Garmin’s annual pre-Tour of Britain ride out for dealers, users, and guests has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and last week’s jaunt through the New Forest continued what has become a fine tradition.
It’s the electronic firm’s way of saying thank-you to its dealers, customers, and guests, and with Britain’s biggest race looming, an ideal time to haul in a few pros to ride alongside the punters and give them a glimpse of the dream.
The event had been in the RCUK diary for a little while and as it loomed I was gripped by mixed feelings of trepidation and excitement: a nice amble through The New Forest, ruined or enhanced depending on your viewpoint/fitness levels by the presence of scores of pro cyclists, many from cycling’s elite UCI WorldTour, revved up for the Tour of Britain.
I awoke early thinking I’d prepare well with a good breakfast and an Englishman’s battle beverage – hot tea. And so off to Avon Tyrell, home to the charity UK Youth (yes the same UK Youth that has been walking tall in The Tour Series of late).
A venerable country house and grounds not far from Bransgore, it provided a lovely setting and plenty of room for Garmin’s 500 guests. More tea was drunk before going into the main marquee for the first of a series of Q&As with some of the Tour of Britain’s combatants.
These were deftly handled by none other than Dan Lloyd, a former member of the Garmin-Sharp squad whose members he was now interviewing. His mixture of knowledge and WorldTour camaraderie was familiar to anyone familiar with his performances on Eurosport and elsewhere.
We got to hear the thoughts of Dan Martin and Jack Bauer from Garmin Sharp and Jack’s retelling of his first Tour de France experience, up to and including his horrific stage 19, race-ending crash on the Col du Glandon. The positive attitude and resilience of these riders in such situations is never anything less than impressive.
We were also treated to interviews from the Madison Genesis squad, including some interesting thoughts on the development of the Volare race bike from Roger Hammond, a friend and former team-mate of Lloyd’s. I must admit to having been a little in awe: a proper, old school cycling hard man.
The British Rapha Condor JLT and IG Sigma-Sport squads rounded out the pro rider line up and it was nice to see the riders stick around to ride the event rather than simply fulfil sponsor commitments, especially as when the time came to kit up and roll out, the rain was coming down in stair rods.
Fortunately, the weather eased and we were set fair for a rolling 50 miles in some of the finest countryside that Southern England has to offer. I spoke with guys from local bike shop who had woken up at 4.30am and driven from Cambridge to ride with the pros. I hooked up with an old friend I hadn’t ridden with for a few years and the miles whistled by with plans for next year’s Paris Roubaix sportive (my 40th birthday “celebration” apparently) and past adventures. My companion unfortunately was still stick thin and hammering the miles nowadays but was kind enough to set the pace at just below ‘warp’.
A great day was enjoyed and a fitting farewell to the excellent Guru Photon SL that we have had on test (full review imminently). As for the ride? Well, I enjoyed every pedal stroke, despite forgetting to charge the Guru’s Di2 battery.
The refreshments were excellent, and so was the company, but even riding at ‘punter pace’, it was obvious to see that riding with the pros would be no tea party, should they decide to turn a pedal in anger.