Welsh Winners! Hafod Hardware in Rhayader scoop Tour of Britain window display competition

All images courtesy of Hafod Hardware.

In the first of our special series on cycling in Mid Wales, we caught up with the winners of Powys County Council’s Tour of Britain shop window competition – Hafod Hardware in Rhayader.

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Congratulation on winning the Powys County Council window display award, it really was well deserved. Where did you get the items which were on display?

Firstly I’d like to say thank you for giving us the chance to talk about our shop and its window display. We take great pride in presenting our business to the highest calibre and when we heard about the competition for the Tour of Britain window displays, we knew we had to try and do something special. Immediately, my Grandfather, Alan Lewis, recommended that he should go over to the National Cycle Museum in Llandrindod to view the possibility of us borrowing one of the bikes to use in the display. Freda Davies at the museum was more than obliging and allowed us to borrow a limited edition Gold Plated 1987 Raleigh bike. This was to be the centre-piece in our display. They also lent us two cycling shirts that were worn and signed by previous competitors.

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Items on loan from the National Cycle Museum in Llandrindod Wells included past race jerseys and a limited edition Raleigh Centenary bicycle.

What was your personal favourite display item and why?

One of our favourite items in the display was the map of Wales. We cut a silhouette of Wales out of a sheet of ply wood and marked out the route of the Tour of Britain using pins and twine, kind of like the sort of thing you would see in old war movies. It would have been easy to print off an ordnance survey map and mark it out, but we wanted to keep the old style look to it and pay homage to the history of the race.

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Hand crafted route map of Stage 4. “We wanted to keep the old style look and pay homage to the history of the race.”

How did the display come together? 

One of the first things we did was look around the shop and think ‘What items that we stock can we use and are relevant?’.

Bike pumps, water bottles, sunglasses and head torches we all ‘musts’ and we had a few Union Jack flags lying around from our V-E Day window display. Less was more was our motto for this, and we didn’t want to take too much focus away from the bike. Just a few accessories were enough.

How did customers react – did you have many people chatting to you about the display?

Our customers loved it! As soon as we put photos up on social media, we had a wonderful reaction. Many people didn’t realise the race was taking place until they saw our window display. Many people popped their heads into the shop just to say how much they liked the display and a few even asked how much we wanted for the BIKE!

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“A few people even asked how much we wanted for the bike!”

Are you a cyclist yourself?

I do the odd bit of cycling up the Elan Valley which is one of the most beautiful places in Britain. We are very lucky to have it on our doorstep and it is  never taken for granted. My bike seems to have the most use though as a means of emergency transport. I am also a retained fire fighter for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, so when my alerter goes, it’s straight on the bike and down the station as quick as possible.

Did any of the other businesses in town mark the race in any way?

Quite a few different businesses in town got involved in the competition in one way or another. The town set up a business group last year and the competition was advertised through the Business Group to encourage more people to take part. Our local arts organisation CARAD made a fantastic arts installation in the town and that also won the first prize in their category.

Did you manage to see the riders coming through the town?

Personally, I had to stay in the shop during the race, but that allowed for my Grandparents to go and watch the race. They took pictures and videos so I was able to get a feel of what was going on afterwards.

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Stage 4 of the 2016 Tour of Britain saw the riders cycle through Rhayader on their way to Builth Wells and the Royal Welsh Showground.

 

What was the atmosphere like in the build up to the event, and how did the residents and businesses owners in Rhayader feel to have riders like Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish visiting the area – if very briefly knowing the speeds they reach?!

It’s always a spectacle. The town turns out in their crowds to support the riders and it brings a lot of people from the outskirts into the town for the day.

You’re obviously very creative as all your window displays are fantastic – how did you apply your creative talents to the Tour of Britain display? (for example, I noticed the excellent use of photoshop for Team Hafod – loved it!)

Over the last few years we have had a bit of fun creating images using photoshop for different occasions such as Christmas, the Olympics and seasonal offers. It sparks a bit of interest on social media, and makes a few people smile who see the images in our shop window.

