Over the Severn Bridge and across to Wales, dodging angry farmers along the way.
Partially re-charged from a generally sleepless night due to a combination of excitement and nerves, riders fuelled up with a full English breakfast buffet at 5am before loading luggage and day bags onto the support vehicles. Then it was a gentle rolling amble to the illustrious start line in the spill over car park of the Holiday Inn in Filton just outside Bristol – we are undoubtedly stylish from the off-set!
Our group of 65 riders were immaculately turned out in tour and team kit – few things in life are guaranteed, however, you can be sure that this kit will never look as good again. Our riders quickly found their comfort zone, adopted their personal pace and spread out quickly. With peloton etiquette optional, The Light Fund Cycle Tour 2018 soon stretched out over a top to tail group distance of easily three to four miles. Imagine trying to pass this lot in a car?
Through the boding northern suburbs of Bristol, over the spectacular Severn Bridge, past Chepstow it was then onto the first feed stop in the beautiful valley of Usk. Early casualties were now already in the support car as the group at largesse continued on through beautiful countryside, past Celtic Manor Golf resort and through the town of Newport where the first puncture occurred and those in urgent need of nature’s call found the rather conveniently located shrubbery and gorse just off the high street a much needed haven for respite.
All in all riders had to contend with busy traffic despite the very early start, a plethora of horses, a panther-esque tabby cat who hogged the middle of the road and budged his furry back end for no one, an angry farm dog with menacing nashers to match and an even more angry farmer who had a right old rant at one of our support car drivers.
One suspects that he has farmed his fields for years without seeing a soul and then suddenly he meets 65 cyclists clad in pink, blue and white coming at him over the brow of the hill. What his issue was remains a mystery as his tractor was the size of a Monster Truck and he himself was the size of Tyson Fury on steroids.
Next stop was at the Holly Bush Pub for a second charity cheque presentation to a local hospice Ty Hafan who are supported by equally local licensing confectionery company Bon Bon Buddies. From there the group spun onto Caerphilly and then up into the foothills of the Valleys through the former mining towns of PontyPridd, Abercynon and Mountain Ash.
Our lunch stop was in Aberdare where even the budding Chris Froome types at the front of the pack looked a tad dishevelled on arrival. The usually immaculate Nikki Samuels from Sambro was perspiring… but as you might expect not a hair was out of place. Here a fabulous spread of lasagne, salad and very naughty sweet treats was beautifully prepared for us by the catering students at Coleg y Cymoedd.
After lunch the gloves were off as those with an eagerness to lead from the front were released from catch-up protocol. The earlier gap with mixed cycling abilities was now only to increase still further as the afternoon onslaught progressed through Hirwaun, Glynneath and Resolven via Neath… fuelled largely at this juncture by bananas, oatmeal biscuits and jelly babies. All were trying so very very hard and all were one step closer to grace.
For those hoping for home, the last stage of 23 miles most definitely took its toll in terms of incident, mechanical breakdown and the predictable, inevitable and quite frankly justifiable fatigue.
After a 6.15am start, 103 miles, 7,029 feet of climbing and a final jaunt across the top of the Gower it was now circa. 7pm – give or take half an hour either way – and a very welcome Day 1 destination arrival in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire. This is where an early form of football with a wooden ball called ‘cnapan’ was invented and the where first beer to be contained within a can outside of the US was produced in 1935 – ironically perfect for our licensing fraternity.
Whilst the mind ponders at such localite triviality, our core focus and goal remains unchanged in pursuit of those in greater need than us via the collective generosity of The Light Fund.
To quote John Bunyan: “You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
Dinner was served at 8pm at our Stradey Park Hotel with a further brief for the next day ahead from Classic Tours. Sponsored prizes for the day were a Mr Strong drinks bottle to Paul Cook from Sambro, a Little Miss Chatterbox drinks bottle to Helena Mansell-Stopher from National Geographic and in lieu of the yellow jersey for the fastest rider we instead have a delightful pair of silicone flashing red bull’s testicles that strap to the underneath of the saddle. After a complex judges enquiry and two disqualifcations, these were eventually awarded for Day 1 to Alan Guest from Red Central.
No need for Nytol or Melatonin here – it’s lights out at 10.15pm and there isn’t a peep… not even from Little Miss Chatterbox!
You can support The Light Fund and our industry cyclists by clicking here to visit the JustGiving page. Alternatively, you can donate by text – simply text 70070 with BDUB32 and your donation amount – for example BDUB32 £10.