sean Holley – I think he said I was talking through it!
On completion of this “easy” “fast” “nice” section I reached the village of Hayscastle and the start of a 3 mile incline with a gain of a modest 250ft but it does seem to go on for a bit and I must admit my legs particularly the calf’s were beginning to feel the mileage and I was beginning to wished I’d done a bit more training, Or even some training!
Once Hayscastle Hill was conquered the big climbs eased with emphasis being more on technical sections and nice open sections on the back roads passing through some quiet rural villages such as Camrose and Keeston during this phase I was thinking this is a great section for the social aspect of riding in groups on a sportive. I was starting to feel lonely!
On leaving Keeston I headed towards Simpson Cross and the nice little pull up onto the cross roads with the main A437. It was at this point I stopped for a drink and to rest my gluteus maximus and to study the traffic, basically on the day the riders will be turning left onto the main road and heading towards H/west. It is a 40 Mph zone and built up which will allow for traffic calming and a safe transition onto this section but be careful.
However what I was thinking at this particular moment was I was on 39 miles do I turn left and do another 31 miles through the very lumpy Havens or do I turn right and do the last 11 miles back to Ty Ddewi via Newgale and Solva hills and as my dynamo lights weren’t fitted I thought this was the best options. 52 miles and 3,500ft of climbing after a 20 month layoff was enough
However two days later I was back on the bike still a bit saddle sore walking like John Wayne, talking like a 12 year old Aled Jones!
Now the section from Simpson Cross to H/west is fast and will probably be the heaviest in terms of traffic, but short lived, once you reach the town you will meander around its outskirts and up through Trafalgar Road. We have tried to keep the number of right turnings (8 for the whole 70 mile course) and roundabouts (2 for the course) to a minimum, 3 of these right turnings and 1 of the roundabouts are in a ½ section around H/west. The inconvenience of these are well worth it. Because once you clear them and get onto the Dale Road you have an 8 mile uninterrupted section of good roads, with a few bumps but definitely allows you to get some consistency and stretch the legs. Just before Dale you will make your last right turning of the day as you head down to the hamlet of Talbenny and into the Havens.
Now this section is one of my favourite rides in the county if not the favourite, You will hit Little Haven on 52.4 miles and the top of Newgale Hill on 62.5 and the 10 miles in between are full of good testing climbs, nice technical down hills, scenery that is top quality and the quaintest of coastal villages anywhere in the UK. Now I found the Little Haven and Broad Haven climbs come within close proximately with little time to recover but you then have a nice couple of miles from BH to Nolton to get your breath back before the climb that keeps giving!! Out of the beach front village at Nolton Haven. I got through this climb with the knowledge that there’s a great downhill section all the way to Newgale to follow, for those who are out for a good time, you may well find yourself stopping to take a few photos along this section best way to enjoy it! And it’s funny when you are out cycling the little things that can give you a boost, on the dreaded Little Haven hill an old gent walking his dog shouted at me “go on Bradley” “Don’t stop” didn’t know the bloke, will probably never see him again but he gave me the umph to push a few more watts! (well at least not to stop)
Then Newgale Hill now I’ve cycled this hill literally hundreds of times but as I was coming along the sea front I started to switch on and visualise the sections I break it down into, the worst thing about this hill is that you always see people you know driving by and then you try not to look like you’re feeling!
This is probably the biggest purest climb of the day, for those who chase goals there is a strava segment up the hill (probably not the time to chase KOM) for those out for a personal challenge you will feel a sense of achievement once you reach the top!
From here on in the road is good with a few bumps between Brawdy and Solva and then Solva and St David’s but as they are straight there is plenty of chance to use your momentum to get up the other side.
With Solva being the exception, a lovely little harbour village which you’ll get a glimpse of as you climb the hill, this climb is exactly a mile from the start to the finish (at Bro Dawel) and this is done with a bit of hard work and the knowledge that from there on its plain sailing all the way back to the Rugby Club
To Sum it up
Tour de Shane – It’s a true ride through the heart of North and Mid Pembrokeshire we genuinely tried not to make it all about hills but that is extremely hard to do in the this part of the county. What we wanted to do was have an early in the season 50 & 70 mile route to take you off the main roads and off the beaten track so you can see what the area has to offer the beauty of the scenery, the wonderful coast line and little villages that make it up something I am confident that we have achieved and in doing so I feel we have a great course, which offers cyclist an achievable, challenging and enjoyable ride and between the 50 and 70 there really is something for all and I think sportives should challenge you and take you on routes you may not necessarily do because you want to feel that “yes I’ve done that” feeling at the end!! And we are absolutely delighted that Shane has worked with us on this and used it for a fundraiser in his role as an ambassador for Velindre Cancer Centre and remember it is a sportive so enjoy it!! And after those two spins I certainly won’t be leaving it 20 months till the next ride – Not many better ways to spend your time!
Below photo – Sean receiving some much appreciated TdS gels from Jon of Pro Athlete Supplements (PAS)