Mid-Wales with Yanto Barker

Distance: 98 kilometres (68 miles)
Climbing: 1,300 metres

Right, first a public awareness message aimed at all you men. Sorry girls, but we’re having a bit of vested interest this week. Prostate cancer affects one in nine men at some point in their lives, with 37,000 men in the UK diagnosed with the disease each year.

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It’s particularly common in older men, but it can affect much younger men too. I lost a close friend to this cancer a few years ago, and he was in his late forties when he got it.

But awareness isn’t what it should be, which is where the Prostate Cancer Charity comes in. It wants to increase awareness, and particularly awareness of screening because if it’s caught early this cancer is very treatable. That’s one reason why it chose cycling as a way to get the message across.

“Added to a general growth of cycling there is a disproportionate interest from men aged 40 to 60,” says Katie Robbins from the charity. Have a look at www.prostate-cancer.org.uk for more information.

But Katie has also come to the start of this ride to get another message across. Research into prostate cancer isn’t as well funded as research into others, so she has a message. “Although we had a lot of entries for the Tour Rides last year, and from that angle they were a great success, not many of those taking part used the charity ride to raise funds. It would be great if more did this year,” she says.

Ride guide
Yanto Barker, fresh from the previous evening’s windy Tour Series race in Aberystwyth, is our pro ride guide for this look at the first part of the Welsh Tour Ride sportive recce. He’s joined by Alistair Cope, a cycle guide and adviser from Devon who helps the Prostate Cancer Charity, and is the local liaison for this sportive.

They start in Montgomery, close to Welshpool, where the 2011 Tour Ride and the Welsh stage of the Tour of Britain starts. The stage is 180 kilometres to Caerphilly in South Wales, and the Tour Ride covers exactly the same route as the pros, so you can compare your time, if you’re brave enough It’s a spectacular but hilly route, although hills are long and steady rather than short and steep.

The first is called Gwynant, and it starts just outside Newtown. At the top Yanto Barker expresses how taken he is with the scenery when he says, “This is fantastic cycling country, every turn brings a better view.” It does too, below us a patchwork of fields drifts away to the misty mountains surrounding the source of the river Severn.

Change of focus
Barker’s focus in cycling has changed over the last couple of years. “For me it’s about promoting my Le Col clothing brand now, so that takes priority. Racing is a great way to promote it, but because I’m working hard at the business, my life’s not 100 per cent for cycling like it was. I love cycling too much to stop, though. And while I say I’m maybe not as serious now, I’m still competitive. That’s still inside me, and I still want to do well,” he says.

Balancing pro training and racing with running a business is tough, but the way Barker does it would make Lord Sugar proud. “They say if you want a business to grow you have to learn to delegate, I’ve just had to learn it sooner. I get others to take some of my work, but I can’t expect them to do everything,” he says.

In fact, business calls today. Barker can’t do the full stage as he has to return to London to get on with things. So just before Llandrindod Wells he reluctantly parts company with riding partner Cope.

Cope, who comes from a mountaineering background and acts as a cycle guide both in the UK and in Morocco nowadays, continues on to Caerphilly. In his liaison role he needs to have a full on-the-bike run-through of the whole route.

He rode ‘The Great Tour’ last year, every stage of a 6,600-kilometre route around the coast of England, Scotland and Wales, so he’s seen plenty of cycling scenery but says that this route in Wales is “dramatically beautiful.”

Meanwhile Barker needs to get back to his car in Montgomery, but completes a circuit to get some miles in. For anyone doing the Welsh Tour ride in September, this route would make a great training session.

It’s got some tough climbs in it, especially the brute coming out of Llanbister. And the road going north-west from Knighton is a joy. It runs right next to the English border and alongside the impressive peaks of Black Mountain and Cilfaesty Hill, where the river Teme’s source is.

Carrying on
The rest of the Tour Ride route goes through Builth Wells to Brecon, “where it really surpasses itself as you ride through the Brecon Beacons”, Cope says. The road through these gaunt, starkly beautiful mountains, characterised by lofty, sharp ridges is the A470. “It’s busy but you don’t notice because of the view,” Cope points out.

The final climb is in Caerphilly itself, right up to the castle, which will provide an exciting end to the race stage, and signal an enormous achievement for those who complete the Tour Ride. There is a shorter ride starting from Builth Wells, so you get the Brecon Beacons experience and can sample the countryside where the SAS train, before routing down through the Wells Valleys to Caerphilly.

It will be held on August 21 this year, and more details are available on www.tourride.co.uk. Remember though, if are doing it, try to get some friends and family to sponsor your effort.

This article originally appeared in the June 9 2011 issue of Cycling Weekly magazine

Your guide: Yanto Barker
Age: 31
Lives: West London
Occupation: Owner of the Le Col cycle clothing brand and bike racer
Team: Pendragon Sports-Le Col-Colnago

Training route
Start in Montgomery and head towards Newtown, joining the A483. Stay on this road following signs to Llandrindod Wells. Continue south to Llanbister, where you turn left and take the tough Rosfallog climb. Follow the B4356 to Pye Corner, where there’s a sign pointing left to Llangunllo Station. Take a series of unclassified roads, keeping the railway on your immediate left to Knucklas. Turn left on the B4355. Turn right on the unclassified road at Vron towards Coed Nantyrhynau, this involves another steep climb. Turn left on the B4368. Turn right on the A489, this bit is nice and flat. Turn left on the B4385 to Montgomery.