Over the weekend of 8 – 10 June, in order to prepare for the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, I took part in my first multi-day cycling event – the Dragon Tour organised by Human Race Events which is badged as L’Etape Wales with links to the Tour de France. The event culminated with the Dragon Ride, with distances ranging from 100 to 300 km. I had booked to do the Gran Fondo at 223 km.
The start for the first two days was based just outside Crickhowell which offered the opportunity to do two different rides of under 100 km each in the Brecon Beacons taking in the climbs of Gospel Pass and The Tumble.
I knew what to expect with The Tumble having ridden it twice in the Wales Velothon – basically a steep first half and a relentless grind for the second half once clear of the trees. Gospel Pass was completely new to me, a gradual start and an absolutely horrible ramp up towards a cattle grid in the middle, followed by a reasonable gradient to the top. My sunglasses glasses had completely steamed up by the cattle grid and I had to rely on a race marshall telling me not to stop and keep riding!
The view from the top was spectacular even with the low cloud.
Day 2 included The Tumble climb – I managed a Personal Best time, followed by a great traverse of part of the Brecon Beacons plateau. The descent off the plateau was fantastic despite following a lorry that was doing its best to burn out its clutch (it probably stopped me taking too many risks downhill).
The last 20 miles were the longest 20 miles I have ridden in a while, constant hills and rolling terrain and being passed by faster cyclists – no peloton this time to draft behind.
The Dragon Ride started from Margam Park, near Port Talbot. Sunday started bright and sunny, no cloud cover of any note unlike the previous days.
The day ended up being very hot which made pacing myself on the long climbs essential – no going for PBs uphill, just getting round was the key thing! The descents off the Bwlch and the Rhigos were fast and great fun and made up for the long slog up.
In the end, the previous days’ rides took their toll and at the second feed station I decided to drop down to the Medio Fondo – still a ride of 150 km (about 95 miles). My hamstrings were protesting and with the Deloitte Ride Across Britain being my goal there was no point injuring myself with three months to go to the start line in September. I wasn’t alone in changing the route on the day given the high temperature.
I ended up with a ride time of 6 hours 40 minutes (compared to a total elapsed time of 7 hours 12 minutes). Carl (who I rode with on a training ride recently) did the Gran Fondo in 9 hours which meant I’d have probably taken around 11 hours to finish given my average ride pace. Clodagh, who showed all the men up at the Deloitte RAB training ride in April, went round the Gran Fondo in an astonishing elapsed time of 8 hours 37 minutes and won the Strava Queen of the Mountain for the event as fastest female rider over that distance plus was one of the fastest females over the Devil’s Elbow timed climb. I certainly will not be trying to keep up with Clodagh on the Deloitte RAB !
What have I taken away from the Dragon Tour?
- The multi-day format was great, particularly if you managed to get to know other riders
- Pacing is key; it’s no good going off too fast and not being able to cope on the next day or the third day
- Fuelling (eating enough) and keeping hydrated (drinking enough) is important, particularly with the very warm weather we had during the Dragon Ride
- Riding in a peloton saves an enormous amount of energy and riders having a bad day are very grateful for a “tow”, even if you end up cycling a bit slower than you could manage
- I can cycle the daily distance required on the Deloitte RAB but I can work on my climbing ability (basically more of what I posted about in Gravity)
- A daily post ride massage, however short, worked wonders on tired muscles!
Overall the Dragon Tour was fantastic – I couldn’t fault the event organisation, particularly on the Dragon Ride. The race marshalls were plentiful and dealt with the few tacks thrown on the road by disgruntled locals (upset by 5,000 riders visiting south Wales for the weekend, many with families, and spending their money in the area!). The volunteers and staff in the feed stations were awesome, with a special mention for the feed station at Ystradfellte – so friendly and welcoming! I certainly hope to take part in the Dragon Ride next year.
I’m doing the Deloitte RAB in part to raise lots of money for Dementia UK in memory of my father who suffered from dementia. You can help me raise money by sponsoring me at my Virgin Money Giving page here