Last Friday, the Tour of Britain came to Wales. Having been at the start of the Welsh stage last year at Powis Castle, this year I was able to get to the other end - and Caerphilly Mountain. The toughest climb on the race - and climbed twice. Sure enough, it decided the race. Jonathan Tiernan-Locke flew up both ascents and while König took the stage, he took the race lead, on his way to becoming the first British winner of the Tour of Britain in it's current form.
Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Endura) and Leopold Koenig (NetApp)
Watching cycling on Caerphilly Mountain is possibly as close in Britain as it can get to the Alps or Pyrenees in terms of steepness - some very steep sections separated by the odd false flat - but it is also unusually convenient to get to. I was lucky enough to watch the Men's Olympic Road Race on Box Hill earlier in the summer which involved a good 30-40 minute walk from the nearest station just to get to the venue (and a further 30-40 minutes waiting at the top to queue to get in - a good reason why ticketing climbs should never catch on!) but in Caerphilly, once out of the station you are already on the early part of the climb!
First stop on arrival though was not to go up the climb, rather down hill into the centre of the Caerphilly and alongside Caerphilly Castle where the finish line - and tight final turn - could be found. There were plenty of cyclists about aswell - as many took the opportunity to ride part of the course earlier in the day in the Tour Ride. Being there a couple of hours before the finish, it would have been easy to grab a spot on the railings ... but that wasnt why I came!
It was up to the climb to try and spot a good place to stand. The best spots were obvious enough though - already people were stood/sat waiting - but there was plenty of choice of steep road to watch the action from. Having walked to the top, I walked halfway back down again to take up position.
The crowds for the Tour of Britain have been great all race, and Caerphilly Mountain was no exception. And of course, the cycling never dissapoints. JTL was already flying by halfway up on the first ascent, with the field nicely spread out for extra value spectating! Also great to be able to see Mark Cavendish ride in the rainbow jersey - although a slight shame that Wiggo pulled a sickie that morning.
After the first lap, I moved downhill a little and stumbled across a perfect spot. The road was steeper, and the riders passed centimetres away from me - can only I hope I wasnt getting in the way! Just goes to show that sometimes there's no point trying to plan where to watch I bike race - the best place can appear unexpectedly. The same thing happened for the Olympic Time Trial as I aimed to walk to Hampton Court Palace, but instead found a much better viewing point. (And yes, great summer to be a cycling fan in Britain with so much world class cycling to go to!)
And once the race was over, there was just time to run down the hill (in the middle of the road, taking full advantage of the road closure) and make my way back to the finish area for the view of the podiums. I actually made it back to the finish line before Cavendish and others finished! A Brit in Yellow, not for the first time this summer.