IF you blinked you might have missed the two Tour de France winners who came hurtling through our neck of the woods last Sunday.

Fortunately Chronicle lensman Tim Evans has the same sort of snake eyes as Clint Eastwood’s man with no name. The tenacious snapper has also got an outrageously expensive telescopic lens. So our man with the camera was able to get right in the thick of the action and capture history as it was being made.

And the poised photographer was just one of many cycling fans who turned out on the roads of Monmouthshire, Powys and elsewhere last Sunday to witness the Tour of Britain hurtle by like a freight train made of neon lycra.

Of course, Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome were just two of the star-studded line-up who were going hell for leather to win the Welsh stage of the tour.

Andre Greipel, who is something of a household name in Abergavenny, was also on hand to steal Stage One from right under the homeboy Big G’s nose and claim the leader’s prestigious green jersey.

The mighty German said, “I’m happy that I could win again.”

Wales Government Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Lord Elis-Thomas said, “I’d like to congratulate the winner of the Wales stage André Greipel – and commend all the participants of this iconic professional race today.

“Having an all-Welsh stage has been fantastic for Wales – especially with the interest in cycling experiencing a boost here after Geraint Thomas’ legendary performance at the Tour de France earlier this summer. Today has been an excellent showcase of south Wales’ spectacular countryside – with a coastal start and finish a fitting route as we celebrate Wales Year of the Sea in 2018.

“I’d also like to thank our Local Authority partners for hosting such a successful event, as well as the volunteers and spectators who came out to give the teams a fantastic Welsh welcome.”

“I’d like to congratulate the winner of the Wales stage André Greipel – and commend all the participants of this iconic professional race today.”

Local cycling enthusiast and semi-professional long-distance runner Johnny Turnip was in the crowd as the Tour passed through and told the Chronicle, “It was a magical moment when the cyclists whizzed by. I got goosebumps. It was like watching a group of ponies galloping furiously across a meadow.

“Obviously when that many outsiders rock up en masse it can be a little unsettling for the natives. Especially someone who is fifth generation Abergavenny like my good self. But they were only passing through and it felt great to wave them on.”

Turnip added, “A lot of my mates couldn’t be bothered to turn out but it was their loss. They just spent the day in the pub instead. Admittedly there was a lot of hanging around waiting for the action to begin but there was a real carnival atmosphere on the streets beforehand. Someone even had a mouth organ which they played a few tunes on while we waited. And when those boys roared through they certainly broke like the wind. It was a shame it was all over so quickly really. But that’s life!”

And Now For The Juniors.......

The previous weekend saw the best junior (16-18 year old) riders from the UK, Ireland and New Zealand converge on the local area for the SD Sealants Junior Tour of Wales – a bike race whose roll of honour already boasts names like Mark Cavendish and 2018 Tour de France stars Geraint Thomas, Luke Rowe and Dan Martin.

Stage One (Friday) saw a five mile time trial finishing on the Tumble, saw the riders racing against the clock. Strong winds and squally showers cost many of the pre-race favourites valuable time, but one rider who wasn’t fazed was seventeen year old Leo Hayter (of VC Londres), who won the stage with a time of 12:49 to take the race’s first Yellow Jersey.

Leo also made Junior Tour history – with Ethan Hayter (2016) becoming the first brothers to have been awarded the Yellow Jersey in the race’s 38 years.

Close behind Leo in second place was British Junior Road and World Junior Cyclo-Cross Champion Ben Tulett, riding for the South East England Region, just two seconds adrift.

Stage Two (Saturday) saw a 68 mile road race starting in Abergavenny and winding its way to the Neath Valley to the Rhigos Mountain. There was action from the start with Yorkshire’s Max Rushby, New Zealander Bailey O’Donnell, Ireland’s Aaron Doherty, Wales’ Ethan Vernon, King of the Mountains Harrison Wood, Bristol’s Morgan Curle and Ulsterman PJ Doogan attacking and gaining five minutes on the peloton.

Wood extended his lead in the King of the Mountains competition, while Vernon grabbed hold of the best sprinter’s Green Jersey with both hands – and didn’t let it go. He is the latest in an illustrious line of Welshmen, following Team Sky’s Luke Rowe and Owain Doull, to win the competition.

With the early leaders caught as the race threaded its way past the beautiful Crai reservoir, attacks continuing all the way to the final climb, a three man breakaway containing Ulster’s Adam Ward, Doherty and Scotsman Alfie George leading up the Rhigos with Ward taking the win from George by just half a wheel.

Stage Three (Sunday) saw the race visit the picturesque Parc Bryn Bach circuit. Unfortunately, torrential rain meant an unavoidable decision to cancel the stage due to a dangerously flooded road. Luckily, the sun started to appear after lunch, just in time for the afternoon’s 57 mile flat stage around Abergavenny and Monmouth.

The stage began with many breakaway attempts, with last year’s runner-up Ben Healy of the Zappi Junior Team, Oliver Knight of Corley Cycles, and Irishman Liam Curley on the attack. A late crash delayed several leading contenders, with race leader Leo Hayter riding hard to rejoin the peloton and stay in contention. The breakaway was caught in the closing miles with the PH-MAS team’s Sam Watson counter-attacking and holding on for a brilliant solo win.

Stage Four (Monday) dawned overcast for the closing stage, a 58 mile race from Brynmawr, heading past the reservoirs of the Brecon Beacons before cutting through Abergavenny for a finish at the summit of the Tumble. The day saw a number of threatening attacks, but the most dangerous was from an ultra-determined Ben Healy who soloed off the front just before the King of the Mountains climb of Bwlch. He rode alone all the way into Abergavenny – at one stage building a big enough advantage to take the leadership of the race.

It wasn’t to last, and after Healy was caught on the lower slopes of the Tumble, the final attack saw Ireland’s Archie Ryan, of the Nicolas Roche-Chill Insurance team go for the stage win. Close behind him was Ben Tulett – finally distancing race-long leader Leo Hayter and claiming overall victory, just a day after his seventeenth birthday.