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    The Slinkster is making a brief cycling comeback for the 70 miler in the Long Course on Saturday. Im going to be nursing my way around the 70 miler with Aubrey Young et al, all bumblers are welcome to join in.


    Because Aubrey wants to finish a bit earlier we’re going to start the 70 miler at 8am with the 112 milers.


    At 0800 BST (10 minutes ahead of Valley Road Time) the temperature in the Salterns Car Park was already approaching 20C. Whilst unpacking the bike I downed a bottle of sports drink and stuffed as many gels as I could into my jersey pockets and the top tube bag resurrected from the last time I did the ride in 2011.

    This assault on the Wales Sportive was to be a synthesis of everything I have learnt about cycling sportives over the last couple of years and the advice of my close team of advisors:

    1) Mrs ValleyMan (and to be fair many others) – don’t go off too fast and blow up after 20 miles;

    2) Nick Brown – Heart Rate Zones and Cadence; and

    3) Huw – Nutrition; could I beat the 11 gels he consumed on the Autumn Epic?

    Scanning the array of cycling jerseys milling around the start, I quickly found Huw and Slinky and then Jonathon (sensibly) wearing white. At the off, Huw, Jonathon and I started together and headed towards Pembroke. Fighting every self-destructive instinct, I let Jonathan and Huw peddle furiously off into the distance as I settled down into a steady pace at a cadence of 90 whilst keeping to 80% MHR and picking up as many wheels as I could along the way.

    There was barely a breath of wind as we headed out towards Angle and I soon latched onto the rear wheel of someone with a TT bike and Aero Helmet trying not to make it too obvious that I was hitching a ride. Just past Castlemartin I swept past Huw expecting he might hop on the wheel, but he was clearly intent on being even more sensible than me. No sign of Jonathan.

    As we approached Freshwater West, which was a still as a mill pond, my proactive nutrition masterplan kicked in as I took the first gel. I had planned for one every half an hour so was loaded up with 15; Huw’s record was going to come under serious pressure.

    By the time I got to the top of Freshwater West Hill, the field was thinning out so there were limited options for slipstreaming. I was caught in Angle by a group of Celtic Tri riders but they went a bit too fast up the hill and so it was looking like a lonely ride back to Pembroke. However, salvation was at hand as I got passed by another group and managed to keep with them all the way back to Lamphy.

    The first feed station was on top of the Ridgeway. With almost a litre of drink (and two gels) consumed I filled up with water which tasted of chlorine even with a hydration tab in it. It was only when you stopped and got off the bike you realised how hot it was.

    Next challenge was the long drag from Carew to Crosshands. Not my favourite stretch of road at the best of times, but with not a breath of wind and the sun beating down on my back it was just one long never-ending ordeal. Anyway, a quick respite across to Tavernspite and then onto the hilly bit.

    At the bottom on Tavernspite Hill, with a crowd (of 2) clapping wildly, my chain came off (but happily for the only time). Once I restarted, going up the hill sounded like cycling through a puddle due to the melting tarmac. For the first time ever I had a running start at Narberth Hill, but any expectation that the momentum would carry me up the steeper lower slopes were dashed within about 10m.

    Narberth seemed largely indifferent to the event with motorist and pedestrians alike seeming oblivious to the hordes of elite athletes in their midst. At this point I was up on gels but down on fluids and was wondering where the Narberth Feed Station could be. I had to wonder for quite some time as it was at the Princes Gate factory where I found Jonathon.

    As an aside, I think they are going to have to change their strapline, as the water recharging the aquifer during the event appeared to be more from ‘bladders’ than ‘clouds’. One can only hope the rock is going to be effective…

    Shortly after Jonathon and I set off together his day nearly got a whole lot worse when a Range Rover coming up from Wisemans Bridge decided to pull across him to park on the side of the road as he flew down the hill. Wisemans Bridge was utter chaos with cars littering the road looking for somewhere to park and people wandering all over the place. The hill actually provided some perverse relief as it was in the shade. The same could not be said for St Brides…

    We completed the first lap in 4:13 which was quite a respectable time, however, lap 2 was going to be a whole lot harder. The Garmin was now reporting a temperature of 31C and despite the six or so gels (I had tried a cereal bar but nearly threw up) my legs and the rest of me was getting a bit tired.

    I am sure it was the heat that was responsible for my outburst in the middle of Tenby at a van that tried to park on top of me. I must therefore apologise unreservedly to all the parents in the vicinity who had to explain to their children what ‘f**king mirrors’ are and what a ‘f**king moron’ is.

