Swansea Wheelers were well represented at this years Dragon Ride. Main group setting off together included Paul E, Nic, Simon H, Andy M, Mark K and Alan Calyton (guest from last Sunday). Meeting the group outside Margam Park were Rhys, Ian W and Phil G. Also on the ride and setting off at different times were Barry, Lee, Louis and Chris G. So 13 in all, if I’ve missed anyone let me know.
I started as planned at 7:30 with Paul, Mark K and a few of the other Wheelers. Ian Williams and Rhys failed at the first hurdle (absence of number on bike, helmet and jersey) and got turned back ignominiously at the barrier! They rejoined with Phil at the exit from Margam Park and we rode off as a group into the cool fresh summer morning.
Steady pace until the climb out of Maesteg where I got dropped and never saw the young wheelers again. Descent into Bryn without a speed wobble. Failed to link up with Bob & Andy in Neath but eventually bumped into Chris Gerrity at the first feed station who was doing the ride in Wheelers Colours with a group of friends from England. What a beautiful day for a ride showing the hills of South Wales at their very best to the cyclists from all over the world.
Feed stations very efficient and salted boiled potato and banana is definitely the best endurance fuel.
Steady climb over the Black, passed Ian W mending a puncture on the descent. Just kept plodding along enjoying the ride and the company all day
Finished in 10hrs 19mins 26 secs
We all arrived earlier than our alloted times to try and get off early, which we succeeded in doing. Rhys and Ian tried to go through the official start without numbers but were quickly spotted. They rode outside to join Phil G and then 3 met us on the road to set off in the beautiful morning sunshine.
The one thing that really struck me this year was the number of very nasty looking accidents. There were at least 3 ride ending crashes needing medical attention that we saw and apparently another requiring the air ambulance at the cattle grid into Abergwynfi after the Bwlch decent. Some of the tricky corners weren’t marshalled as well as I remember last year, for example the descent from Bryn where it meets the Afan Valley Road (hidden sharp right and lights at the bottom of fast decent) last year had someone ahead of the corner making plenty of noise with a whistle. There was someone with a flag but they were too far into the last corner before the lights to make a difference.
Having said that, the feed stations were very well stocked with minimal queuing and people seemed to be getting well looked after mechanically by the Mavic service cars/scooters. St John’s Ambulance were also doing a sterling job.
We lost Simon early on and temporarily lost Nic around the first feed station only for him to catch us at the top of the Black Mountain. We then lost Rhys and Ian due to mechanicals. I battled most of the day to keep with the group and didn’t feel that great by the time we go to the Crai climb. From then on it was hard work from Sennybridge to the top of Rhigos and the last feedstation. Here Alan punctured as we left, I stopped to assist but the others had gone. Repairs complete, Alan and I set off down Rhigos and over the Bwlch, where we chased down a lone Wheeler that turned out to be Barry. He passed us again on the descent home. For the last 10 miles I was very grateful for Alan’s assistance, I was shot!
Apparently the views had been amazing but unfortunately I missed most of them due to chewing my bar tape and sweat/suncream stinging my eyes on the climbs and just enjoying the relief on the descents.
Much, much harder than I remember last year, I thought due to the heat but also happily 30 minutes faster overall time 9hrs:19mins and 20 mins faster moving time of 8hrs:23mins
I really enjoyed the Dragon ride yesterday (first ever sportive) and was a good experience. I couldn’t believe how many accidents/injured people I saw in approx the first 20 miles, absolutely crazy.
I completed the 210km route in 8hrs 44min including the feed stops which I was pleased with, especially as this was the longest distance I have ever cycled.
The feed stations were ok, shame that they all didn’t have energy drink and some only supplied water although the salted potatoes were delicious.
There was a good atmosphere all-round with spectators cheering on the roadside which was nice to see. Would I enter again… probably, but I think the weather added to the occasion.
Really enjoyed the Dragon ride this year, the weather was glorious and not too much wind either. My decision to get some extra sleep meant by the time I got there and was ready I would be starting amongst the last for the Gran Fondo route. This meant overtaking thousands of people on the road which definitely slowed me down especially on the descents but I got a real boost from being the fastest on the road. Met Lee on the Black Mountain climb but he dropped me soon after as cramp started to set in same place as last year! I must have passed Lee in the next feedstation which was in a different place to the year before so I started to regret not paying attention to the route map. However there was plenty of really nice helpful people who told me where the next feedstation had moved too and were also more than willing to work together on the windy sections. Suffered all those steep climbs like devils elbow and managed to get to the top of the Bwlch feeling really happy that all the climbing was over. Then raced people all the way to the finish in a time time of 8:08:23 a little short of my sub 8 hour goal but pleased none the less.
Arrived at the event at 6.10 ready for an early start although my set of time was 8.30. Got talking to a 70 year old fell runner who was a great story teller and an amazing character before realising the time was now 8.10 and I’d missed my early start and left behind by the other Wheelers.
