The new organisers of the Etape Cymru, the closed-road North Wales sportive, unveiled key sections of the revamped event this week in the company of World and Olympic Team Pursuit Champion Geraint Thomas.
The Team Sky rider had only just returned from his record-breaking exploits on the track in Australia before he was back on the road, running the rule over several of the 92-mile event’s key sections surrounding Llangollen.
As the Etape Cymru coincides with the start of the Tour of Britain (9 September), it’s highly unlikely the Welshman will be able to take part, but after testing himself on punishing climbs including the Horseshoe Pass, he gave it his seal of approval.
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Video: Geraint Thomas discusses the challenges of the Etape Cymru
“I really enjoy coming back to Wales to ride, the roads are unbelievably challenging but at the same time provide really nice scenery so there is plenty to look at on the way round,” said Thomas, who lives close to British Cycling HQ in Manchester. “It’s great to support the event, especially with it being on closed roads; not many people get the chance go ride on closed roads so it’s the perfect opportunity for them to do so.”
The event is now in the hands of Participate Sport, owners of the Wiggle Dragon Ride and the Cornwall Festival of Sport, who have taken the reigns from its founder, Gareth Morris. Morris, who was present at the ride recce, has been kept on in a consultancy role and acknowledged to BikeRadar that there were problems last year. We’ve discussed these in depth before, but he was sure the new organisers had the chops to put things right.
The full route hasn’t been revealed yet, but it will start from the same industrial estate in Wrexham. One issue last year was that the mass start led straight into cramped roads, but the new organisers confirmed cyclists will be released in a staggered fashion for 2012.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the route’s difficulty, which certainly lives up to its ‘UK’s Toughest Closed Road Sportive’ tag line. Our 30-mile recce took us over the narrow, snaking road of the stunning Panorama, which overlooks the valley town of Llangollen, as well as the 1,368ft Horseshoe Pass.
With the notoriously fickle North Wales weather likely to show its hand in mid-September and around 3,000m of high gradient cycling in store, participants will be licking their lips at the prospect of such a tough day in the saddle. Entry to the event is now open and costs £55.
Head over to Cyclingnews to watch Thomas discuss his record-breaking exploits in Australia and find out whether or not he has any regrets about choosing track over the road this July and August.
Geraint thomas: geraint thomas Chris Ham