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Team Hafod on the road!

What does the local area have to offer cyclists who might want to pay a visit after the Tour of Britain?

Rhayader and The Elan Valley really is a cyclist’s paradise. The landscape makes for outstanding scenery and the amenities in the town offer everything you need. We have a fantastic cycle shop called ‘Clive Powell’s Mountain Bikes’ which offer guided cycle excursions, and the number  of pubs and accommodation providers in town make for a cracking cycling break in Mid-Wales.

Can you explain a little of the history of your shop, and your role – both the creative side with local posters, logos and flyers as well as the hardware shop side of things?

Hafod Hardware first opened it’s doors in 1895. Built specifically as and Ironmongers you can tell straight away the shop would be had pressed to trade as anything but. The shop was owned and run by a gentleman called R.D. Ryder, who was a cousin for my Grandfather, for the majority of its time. My Grandparents, Alan and Pauline Lewis, then bought the business in 1999, reverting it back into the family.  I started working in the shop in 2009 after studying Art and Design in Newport University. My first task was to set up an online presence for the shop, creating a website and social media pages. I think in this day and age this is a must as it allows you to reach far more customers and makes marketing to the masses much more manageable. The quieter winter months also allow for me to incorporate my art projects into the business. This season our series of vintage style tourism poster have sold particularly well and we are getting more requests for other local town and villages by the day. As well as being your local DIY store we now offer a range of original pieces from other local partners. We sell ornate pieces from the local forge as well as walking boots from another local trader. Working alongside other local businesses is becoming a great way for smaller towns to market themselves and work together in a time of austerity. We want to be at the forefront of that idea and set a precedence. We will always hold true to the nature of our business whilst being forward thinking in how we can diversify in a changing market.

 

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Alan and Pauline Lewis with Tom Jones of Hafod Hardware take on Open All Hours!

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Don’t forget to visit  www.hafodhardware.com and www.facebook.com/hafodhardware to check out more from Tom, Alan and Pauline!

Find out more about the National Cycle Museum here – www.cyclemuseum.org.uk – we’ll be featuring the museum soon as part of our Mid Wales series.

Clive Powell Cycles can be found here http://www.clivepowell-mtb.co.uk/

EXCLUSIVE – ONE Pro Cycling’s Kristian House On The Tour of Britain, Home Crowds, and Why Split Stages ‘Suck’…

All photographs courtesy of Trevor Mould (Twitter: @MouldyPix)

The 2016 edition of the Tour of Britain was action packed and dramatic, held together by captivating and numerous narratives: Would Dimension Data’s Steve Cummings maintain his lead of less than a minute by the end of the Stage 7 time trial?  Who would be wearing the Chain Reaction Points Jersey on the final podium?  Would Mark Cavendish recover from a bout of illness to take a sprint victory in London?

There was laughter as Sir Bradley Wiggins ‘did a Chris Froome’ and ran up a section of the climb aptly named The Struggle, and sadness that this would be his last ever road race.  Mark Cavendish – who describes himself as ‘fast talking’ – showed the sharp edge of his tongue to a so-called fan who shouted insults to the sprinter from the road side.   And amongst all the drama, there were 8 stages of superb cycling as the race traversed the country.

Each year the Tour of Britain grows in popularity, with road sides packed with spectators, and finish lines ringing with claps and cheers.  One rider who has been a staple of the Tour of Britain peloton in recent years is ONE Pro Cycling’s Kristian House.  We asked the rider what it is that makes the British tour so special.

“Racing your home tour is always going to be special. It’s hard to put into words what makes it special, but it’s like a sense of pride. We travel all over the world racing in other countries… often racing against the same people in their country… so to have a home tour when they come and race here and see how much support it gets is pretty cool. On top of that, having the opportunity to race on your local roads is something pretty special”.

Racing home roads was something that House was able to do on Stage 3 from Congleton to Tatton.  Passing a matter of metres from his own street, the race swept through the village of Middlewich with huge crowds at the road side.  To compete the once-in-a-lifetime race experience, House was one of four British riders in the breakaway that day, eventually securing his highest ever Tour of Britain finish as he crossed the line to take third place.

