Wiggle Dragon Ride 2014

Wiggle Dragon Ride 2014


Wiggle Dragon Ride 2014


Alastair McNeill


Enter the Dragon: the Wiggle Dragon Ride 2014


Having ridden the Dragon Ride in 2012 I was keen to give it another go. So when the opportunity was provided for the 2014 event it was just a question of choosing a suitable distance and getting in shape so that I could manage a respectable time without too much suffering.


The Wiggle Dragon Ride is always going to provide a serious challenge for riders of all abilities. Now in its 11th year and supported by Wiggle.co.uk, it has become a mainstay of the UK sportive calendar, with four distances to choose from depending on your ability and ambition. The routes vary each year, though the standard format of 4 distances remains the same. 2014 featured the Corto Cycletta (42km), Medio Fondo (153km), Grand Fondo (223km) and for the seriously hardcore riders the Devil Dragon (305km).


Dragon Ride


Preparation – Wattbike Dragon Ride Programme

I adopted a more scientific approach to training than normal, partly due to the wet weather and partly due to the usual time constraints that most of us find ourselves under. Following a visit to the dedicated Wattbike Studio at Cadence Performance, Crystal Palace, I set about following the Wattbike Dragon Ride training program. Specifically designed to prepare riders for the event over a 12 week timetable, and using a mixture of indoor and outdoor sessions, hill sessions, strength sessions and technique. I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a fan of indoor training, but needs must. I followed the program more or less accurately using a mixture of home turbo training and Wattbike sessions at Cadence, replacing turbo sessions with training rides whenever possible.
Dragon Ride 3
Gran Fondo: 223km with 3616m climbing – Pleasure and pain
By the time 7am on June 8th came around, I felt in reasonable shape. A curry and drink or two in Swansea the night before might not have been part of the training programme, but my approach to the Dragon Ride was not all about blasting around the Welsh Hills in record time. More a case of enjoying the weekend away.
The weather on the morning was fine and the crowd of over 4300 riders were in good voice. As we rolled over the start line at Margam Park, down the gradual descent past Port Talbot and then onto the first climb at Bwich, the legs felt good.
The route takes in a range of scenery, through the valleys and up into the Brecon Beacons National Park. The first climb at Bwich, or Hellfire Pass as it is also known, is long, steep and beautiful. From there onwards the groups of riders were split, with the usual alliances and occasional small talk as you form fluid groups. I had no particular ride plan or time in mind, though sub-9 hour seemed like a sensible target.
Dragon Ride
Another climb that has to be mentioned is the Devils Elbow, which takes you up 500m and has a distinctly Alpine feel to it due to the length and gradient. The head wind on the top was seriously strong, making the decent feel not a whole lot easier than the ascent.
Though a very long day in the saddle with plenty of climbing (my Garmin gave me 3616m and 223km) I was kept in good spirits by a mixture of incredible scenery and friendly riders. This included riding one section with a 70 year old local club rider who just happened to be passing on his Sunday morning constitutional and happily sat at the front chatting, seemingly unaware that that we were going up a big, long climb and all these guys half his age were suffering just trying to keep his wheel.
Dragon Ride
I have to applaud the organisers on the organisation of the event. The routes are tweaked, improved and made more challenging each year, and from the start at Margam Park the logistics are excellent. Feed stations are well stocked and, having perhaps taken a leaf out of the continental book, they have plenty of savoury food such as salted potatoes to keep you going when you cannot face any more sickly sweet gels and jelly babies.
That said, by 200km the thought of a massage and lots of pasta start to cloud the mind. By now I had been soaked to the skin by a 10 minutes torrential downpour. The route takes in one last long climb before the drag back past Port Talbot and into Margam Park.
Dragon Ride
I crossed the line in 8.43hrs. Soaking wet, legs heavy and sore, but feeling good all things considered. A great ride and quite long enough for me. How anyone managed the 300km Devil Dragon I’m not entirely sure. Time to get training for the 2015 event then.
The Dragon Ride

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