Everywhere you go in the south west someone has heard of it.
“Oooo the dragon ride”.
305km with near to 5,000m elevation. Enough to make a tour rider shiver.
It was back in December that I signed up, bit the bullet with some others that had since backed out. And before long I was on the train to Cardiff ready for the quick pre race spin to my hotel in Bridgend.
It’s a strange experience staying in a hotel by yourself pre race. Sure there were lots of riders around, but they clustered in groups, intimidating and unsociable. So I prepped my bike, readied my kit and left the hotel room, for a little explore.
Almost giving in to the jungle book at the cinema, I bought myself some breakfast and snacks, and headed into the pub for chicken and chips.
The 5am alarm made me glad I was being somewhat antisocial. A quiet recluse.
Does it count as a race if you sleep the night before? The classic loud, stuffy hotel room minimised the hours spent sleeping. But none the less I was up, eaten, and spinning over to the start line by 6.
A quick debrief and we were off, 6:55, we were the second wave.
My ‘whatever happens, DO NOT, DO NOT AT ALL attack off the start’… Lasted a strong 1600m before I was the 5th man in splinter group of 5 rapidly attaching off the front.
My heart rate abnormally high, I knew we were in for a long day. Especially when 5 became 4, 4 became 3, and before the top of the second climb we were a 2 man attack.
Me and Paul, (my new best friend).
By 100km I was in a bad way, 3 climbs down and a solid 30km average I wasn’t going to cope.
The first 3 main climbs were tough but beautiful. Stunning roads that twisted up through the mountains, deep into the Brecons.
Paul battered on, dragging me through, and we soon found ourselves beyond the majority of the first wave, with a few animals long gone ahead of us.
The new group of four lasted until just after half way when me and Paul decided to veto the food stop and keep our heads down. 160km in and we were politely informed there was only 4 riders out ahead. Making us 5th and 6th.
But I was hurting, really hurting. We made it round the next 80km slowly, getting over taken by a very strong group of 4 on the second timed climb.
A climb I didn’t know I was going to finish. I was fighting off the nausea and we still had 120km.
But I was never going to let myself quit.
Head down and sucking Pauls wheel I was in the depths of the pain cave. Deep within myself doing everything I could to hang on, trying to absorb the breathtaking Welsh countryside.
With 60km to go I lost Paul and found myself with no group, no morale and no energy. I had food and water so would just have to take care of business for the last 60km.
But that was no easy feat.
With 30km left I had all but given up, I was done, empty. The physical exhaustion id searched for for so long had engulfed me. Chewed me up and was ready to spit me out. It was a horrible place to be.
Then out of nowhere, a quick tap on my shoulder and a loud, welsh ‘come on buddy!’
He’d snook into the rest station to wait for me, but I hadn’t stopped. Although now he was here to drag me around the last 30km.
Reinvigorated, new life in the legs. We smashed on. We might actually make this!
We crossed the line in 11:15, roughly 13th and 14th.
I had a horrible ache through my whole body, an empty set of legs and a terrible sickness from the sun…. but I did have a brand new friend.
The dragon ride is one I’d reccomend to anyone. Beautiful views, incredible climbs and landscapes. I’d do it again in a heart beat. But it’s certainly not for the faint hearted.
A lengthy roll, a kfc and good nights sleep before a full buffet of cooked breakfast ahead.
Dragon – slain.