Event Review

REVIEW: Wiggle Dragon Tour & Dragon Ride 2015

by Sean Lacey

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Day Three - Dragon Ride 

The main event. I rode the Gran Fondo - all 140 miles of it - for the first time last year and had a cracking day. However, it also meant I knew what to expect this time which at least allowed me to set realistic expectations on my performance. I woke with a pain in my left leg which is rare, but decided I wouldn't make any decisions just yet. 

The drive out to the HQ at Margam Country Park was a surprise this time around; it was early so traffic was light but last year the queues into the Park were pretty bad, starting from the motorway slip road. Today though there was barely any traffic until actually within the gates and heading for the parking area. I'm not sure what was done differently but it was much better. 

DR9

There was plenty going on, with a big retail unit from Wiggle and a few catering units and other displays. I had discovered yesterday that I was missing a screw from my right cleat and that two of the others were loose. I spoke to the Wiggle mechanics who were willing to help, but had a big queue to deal with first.  Not wanting to delay too long though, I headed out around 8:30am. 

Despite tightening up the screws before setting off it wasn't long before it was causing trouble again. Out of town the scenery improved dramatically and we headed for the first big climb of the day, the Bwlch. Typical of the mountain climbs of the area, it's long but not steep so makes a good warmup for the rest of the days climbing. Again typical for these climbs, it was followed by a fantastic descent. Hitting the valley floor at a pace, I noticed the mechanic parked up in a layby. 

Mike from Cycle-Tech UK (who had also been providing sterling support for the first two days) came to the rescue with a new cleat screw which he very kindly supplied at no charge. This would ensure no more stopping and adjusting on what would be a long, tough day - lifesaver! 

DR10

Underway once more it was straight into the next big climb, the Rhigos. I enjoyed this one too, similar in length and gradient to the Bwlch but different landscape to admire as you worked your way up. Last year the first feed was on the top, and whilst it offered temporary cover it was fairly exposed to the elements. This year it had been moved down into the valley in a proper building, which was a big improvement. 

Being a feed stop aficionado I look forward to Human Race's offerings, as they tend to offer one of the best selection of goodies around. Personal favourites of mine, the famous salted new potatoes were again on offer. This was the first of a potential five stops depending on distance, and they all offered a great selection of food - some even had sandwiches and wraps! 

No rest for the climbing legs though, as we were heading skyward again straight from the off. Passing over Sarn Helen my mind started to work against me - I had mentally broken a little and convinced myself I wouldn't make it up the steepest climb of the day: the Devil's Elbow. 

DR11

20% for the most part and 33% if you foolishly take the inside of the hairpins, the Devil's Elbow isn't as long as the mountain climbs but it makes up for it with the gradient. Starting the climb somewhat resigned to failure, I aimed for the first hairpin, and made it. OK, aim for the next one. Made it. One more? Yes, topped out without collapsing and marvelled at how, despite feeling like there was no way to get up it without walking, the body can do some impressive things when required! 

The route split now lay ahead. I really wanted to complete the Gran Fondo again, and the love of climbing argued strongly for the ascent of Black Mountain (the best climb on the route in my opinion), but my common sense won over and I took the left turn onto the Medio route. This led to a long descending section which allowed some recovery before joining back up with the later sections of the longer routes.  

One final big climb beckoned, Cimla, an urban affair at contrast with the wild mountain scenery. The descent brought us back on to the outgoing route near the Bwlch and the run back in to Margam Park, which with the wind behind me was relatively fast considering the broken body. Heading through the park an in to the finish is always a spectacle, with the full gantry setup, commentator and the crowds which heightens the achievement as you finish. You're greeted with a really nice medal, goody bag, refreshments from Vita Coco and when parked up, a free pasta or noodle meal along with other paid for food and beverage options. 

DR12

Overall, I thought the inaugural edition of the Tour was a great success. Despite being a first edition, Human Race's professionalism in running many other events meant nothing was overlooked and skimped on. Both HQ venues are more than suitable, signage over all three days was great (although I did miss the information signs showing length, gradient etc. at the climbs which were in place last year), the feeds excellent and the support from the NEG riders and mechanics top notch. 

The Dragon Ride has a deserved reputation as one of the UK's best sportives, and the Dragon Tour only adds further kudos - definitely recommended. 

Route: 
Day One: https://app.strava.com/activities/320927395 

Day Two: https://app.strava.com/activities/320927408 
Day Three (Medio Fondo): https://app.strava.com/activities/320927484

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Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 9 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 9 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 10 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 8 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 9 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 9 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 9 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 9 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 9 out of 10
Overall Rating 90.0%




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