As Monmouthshire gears up to host the British Cycling National Road Championships Argus Sport reporter ANDREW PENMAN endured a Rumble on the Tumble.
As someone who writes about sport for a living I’ve been guilty of using the phrase ‘he’s got a mountain to climb’ without much thought.
It turns out climbing mountains is difficult and cycling up them is even harder!
After struggling my way up the Tumble near Abergavenny my respect for the likes of Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas, already sky high, has grown and grown.
Perhaps you do need to put in a bit of training to make it look as easy as the top professionals do.
I regard myself as relatively fit but having not been on a bike for the best part of a decade this experience highlighted the real gulf between the athletes and those of us who usually watch from behind a laptop.
My thigh bones felt like elastic bands after less than a mile but the views from the top are spectacular and going back down hill is both exhilarating and terrifying.
It didn’t help that I was accompanied by former Wales and Newport Gwent Dragons rugby player turned adventurer and all-round superhero Richard Parks, an ambassador for the championships.
The man who has climbed the highest mountain on each of the world’s seven continents and reached the North Pole and South Pole within seven months made this look like a ride to the shop for a pint of milk.
“We’ve got some amazing roads here in Monmouthshire right on our doorstep and this is a tough climb,” Parks said kindly, but not altogether believably.
“It just puts into perspective how awesome the pros are.
“Cycling is the biggest part of my cardiovascular training and I’m a cycling fan as well so it’s going to be brilliant to see the top pros competing here.
“But it’s not just about developing elite athletes,” he added.
“There are so many health benefits from jumping on a bike and it’s great that members of the public can test themselves on these roads as well.”
Yes, you too can take part in this week’s National Road Championships by taking part in Saturday’s Championship Sportive.
If, unlike me, you feel you’ve got the stamina you can ride the same route as Wiggins, Thomas, Mark Cavendish, Lizzie Armitstead and Laura Trott will in the road race on Sunday.
You can choose from the bronze leisure route, which is a mere 20 miles on the flat, the silver route, which is the full 62-mile route that the elite men will ride on Sunday, or the gold route, which is 100 miles and also includes the Tumble.
And there’s also a special women-only route over the 46 miles of the women’s road race course. Visit nationalroadchamps.co.uk for more details.
If that’s not your thing you can just watch some of the best cyclists in the world strut their stuff in the time trial, which starts and ends at Celtic Manor, on Thursday, or the road race on Sunday.
Ian Saunders, head of leisure, tourism and culture for Monmouthshire County Council, said: “We’re looking at the best part of 30,000 people coming out to watch on Sunday and we’ve got the Tour of Britain coming later in the year as well, which is great for the area.
“We’ve got something for everyone in Monmouthshire from the canals, which are nice and flat, to some really testing climbs.
“It’s the cycling playground of Wales and we’re getting people from all over the country to challenge themselves on the Tumble, which is one of the best climbs in the UK.”
Miles Preece, owner of M&D Cycles in Abergavenny, says this week will be a real boost for the county.
“It’s a very exciting time for cycling in Wales and particularly in Abergavenny and Monmouthshire,” he said.
“There are more and more people out on bikes all around the county and we are seeing a boom here in the shop.
“It’s about health and fitness for most people and the top professionals do inspire people.”
As for me, I think I’ll stick to writing about the exploits of the pros from the safety of the media centre.