“Racing through the lanes where I train and live, was pretty special. My village was unbelievable in how they came out to support it. The street was lined from before the start of the town to well out of it. Most of the schools came out with all the kids, people took days off work, it was pretty special. The fact I managed to get in the break that day, and stay away for 3rd was pretty special too”.

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The crowds continued to provide huge levels of support at the road side as the race Wiggins called the ‘hardest Tour of Britain ever’ travelled down the country from the start line in Glasgow on Day 1.  “This year was probably one of the harder ones I’ve done in terms of terrain” explained Kristian.   “I was not 100% for most of the tour, so that added to the feeling. What was pretty amazing was that the crowds were even bigger than the years before… and that was something I was pretty surprised about!”

The numbers turning out to watch the race have increased year on year as the Tour has developed from the early years as the Milk Race, through to the 2.1HC categorized race that it is now.  Have the riders noticed a change in the way the race is perceived, both within the peloton and by the fans?  “Absolutely” says Kristian, “A few years ago, you could tell the riders that came were there mostly because the team had interests in the UK, rather than the riders really wanting to race flat out. You had a mix of riders that were just going through the motions of finishing the year out, and ones that were chasing a contract. Over the last couple of years, the level has stepped up a lot. You’ve got World Tour riders racing aggressively, going for breaks, and actually valuing the quality of the race and the importance of it.  Most years it slots in perfectly with preparation for the Worlds as well, so it becomes even more important for a lot of riders. One of the things the riders have noticed is that the crowds over the last few years have gotten huge. I’ve had riders from all over come up to me and say the crowds are better than the Tour de France! It’s pretty amazing how the UK people, and not even fans necessarily, come out and support the racing”.

The popularity of cycling has also impacted upon the standard of domestic racing as a whole, with weekend races having to turn people away due to over subscription.  “When I look back to domestic racing back in 2006, there was really only John Herety’s Recyling squad that would go abroad, and had the goal of moving riders on whereas now you have 4 or 5 teams working much closer to that level.” Kristian explains. “Obviously as the sport has become more popular with the public, more money has come into the sport at that level and allowed the teams to grow. I think there’s a couple of reasons for that. The obvious one to me is the success of the Olympic teams over the last 8 years, as well as the Tour de France success with Wiggins, Froome, and Cavendish. British Cycling have also invested a lot of time and money through the lottery funding into grass roots, and so the whole level of riders coming through has been at a higher level. Combine all that with increased TV coverage, not just for World Tour races but also for things like the Tour Series, and it’s really just blown up. In my opinion the Tour Series is perfect for the UK as it is short enough to keep the attention span of a non-cycling fan, but still exciting enough for the people who follow the sport. It’s also easily accessible for locals to come and watch”.

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Speaking at the 15th anniversary Cycle Show event in Birmingham this September, Tour of Britain Race Director Mick Bennett compared the current attitudes to the sport to those that were held 30 years ago.  “In the 1980s, you had to go cap in hand to the Local Authorities to get them to recognize cycling as upwardly mobile”.  Nowadays, it is those same Local Authorities who help to fund the Tour of Britain coming to their region.  Manager of the JLT-Condor team John Herety, who lives near Kristian House in Cheshire, explained that the roads in the area were resurfaced as a result of the Tour visit, highlighting a direct benefit to local residents, not to mention the revenue raised through the tourists it attracts.

“We do three route drives with a police officer in preparation for the race” Mick Bennett explains.  “Every roundabout, junction and pot hole is logged”.  That inspires Local Authorities to provide repairs and high level maintenance to those areas affected – after all, who wants to be known as the Local Authority who didn’t repair the pot hole which felled a World class bike rider?  “Some regions are desperate to host the Tour of Britain” Bennett continues, “they bring their maintenance programmes forward as a result”.

