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Riders from across the UK will be descending into Abergavenny in July as the annual Festival of Cycling takes place for a sixth year. And again the big weekend will have a huge amount for people either on or off a bike to enjoy over the course of four days.
Riders on the Iron Mountain Sportif

Riders on the Iron Mountain Sportif

Festival organiser Bill Owen has added the Tour of the Black Mountains ride on the Sunday to the big Saturday attraction, the Iron Mountain Sportif, making the Abergavenny Festival of Cycling the largest of its’ kind in Wales.

But it has become even bigger this year with a Fringe Festival taking place around the town. Festival bosses have been looking to add different events to compliment the Abergavenny Festival of Cycling for a few years, and now it is a reality, with a leading national journalist and author plus a top film taking centre stage.

Mr Owen said the Fringe Festival compliments the two big Sportif rides of the weekend and the Town Centre Criterrium races on Friday night perfectly. He said:


“For a while now, we have looked to put on a Festival which has active cycling as its centre but also incorporates other events that people can get involved with. Now we have been able to add these two events to our programme and hope that others will follow in the future as Abergavenny Festival of Cycling grows.”


Iron-Mountain-SportifOn The Fringe @ Abergavenny Festival of Cycling will see a charity performance of the acclaimed movie Blood, Sweat and Gears by Nick Davis. This is being shown at the Kings Arms on Thursday July 12, the night before the Festival kicks-off in earnest, and is a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the Chipotle/Slipstream cycling team. They were a small squad which dedicated itself to ride in the Tour de France and, by achieving their dream of riding up the Champs Elysees on the final day of cycling’s greatest race, became world famous. The film features riders such as David Millar, who won the 2007 National Road Race Championships around Monmouthshire and rode up Baker Street in Abergavenny to claim his prize, and Sweden star Magnus Backstedt, who lives in Pontyclun. The event is free but funds are being raised for the Wales Air Ambulance on the night.

And on Saturday July 14, after the last riders have finished the Iron Mountain Sportif in Bailey Park, one of Britain’s top cycling journalists and authors, William Fotheringham, will be talking with Rob Penn about one of the sport’s greatest riders, Eddy Merckx. Fotheringham is an authority on Merckx, having written a superb biography of the man called ‘Half Man, Half Bike’ in which he recounts both the glories of the five-times Tour de France champion and the horrific injury, doping controversy and tragedies that ultimately destroyed the legend of the Great Man.

The Literature Night @ Abergavenny Festival of Cycling takes place at the Borough Theatre at 7.30pm with tickets costing £4.50 and available from the box office.

The Festival of Cycling has already got the backing of Monmouthshire County Council who are looking to expand it for future years and turn Abergavenny into Wales’ – if not Britain’s – Capital City of Cycling.

Between these events are the big races and Sportifs. The Town Centre Criterriums take place on Friday evening from 5.30pm with Youth Races taking place, as usual. However, there is an additional event this year with a Carnival Race, aimed at the weird and wonderful bike riders to put a fancy dress spin on proceedings and bring some more fun to the evening. That takes place at 7.15pm before the annual Traders Race where representatives of companies within Abergavenny battle it out at 7.30pm.

The main event of the night, the Wales Open Criterrium which will bring the best domestic riders in the country to the town centre, hits the road at 8pm and, if it follows in the tradition of previous years, it will be a brilliant, fast and furious affair as the light fades and the tension mounts on the streets.

The circuit will be as usual, with the start and finish line outside the Post Office at the end of Nevil Street while riders will hurtle down Baker Street before slamming on the brakes to take a left turn and then face a hairpin bend outside Tesco’s in the town centre.

Hours after this event, on Saturday July 14, comes the highlight of the weekend when riders face their great day out on the Iron Mountain Sportif. People from families to the serious cyclist can have leisurely cruises around the glorious Monmouthshire countryside for 19 miles, face the stiffer 50 miles circuit or, for those who want a big challenge, there is the 100 miles ride which takes in the formidable and famous climb up the Tumble Mountain between Abergavenny and Blaenavon. When the riders have finished and have dismounted in Bailey Park, there are great activities taking place in Abergavenny’s main open area all day, with officials from governing body Welsh Cycling in attendance to help youngsters with their skills.

Twenty-four hours later, to round-off the weekend, riders will be on the Tour of the Black Mountains. All three rides for this event start at 8am and take in rides of 120, 101 and 63 miles while there will be Grass Track Racing for youngsters on Bailey Park at 11am.

For full details of the 2012 Abergavenny Festival of Cycling in July, all the activities, along with entry forms for the Iron Mountain Sportif and the Tour of the Black Mountains, see


Article by Abergavenny Festival of Cycling

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