    We started feeling every slight rise on the road to Lamphy that 4 hours earlier hardly registered. As we pulled each other round there would be no KOM going up to the Ridgeway and the drag to Crosshands this time was even worse. The tarmac at Templeton was even wetter.

    It was on the hill down to Narberth Bridge that a familiar sensation from the Merlin Ride two years crept up on me. As I hit the bottom of Narberth Hill I was starting to feel very faint and nothing seemed to be working. ‘You go on Jonathan’ I cried as I got off and pushed my bike a few metres up the hill to find some shade. After a couple of reflective minutes, a gel and a bottle of now warm drink, I got back on and headed up the hill.

    Now a lot is said about true camaraderie, but surely there can be no greater expression than the sight of Jonathon standing outside the Spar holding a bottle of ice–cold water. Most went down my back an on my head and left me I feeling like a new(ish) man.

    Relatively revived, it was now Jonathon who started to suffer between Narberth and Princes Gate where the temperature peaked at 36C. At the last feed station we waited in the shade and enjoyed the last of the pure spring water before it gets contaminated with urine. Jonathon suitably revived with a gel led off on the last leg to Tenby.

    Just before Summerhill, an Audi R8 pulled out in front of us, however, we concluded that it was just a bit too low to slipstream and let it go, only to be reunited on the hill down to Wisemans Bridge where the disadvantage of driving a wide car in Pembrokeshire had become apparent. We managed to get around the developing impasse (does the R8 have a reverse gear?) and once again had weave round probably the same cars still looking for a parking space along the beach.

    I really don’t remember too much about the final few hills apart from the agony of the last short rise up to New Hedges roundabout. However, that was it, all downhill to the finish using every last ounce of energy (gel).

    The setup at the finish was amazing with a great atmosphere and cheering crowds. Jonathon graciously waited for a few seconds to allow me to catch up so we could cross the line together in a time of 7:41:29 (I inadvertently beat his time by 1 second as I started behind him and recall a similar thing happened at Le Mans once). We were greeted by a bunch of beer swilling Dynamos who had completed the long loop and were now basking in the afternoon sun. After about 15 minutes we felt sufficiently recovered to join in the Club celebrations with an ice cold beer as we waited for Huw.

    Word on the street was that he was riding without his Di2 and we could only speculate that he had succumbed to a combination of the heat and fatigue induced by having to change gear manually. Indeed it transpired that Huw called it a day after the first loop.

    I was a few minutes slower than in 2011, but it was nowhere near as hot. The nutrition strategy seemed to work (only 10 gels consumed in the end based on the sticky remnants in my back pocket) as did trying to pace myself at the start. Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. On which note, I was 9th overall on the Male Veteran category, only some 2 hours and 10 minutes behind some old fart called Nick Brown.

    Final weather report from the Garmin showed an average temperature of 29C.

    Once again thanks again to Jonathon for rescuing me and sharing the pain….


    Well, I for one was very happy to see Ian at the Princes Gate food stop for the first time. At least it was not a lonely Saturday for me. We started at the same place and finished at the same place, albeit I was pipped by 1s. Ian still managed to somehow ride 0.3 miles and climb 247 feet more than me! Despite running the same model of Garmin.

    This was the first time I had done this ride and it is much tougher than I had given it credit for. The second time round the shorter loop especially. Of course the heat didn’t help (my Garmin peaked at 38!) but, that’s been well documented.

    Only too happy to be able to douse a fellow Dynamo with chilled water, you were after all showing signs of heat exhaustion and once you have those you don’t have very long before you start hallucinating etc. I can certainly vouch for the fact that it’s not very pleasant.

    Not a bad time after all, very pleased to have done it and ecstatic to see the Tenby sign for the second time. Good showing for the Dynamos, mostly sporting club jersey’s and recovery ‘beer’ at the end.
    I Still have a lump in my throat from seeing Nicky Rees and Gareth Scotcher come over the line on their bike.

    White summer kit please, go on you know you want to…

    Narberth Dynamos

    Who said there is no such thing as bad publicity?

    Wales Sportive 001


    Great report Valleyman, I can confirm it was bloody hot! Hats off for passing Tenby to do the 2nd lap, it must have taken nerves of steal to resist the temptation to call it quits after the 70. A good time as well given the conditions.

    I don’t know what Ants and Bevs were thinking not zipping their tops up crossing the line?! Haven’t they been watching the Le Tour? We’ll have to reduce their sponsorship for next year.

    I’m hoping to do some mid-week rides now. I was training like hell for the Caldey Swim on Sunday but they had to cancel due to dangerous conditions 🙁


    Was that due to the report of man-eating sharks?

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