The huge popularity of the race has put pressure on the race organisers, as the media and the UCI float the idea of removing the Tour from its current position as part of the UCI Europe Tour programme, to part of the World Tour calendar, which is something the organsiers do not want to see happen.  “I think the formula for the race as it is, is absolutely right” explains JLT-Condor Manager John Herety.  “The mix of teams – World Tour, Pro Continental, Continental, plus six man teams provides an interesting dynamic” agreed Race Director Mick Bennett.  “Eight man teams can make a race predictable”.  Herety agrees, noting that shorter stages, such as Stage 7b held in Bristol this year, also provide the race with excitement.  “The Bristol stage was the best stage.  It was a short stage, with a climb, a good breakaway…I’d advocate shorter stages”.

The Bristol stage was a split stage, with the second half that Herety refers to held in the afternoon.  The morning had seen the riders undertake an individual time trial along the same route.  “Split days suck to be honest!” states Kristian House. “Even though they are generally shorter stages, they are a long day. On top of that because the road race is much shorter, it tends to be flat out… and in Bristol’s case, very technical. That makes it not just physically tiring, but also mentally. Ironically, despite them being so different to a standard day, your process of preparing doesn’t change much for you as a rider. I think it changes a lot more for the support staff to be honest! In between the stages you generally just chill out on the bus, make sure you eat enough, but not too much, and just recover from the morning efforts. Everyone is different, but I try not to sleep, but just listen to music and relax”.

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Whether or not split stages become a feature of the race in years to come,the future for Britain’s very own Tour looks bright.  As JLT-Condor’s John Herety declared, the formula for the race is just right, leading to a fantastic event that can only build upon its successes.  As the Tour of Britain’s most capped rider, we hope to see Kristian House racing on Britain’s roads next September with the rest of the ONE Pro Cycling Team – the race wouldn’t seem quite right without him!

Freewheeling Friday: EXCLUSIVE Jasper Bovenhuis Interview

Main photo: http://www.anpostchainreaction.com

Billed in the Official Tour of Britain programme as An Post Chain Reaction’s ‘One to Watch’, Jasper Bovenhuis had a great week riding his first edition of the British race, taking home the Yodel Direct Sprints jersey, and racing the streets of Bristol as the Most Combative rider of the previous day.

We caught up with him to see what he thought of the 2016 Tour of Britain….

Congratulations on winning the Yodel Direct Sprint jersey at this year’s Tour of Britain! When you started the race was that one of your aims?
Thank you, yes for me it was a goal from the start of the Tour of Britain, trying to win the Yodel Direct Sprint jersey.

What was your most memorable moment in this year’s Tour of Britain?
The last stage was the best of all, riding in big crowds through London.
And winning the last point, so I could bring home the jersey.

How do you prepare for split stages like the Bristol stage at this year’s Tour of Britain?
Riding 2 stages in a day always costs a lot of energy. For me, I just make sure I have enough fuel in the body during the day, and take as many  rest moments as possible in between the 2 stages.

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Jasper Bovenhuis wears the Yodel Direct sprint jersey at the 2016 Tour of Britain, Stage 7b, Bristol.

How does riding the Tour of Britain compare to racing on the Continent?
Racing in Britain is totally different than elsewhere. The roads are really grippy a lot of the time, and besides that the road is never flat, that makes it really hard to race on.

Were you surprised by the level of support for the Tour of Britain when you came to the UK?
I didn’t really know what to expect, because I don’t race that often in the UK. But it was great to see that there is a lot of support for the Tour of Britain itself, and that there is a big amount of cycling fans!

What did winning the Yodel Direct Sprint jersey mean to you personally, and to the team?
For me personally it was a great win, especially because it was racing at the highest level I have ever done, 2.HC. For the team it was also really good, getting a lot of media attention and TV minutes.

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Bovenhuis, third wheel, after riding across the Bristol suspension bridge during the 2016 Tour of Britain

How did you become involved with cycling at a professional level?
When I became a first year U23 rider I got a contract at the Rabobank Continental team and stayed there for 4 seasons. I’ve already been racing for 7 years on the ‘continental’ level of cycling.

What do you hope to achieve next season?
Hopefully I can keep developing myself, and get some nice victories next season.

