As you know, while a good number of the club were riding Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, 2 riders, Dave Campbell and Andrew Collyer travelled to S. Wales to take part in the Dragon Ride sportive. We had both signed up for the 206km ride which was the longest and hilliest route on the day. The night before the ride myself and Andrew stuffed our faces at a Toby Carvery ( I had seconds), rolled out the restaurant and got an early night in.
Next morning, got out nice and early, found the turn off for the start and queued for 20 minutes to park up but still on time, no worries. Bikes set up, kit on, panic pee’s and we rolled straight to the start and left at 8:30am, we wouldn’t be back here until nearly 6pm…. The weather was ok, cool and overcast and it did rain on and off, but dried very quickly and we set off at a reasonable pace, joining and leaving large groups of riders until it got lumpy. The first up split Andrew and myself which was a very steep hill which then levelled to a steady climb out of the town then a long fast descent out into the country, there was a bad crash at this point as it was very wet and the roads had narrowing control sections, looks like 2 riders collided and went down at about 45mph, saw someone getting lifted into the ambulance on a spinal board, not good. At this point I had pulled away from Andrew a little and spent the next hour or so, on my own, until we met up at the first feed stop which was excellent but queues were long, fuelled up and set off again. The Medio and Gran Fondo ride split shortly after this and we were steadily going up. There were little climbs up Bryn, Cimla and Neath but the first biggie was the Black mountain. Got into a good rhythm, tapping up and past lots of riders and came down the other side in a shower, but brilliant descent, hitting 40mph for lots of it as you went down the contours of the valley side. After this it was a slog through Roman camp climb and onto Cray reservoir where we got the second feed, really needed this at this point as I was out of fluid, grabbed lots of stuff, ate in the queue and managed to shake and stretch the legs a little after 40 odd k’s of gradually going up on quite draggy roads. We caught up with Sean Farley at this point as he had set off in front of us and was on his way out of the feed.
Bryn Melyn and the Devils elbow was next which was about 10% average, then we got to the hairpin, which was 33% and then 4 switchbacks up the mountain at 20%, lots of people walking, but we stayed in the saddle and tapped up, up and up, passing all the time. At this point I thought about the others doing Paris Roubaix and really hoped it was raining there, hard. Andrew and I got split again and I wouldn’t see him until the last feed stop, his knee was giving him some grief, but not when climbing so he wasn’t too worried. Up and over, another fast descent, then up the Rhigos. The sun came out to play, lots of people having a sit down and a drink, taking layers off, met up with Sean again who looked nice and hot, hardly stopped to chat as I was spinning up the climb nicely but wished him luck and off I went. Feed stop and had lots to drink and some salted potatoes, which were excellent. Dropped down the valley, fabulous descent with hairpins and long fast straights, cattle grid at the bottom was bunny hopped at 46mph, bit of a brown shorts moment there… Then straight up the Blwch climb, which is shorter than the Rhigos but steeper, up and over again, passing more riders and onto the descent. This was the best yet, screamed down with an empty road, no cars or other riders, topped out at 52mph. Down into Port Talbot, a few sharp ups and a long run in with some lads, through and off past little towns.
I thought we were about 800m from the start, but we then saw a sign 5K to go……I could have wept, I was so ready to be finished at this point, I just wanted to get off my bike, find a quiet spot and have a little cry. I shared my feelings with an Ajax rider who looked how I felt, we shrugged and rode in together. I got a time of 9hrs 12 minutes, but my riding time was 8 hrs 10 minutes, lots of time spent in feed stops, but needed them badly. Andrew rolled in after me, happy to be done. Quick change, packed up and then drove back in the rain scoffing flapjacks and donuts courtesy of Mr Collyer, thank you.
Tough day, long day but definitely doing it again next year, anyone else ?