Monday 25 June 2007

Cresting the Bwlch - The Dragon Ride : Part 1

The Dragon ride had been touted as the premier cyclosportive event in the UK. The organisers had aspirations of this event being included as the UK edition of the UCI Golden Bike series. This would give it international status and also denote the high standard of the cyclosportive in terms of the course, organisation and location.

This was probably why the event filled its 2300 places very quickly. Luckily, I managed to get a last minute place when someone dropped out. So on Saturday we zoomed up the M4 to Bridgend for the event that was taking place on Sunday 24th.

The race day weather forecast was grim. Showers and strong winds were on the agenda. So not fancying 200km of riding in the wet, I opted for the shorter 135km route. I had originally intended getting to HQ at 8am for an early start. However, given that it was raining I had a more leisurely breakfast and didn't leave the hotel until 8.45. By the time I reached HQ the start gantry was deserted, save for a handful of start marshalls. The music echoing around the car park reflected the emptiness of the environment. But hey, I wouldn't be subjected to hanging around for half an hour before moving off - as was the case for the majority of other competitors ! I could just start my ride immediately - and the rain had stopped too.

I began the cycle ride along the lonely dual carriageway out of Bridgend, my raincoat zipped right up to shield against the wind and the expectant rain. A couple of women set off just ahead of me. They said hello to me while we were waiting at the traffic lights. I wasn't ready to ride with them at that stage. One of them was in Vlaanderen Capri-Sonne sponsored kit and I figured they might be a bit strong for me. I wasn't warmed up, so couldn't ride at their speed as they powered up the road. Also, this road towards Port Talbot was slightly uphill, and already at this early stage I was sweating, even though I wasn't riding especially fast. I began to wish I'd left my coat at the hotel.

I was relieved when the road dipped slightly downhill - if only just to allow me to cool down a little. Suddenly a group of 10 riders passed me. Not wanting to miss my opportunity to be in a group I jumped in with them. We continued down the road at a steady 20miles an hour. I was still quite hot, but was keen to stay with the group, just so I could stand half a chance of getting through the ride quickly. We passed a number of other late starters, including the two strong women who'd dropped me a few minutes earlier !

Soon, we were in the Afan area, near where Him Indoors and I had been the previous day. It was nice to be on familiar terrain. While pulling up at the traffic lights I noticed a driver wave at me. Lo and behold it was Him Indoors, who was on his way to the mountain bike centre at Afan Argoed. "Shall I take your coat ?" He asked. This was a God send for me. Without replying I just threw it off anyway, wished him a good ride and was off on my way.

This stoppage made me lose the group I was with, but I didn't mind because my little foray with them had brought me up past numerous riders along the road, so I knew it wouldn't be long before I would come across other groups. I now stood a chance of finishing the ride in reasonable time and hopefully before the rain.

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