Last weekend saw the Tour of Talybont set off from the little village of Talybont-on-Usk; this prestigious race returned to this small idyllic part of the Brecon Beacons for the 5th consecutive year, each Tour getting bigger and better and often wit more controversies than the last, and this year was no different.
This year saw the introduction of new KOM and Sprint points along with a new method of determining the GC with a combination of both. A lot of work had been put in by the organisers DMC Sports Management to avoid last years confusion over the KOM and Sprint points and properly map them including GPS tracking for the riders, this was due to the farcical issues we had last year where no one seems to know where the sections were and the debate over the Sprints encouraging dangerous descending. It was however abundantly clear that some of our riders hadn’t done any homework on the race manuals and were still confused over the whole thing. This year also saw the introduction of Race TV, with camera crews working alongside the Teams to produce footage of the Tour, which will hopefully be available to all shortly.
Our riders arrived this year hoping to get at least one stage ridden, the weather report being so bad that was looking unlikely at best. Having booked into the now regular accommodation of Talybont Farm our 4 main contenders were pleased to find they had been upgraded to a nicer part of the site. Stage one started without issue on time and our 4 riders set off introducing James ‘The Bird’ Flower back into the Peloton. Our riders were so busy catching up that they seemed to totally miss the first KOM and it was decided to equal out the points for all. As they arrived the second KOM Flower was caught napping and missed the attack, Defending champion Mike ‘The Boss’ Bloomfield taking maximum points from two time tour winner Dan ‘Donkey Kong’ Kujawski with Chris ‘Wobbler’ Wood in third.
The first controversy of the Tour came next on the first Sprint section, Wood being the only one to have fully studied the route broke off to claim maximum points when the others weren’t really sure of its location. Sheep Hill was negotiated without any issues and Kujawski was able to break up the Liquigas pairing of Bloomfield/Flower to taken second behind Bloomfield.
Arriving at the big Sprint point of the day at the Reservoir our four riders were all watching each other waiting for one to make the move, and surprisingly it was Flower who caught the other three off guard and made the early break building a 6 second lead over the Peloton, the others gave chase and he was caught on the run in by Bloomfield and Kujawski who took first and second respectively with Wood crossing in fourth just behind Flower.
The rest of the stage passed without incident until we arrived at Talybont Reservoir. Kujawski attacked and Wood followed with Bloomfield and Flower missing the break, it was argued afterwards that Kujawski attacked in the Neutralised zone but evidence from the Garmin suggested otherwise. Kujawski was too strong for Wood and took the stage, revenge as he lost this stage to Bloomfield last year. At the end of Stage 1 Bloomfield lead the KOM and Kujawski the Sprint with Bloomfield taking yellow by 0.5 points.
Day 2 started in good weather and a guest appearance at the Tour by Cadel ‘Cuddles’ Evans which was a surprise to our riders however Wood never seemed to see him? Overnight the KOM/ Sprint rules were clarified and the final sprint was changed to an uphill one on the request of Kujawski (more on this later.) The climb from Crickhowell was won by Bloomfield with Flower a close second, the result putting Bloomfield into the top 10 on Strava for that segment. The only incident up the Black Mountains was an aggressive driver forcing our riders into a lay-by which wasn’t as hard as expected causing Wood to stack it into a hedge.
The descent into Hay-on-Wye saw our riders stop to re-fuel however the photo shoot with Shandy Bass was off this year after last years anti-doping issue and there was no time to stop for coffee and autographs as the weather was closing in. Bloomfield took the win on Chav Hill from Kujawski to sew up that competition and our riders reformed in the neutralised zone over the Taff to discuss the next section, the changed Sprint point up the hill from Pencilli that Kujawski had requested, all our riders were aware of the change and the need to reform for the end of stage.
As they entered Pencilli, Kujawski went early and took Flower with him however a little celebration before the end threw Flower who sat up allowing Wood to take second and with that Kujawski took the green jersey. Next came the usual controversy at the Tour with Kujawski failing to reform before the end of the neutralised zone for the stage finish meaning he was demoted to fourth on the stage, this left it for our other three to battle out for the win and Wood took it from Bloomfield having had a mechanical at the same point last year. Wood said last year he wanted to come back and win a stage and he did so in style.
This meant that Bloomfield was once again Tour winner for a third year. Stage three was also finally run (at the fifth time of asking) due to it being the first year it was neutral stage with no points available and the views from the top of the biggest climb of the Tour were incredible, as was the descent. Unfortunately Race TV wasn’t available on Stage 3 so there is no footage of this yet.
Although a great Tour this year we can bet most of our riders had one eye firmly on next years edition already which sees the ToT go international into the French Alps to climb some of the Monuments of the Tour de France. Three of our four favorites, Bloomfield, Kujawski and Wood are already signed up, it remains to be seen if Flower makes it or whether Chris ‘Cheaton’ Heaton makes a return or we see a new rider start?