Finally, what would you say to any young riders just starting out on the road?
Make sure you keep having fun riding your bike, that’s the way you can make the most out of cycling. And the most important – stay safe on the road.

Thanks Jasper! We wish you all the best for the 2017 season and really hope we see you back to defend the Yodel Direct jersey at the next Tour of Britain!

Don’t forget to check out Jasper’s 30 Seconds With…. answers on our Café Run page!

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Jasper Bovehuis in the Yodel Direct Sprint jersey

WorldTour Woes

After five stage wins in this year’s Tour de France and a place on the top step of the podium with Steve Cummings in the Tour of Britain, cycling fans have grown used to seeing Team Dimension Data accomplish epic feats in the saddle throughout 2016.  The South African team; home to Mark Cavendish, lead-out specialist Mark Renshaw, and the aforementioned British ace Steve Cummings, have become fan favourites with their top level riders and charitable ethos – riding for Qhubeka, World Bicycle Relief’s South African programme, and promoting the Bicycles Change Lives hashtag.  Yet the team’s WorldTour licence is under serious threat as a result of a feud between the sport’s governing body the UCI and the company behind races such as the Tour de France and Paris-Nice, ASO.

ASO announced last year that it would pull all its races from the UCI WorldTour in 2017, as the long running battle between both organisations rumbled ever onward.  Removing the Tour de France from the UCI WorldTour classification would mean the event would go ahead as part of Europe Tour, classified as an Hors Classe (HC) event.  HC races cannot include a field of over 70% WorldTour teams, which, in a 22 team Tour de France, would mean only 15 WorldTour teams could enter.  The remaining teams would be invited by ASO from the Pro Continental classification.

The 2016 Tour de France saw 18 WorldTour teams secure automatic entry into the race.  Reclassifying the world’s most prestigious bike race as an HC event would mean that at least 3 top class teams would be unable to secure a Tour slot, potentially putting sponsorship in jeopardy.  In response to ongoing problems, the number of UCI WorldTour licences are being cut from 18 to 17 for the 2017 season, which is the cause of Team Dimension Data’s woes.

Currently, the South Africa based team lies in 18th place in the team rankings, despite a successful 2016 season for its WorldTour debut.  The team ranking positions are determined by adding up the total points of the top five riders within the team, taking the points from the WorldTour individual ranking system. Despite a successful season clocking up over 28 victories, only 9 of these will currently count towards the rankings, as the majority of wins came from races which are not part of the WorldTour series – including Steve Cummings’ yellow jersey at the Tour of Britain.

The five stage wins that Dimension Data clocked up at this year’s Tour de France, arguably putting the team second behind only Team Sky in terms of Tour performance, did not add enough points to the overall total, due to the somewhat bizarre system of allocation.  A top ten finish in the GC at the TdF can see a rider awarded 50 points, whereas a stage win will only rack up 20.

Despite Tinkoff and IAM Cycling departing the scene at the close of the 2016 season, two Pro Continental teams are likely to be moving up to take up the vacant spots in the WorldTour grouping.  Bora-Hansgrohe – star signing for 2017 Peter Sagan – will benefit from said rider’s lead in the individual WorldTour rankings.  The other team looking for a WorldTour spot are the Bahrain Cycling Team, who have managed to secure Vincenzo Nibali for the forthcoming season.  This leaves Dimension Data and Lampre scrapping it out for the 17th place as the racing season draws to a close.

It seems a shame that both ASO and the UCI can’t come to an agreement which will benefit the sport – with sponsors less likely to lend financial support to teams that might not make WorldTour races, riders will feel less secure about their futures.  Considering the huge successes that Team Dimension Data have seen throughout 2016, it is hard not to feel aghast at the suggestion that their one season as a WorldTour team will also be their last.  With a handful of WorldTour races yet to be run before the end of the year, and a few riders playing their cards close to their chest in terms of new signings, it’s far from a done deal.  Let’s hope for a last minute reprieve for Team Dimension Data’s sake, as well as for the good of cycling as a whole.