Off I went head down ass up trying my best to catch up, Western log first traffic jam still not sure if it was an accident or just too many riders arriving at the short change lights. Pontrhydyfen turn of another ambulance looking after a guy with severe road rash to arm and leg another 5 minutes lost. All went well until the decent of the Black Mountain over the cattle grid down through the sweet bends unfortunately one of the bends tightens up slightly causing another unfortunate sole to head straight into the hedgerow not too much time lost here shortly after passed Ian waiting for a lift back to the car later to hear those light wheels let him down again. Passed slowly through the feed station just after Llandeusant pedestrians just milling across the road and almost coming a cropper not very well organised here I’m afraid. Spotted Simon as I went through made the mistake of not reading where the feed stations were as I’d almost finished all my water by then thinking Crai is not too far I’ll push on.
By now the heat was taking effect and was starting to enter that dark place where you wonder what the hell am I putting myself through only being half way and feeling like shit. No water no Crai feed station shit, panic stopped at a house in Crai village no one in great onto Defynog café stop 2 bottles of cool water on again 2 miles up the road lone behold a feed station stopped any way topped up the bottle again. Turned right onto the lanes heading for Devil’s elbow first time for me front wheel slid 18 inches sideways on loose gravel somehow managed to stay up phew no need for the ambulance sitting on the corner as if he knew. From here on all was as it should be although the heat was almost unbearable on the climbs due to no speed and little wind.
As I entered the Rhigos feed station a phew of the wheelers were just leaving looking a lot fresher than I felt. Chase was on now to catch them up over the Bwlch which seemed to go on forever. 10 riders with me on the front from the top to Port Talbot like a man possessed, travelling at around the 30mph all the way down to Port Talbot 100 meters to go and put a Cavendish sprint to the end with the 10 followers shaking hands with me and thanking me for the tow home as they all said until I passed they were spent. What they really meant was look at the size of him let’s sit behind the human wind block.
Time so far from the event hasn’t been logged I think it was the sprint at the end too fast for the timer, Garmin time 8.12 moving total time 8.33. Must say a little gutted as I did want to get under 8 hours my fault must read the small print next time. Oh well next year will be here soon enough. Hope all is well with everyone, see you soon, Bazza.
Well, the sun came out and so did all the weekend warriors. I’ve never seen so many ambulances and paramedics on a ride. Some nasty offs as some of the other Wheelers have mentioned, particularly coming down Black Mountain where I couldn’t look for too long at the blood on the road and some guy in a heap by the side of it getting treatment. Not long after me and Phil heard a metallic pinging sound followed by swearing which turned out to be Ian and his jinxed wheels. Game over for him.
Despite initial worries of being held to our different start times, we managed to get off without being questioned just after 7.30am. (Apart from Rhys, who had ‘forgotten’ his rider numbers – ahem!) Good atmosphere all the way round, helped by the weather no doubt. First part of the ride wasn’t too challenging so we took it relatively easy knowing what was coming. Lots of comments from riders from across the border who saw the club kit and said things along the lines of ‘local knowledge – unfair advantage’ as if we found it any easier!
Later on the climb up Devil’s Elbow was not as brutal as I remembered. Nice of the Mavic support car fixing a wheel to leave his door wide open right before the hairpin. Liked the idea of a timed section here and made it up bang on 10 minutes without too much effort – not bad for a crap grimpeur. The sight of Chris Regis storming up the Elbow past everyone was also a good incentive.
Stuffed my face at the feed station near the Usk Reservoir to enjoy the climb then fast decent down to Glyntawe and on up to Cray. At this point the legs felt good so I knew I’d be ok if I kept the water and food topped up.
By the time we got to the Rhigos there were plenty of people suffering. Many were just standing, or lying, at the side of the road. A lot of these were the Medio riders who’d clearly taken on more than they could manage. The feed station was very well placed at the top, so after a few salted potatoes I made a fast decent to get to the Bwlch as quickly as possible. Went up at a steady pace where I was joined by Nic and we stayed together to the bitter end. Coming down the Bwlch a guy who had been just in front of me braked too late behind a van, swerved out into the road to avoid it and almost went into a car coming straight for him. He slammed on the anchors, hit the deck and spun round on his back a few times. How he wasn’t flattened I’ll never know. Nasty road rash but amazingly he just got back on. Adrenaline and pride no doubt. Probably the stupidest bit of cycling I’ve seen for a while.
Got behind a fast group coming into Cwmafan and me, Nic and Andy sailed in together. I actually felt strong and could have gone for longer. Strava said 8hrs 31min moving time and my official Dragon total time was 9.09. Not bad considering I wasn’t pushing it too hard. And I’d managed to knock 1 hour 10 minutes off last year for the same route. Going for 8.30 total next year.
Overall a fantastic day out with some lessons learned:
1. Extra miles in the legs from rides like the Tour of Pembrokeshire and Sarn Helen do make a big difference, as well as winter miles.
2. If you don’t know the roads then don’t try to descend like Cancellara or you’ll get into trouble.
3. Keep fuelled – even if it makes you feel like throwing up.
Cheers everyone, thanks for the banter, the entertainment (Ian) and here’s to next year’s Dragon.