The Welsh town of Abergavenny turns itself over to two wheels this weekend, July 13-15, as it plays host to the appropriately-named Abergavenny Festival of Cycling.
Highlights include a pro criterium on Friday evening, the Iron Man Sportive on Saturday and the Tour of the Black Mountains sportive on Sunday, making for what's set to be a packed weekend of cycling.
As well as the on-bike events, Saturday night sees a discussion between cycling writers Rob Penn and William Fotheringham of Fotheringham's new book Merckx: Half-Man, Half-Bike, followed by an interview with Shane Sutton, Head Coach of the British track cycling squad.
Friday July 13: Wales Open Criterium
Friday's race event is the Wales Open Criterium, the 4th round of the British Cycling Elite Circuit Race Series. Organisers promise “non-stop action on the Abergavenny streets as the fast and skilful racing unfolds.”
Among the riders to look out for will be current series leader and last year’s runner up, Graham Briggs of the Raleigh-GAC team, who have been the team on top so far in the series. He’ll have to fight off competition from last year’s Wales Open Criterium winner Dean Downing from Rapha Condor Sharp and the newly crowned 2012 National Criterium Champion Scott Thwaites of Endura Racing.
Racing will be contested over laps of the clockwise town centre circuit that starts and finishes on Nevill Street outside the headquarters of Get Connected, who are title sponsors for the fourth successive year, before turning right after the Kings Arms onto Tudor Street.
The riders will then turn right up the long straight of Baker Street and left down Frogmore Street before doubling back on themselves and continuing the other way down Frogmore Street to head right back down Nevill Street to complete the lap.
It’s not just the professionals who’ll be in action though as earlier on in the evening youth riders from local cycling clubs will also be racing, before a Carnival Parade race and Traders' Race featuring local businesses.
Saturday July 14: Iron Mountain sportive
The Iron Mountain sportive on Saturday July 14 starts and finishes in Bailey Park and is followed by the Party In the Park in the afternoon.
The 100-mile route was used in the 2009 national road race, and includes the legendary climb of "The Iron Mountain", aka "The Tumble".
A shorter 50 mile sportive and a leisure ride of 19 miles are also available, for all abilities, including families that want to enjoy a great days cycling on quiet roads with stunning scenery.
Saturday 14 July: Literature Night, Abergavenny Borough Theatre from 7.30pm
Merckx: Half-Man, Half-Bike by William Fotheringham in discussion with Rob Penn
An illustrated talk by top cycling journalist and author William Fotheringham about the incredible Eddy Merckx. It's a brave man who'd argue that Merckx wasn't the greatest cyclist ever. He didn’t just beat his opponents, he crushed them. But his triumphs only tell half a story that includes horrific injury, a doping controversy and tragedy.
For William Fotheringham, the burning question remains, why? What made Eddy Merckx so invincible? The result is this extraordinary and definitive story of a man whose fear of failure would drive him to reach the highest pinnacles before ultimately destroying him.
After the discussion of Merckx, William Fotheringham will turn his attention back to the modern era when he is joined by Shane Sutton, Head Coach of GB's track cycling squad and 'the heart and soul of Britain's cycling success'. Sutton is taking a break from training with the GB track squad to come and talk at the event. After Rob Penn has interviewed William Fotheringham, Fotheringham will interview Shane Sutton.
William Fotheringham writes for the Guardian and Observer on cycling and rugby and has reported on over twenty Tours de France. He is the author of Fallen Angel, Roule Britannia, and Put Me Back on My Bike.
Rob Penn writes for the Financial Times, The Observer, Sunday Times and Conde Nast Traveller, as well as a host of cycling publications. His book It's All About the Bike: the Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels was a Sunday Times bestseller.
Tickets are £4.50 from Abergavenny Borough Theatre – Box Office 01873 850805 or www.boroughtheatreabergavenny.co.uk
Sunday July 15: Black Mountains Sportive
Now in its sixth year, the Tour of the Black Mountains has a reputation as a had day out through glorious Welsh scenery. It features a number of ride distances to suit most levels of fitness and ability - from challenging 63 mile to the very hard 120 mile route.
In 2008 the Black mountains route was used as the last training ride by by Sharon Laws before she departed for the Beijing Olympics. and in 2010 representatives from Endura Racing and Rapha all took part as part of their build up to the Tour of Britain.
For more information on all events see www.abergavennyfestivalofcycling.co.uk.
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.