BRITISH star Mark Cavendish is expected to defend his British Cycling National Road Championships title on the roads of Monmouthshire next year just a week prior to the start of the 2014 Tour de France.
But a day before Cavendish and company take centre stage, thousands of friends, families and club riders from across the world will take part in a brand new mass participation ride being premièred before the big race - the Championship Sportive.
The challenging rides over the gold, silver and bronze routes of the Sportive will be over part of the course which will be facing Cavendish, arguably the world's leading race sprinter, plus the last two men to win the Tour de France, British heroes Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
It is the beginning of a legacy for Monmouthshire over the coming years that will put cycling at the forefront of their agenda as far as riding for fun, to work or in competition is concerned.
That legacy includes the fantastic new outdoor track facility planned for Gilwern which is likely to become a real mecca for riders across the UK as well as local schools and clubs to enjoy the riding experience.
Ian Saunders, Monmouthshire County Council's Head of Leisure, said: “The Championship Sportive is a unique chance for any cyclist of whatever ability to ride the route taken by our heroes of the Tour de France just one day before they take to the course themselves for the coverted National Jersey.
“The Championship Sportive also shows the Council's commitment to supporting great enterprise initiatives such as this that we know will bring major economic development benefits to the county.
“I cannot think of a greater thrill than to preview the route yourself, find out how tough it is and then get out on the course the next day to watch stars like Sir Bradley, Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome and, not forgetting the near two hundred other riders in the elite men's race, go for glory.
“And the added significance of our amazing National Championships next year is that it will be decided just a week before the Tour de France begins in Yorkshire – and if our British champion is riding in the greatest road race of them all, he will be wearing the Championships Jersey to Paris!”
All three stars rode the National Championships course in 2009 when ten thousand people lined the streets of Monmouthshire to cheer the 200 riders all the way around the course.
The Championship Sportive will take riders past some spectacular parts of Monmouthshire, from the castles of Abergavenny, Raglan and Chepstow to Tintern and their world-famous Abbey, the historic areas of Monmouth and the spectacular countryside that has turned the county into a cycling haven.
Monmouthshire is fast becoming a capital of cycling for Wales, and Saunders added: “The Championship Sportive and our commitment to the Gilwern development gives us a fantastic base to deliver our legacy for the future years.
“This is also part of our commitment to build a healthier Wales and we are excited and proud to have brought this great weekend of cycling, along with many other great rides, competitions and events that form the Abergavenny Festival of Cycling, alive so that everyone can ride the Road of Champions in 2014.”
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08:30 The Ladies Championship Sportive
This ride covers 41miles/71km and is run over the Women's British Road Race Championship Course (not a breeze). Entrance fees are £25:00 and entry on day £35:00
11:00 The Championship Bronze Sportive
The ride spans 20 miles/32km and is run over the the flat roads of Monmouthshire. Entrance fees are £15:00 and entry on day £15:00
10:00 The Championship Silver Sportive
This ride is 67 miles/111km in length and is run over the Men's British Road Race Championship Course. Entrance fees are £30:00 and £40:00 on the day
09:00 The Championship Gold Sportive
The longest ride at 100 miles/160km is run over the Men's British Road Race Championship Course and includes the iconic climb of the Tumble mountain. Entrance fees are £40:00 and £50:00 on the day
Major coup for Monmouthshire in 2014
The championships, which will take place in and around the Abergavenny area, will be held in June with the National Time Trial Championships taking place on Thursday 26 and the National Road Race Championships taking place on Sunday 29.
Jonny Clay, Cycle Sport & Membership Director for British Cycling, said:
"Following on from the success of the 2013 championships, where we delivered an event witnessed by 35,000 people on the streets of Glasgow, we had significant interest from towns in hosting the championships for next year. The spectacle provided by the victories of Joanna Rowsell, Alex Dowsett, Lizzie Armitstead and Mark Cavendish took the event to a new level.
"(Abergavenny) has a strong pedigree in cycling led by Grand Prix of Wales organiser, Bill Owen, who will organise the championships for Monmouthshire next year." says Jonny Clay, British Cycling Cycle Sport and Membership Director
"This will be the second time in five years that the championships has visited Wales with the event held in Abergavenny in 2009. Abergavenny also hosted a very successful British Cycling Premier Calendar road race this year and has a strong pedigree in cycling led by Grand Prix of Wales organiser, Bill Owen, who will organise the championships for Monmouthshire next year. In 2009 we saw a race in which Chris Froome, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish were all key protagonists and 2014 should be a fitting prelude to the Tour de France Grand Départ in the UK."
Speaking on behalf of Monmouthshire, Councillor Bob Greenland, cabinet member with responsibility for economic development, said:
"Monmouthshire Council recognises the economic benefits that major events can bring to our county. The high profile that British Cycling has brought to the sport since the great successes of last year's Olympics is plain to see. It's incredibly exciting that we have the opportunity to work with British Cycling and host next year's prestigious National Road Championships."
Councillor Geoff Burrows, cabinet member with responsibility for leisure services, said:
"Monmouthshire County Council recognises the enormous benefits that cycling can bring to the county. We want everyone in the county to have the opportunity to improve their health and fitness. Cycling is the perfect sport for this."