Friday, 19 June 2009

Enter, The Dragon

Some time ago, before Weatherpocalypse 600's were even considered, I entered the Dragon Sportive in South Wales, having heard the lads at the bike shop extol the virtues of it's 'almost Alpine' climbs. I thought at the time "I'm having some of that". After the Weatherpocalypse, I thought "I'll have a little bit of that" and decided to do the shorter route, knowing I was already tired.

In the week before the event, even the short course seemed dubious. The cold and endurance of the previous weekend weakened my resistance to the extent that I contracted the worst case of 'Montezumas Revenge"/Delhi Belly/Call-it-what-you will that I have ever experienced. Clear fluids only for three whole days! At least by the day before the ride, I was well on the road to recovery and 10lbs lighter. (Perhaps I could get it again next week....)

On the Saturday myself, Mrs H and sundry colleagues rode a local 25 mile charity ride in about 2 hours, and I felt fine. Off to South Wales, then.

The organisation of the Dragon Ride is first class, with the exception of parking, which left a queue onto the M4. We dodged this by doubling back from the next junction, and were away in large groups before 9 a.m.

This was the biggest field of riders I had seen since last years Etape, and I had forgotten how good big pelotons are. We fairly rocketed to the first climbs where, as usual, everyone else kept going and I slowed down. That said, the climbs are not stupidly steep, and I went well up to the top of the Bwlch (1st time). What a descent! I wish I could have seen the look on the teenage spot-monster's face as the Datameister Express shot past his Honda Hairdryer down the other side. Looking over my shoulder as I relaxed and freewheeled, I was being followed by a number of racing snakes, all pedalling frantically to keep up. Sometimes its great to be heavy!

Rhigos Mountain is another great long, drawn-out climb achieved in the saddle throughout, with another 50mph descent the other side. Sanity prevailed at the bottom, and I turned onto the short course. That area is one of fantastic countryside and enjoyable big-ring touring, at least as far as the Cimla climb out of Neath.

On the first corner, there was Howard from Team Cycling+ getting his heart rate down. Pleasantries exchanged, I carried on until I had the same problem higher up, retreating to a park bench. I was determined on this ride not to turn myself inside out, but to complete comfortably. I thought that I was getting a few strange glances from other riders, and when remounting discovered this was because I had stopped only 200 metres short of the second feed station. Oh well.....

Bwlch2 was even longer, and did require a couple of rest stops in the increasing heat, but I reached the top out of the saddle for the benefit of the waiting photographer. Descending the way we came up in the morning was another blast of freewheeling speed before the short final drag up and last, 'dangerous' descent. There is just one bad bend on the descent, a bend totalling about 270 degrees, tightening as you go round. I made it (slowly) I gather a racing snake came to grief later.

In the final 10km myself and another 2 riders averaged over 30kmh, although I lost the 'sprint' to both of them at the finish.


Now, about the performance. I was determined to get round the short course, and enjoy myself. No turning myself inside out, no dragging lungs behind me up the climbs. This I thought I did......until the results were published.

82 miles, 132 kilometers in 6:34:10, of which 6:14:22 was actual cycling.
Average speed 21.1kmh, 13.1 mph on a course with 2799 Memory Map Metres of climbing!

Looking at Memory Map when I finished, I tried to analyse my ride using its formula of :
Distance/speed on flat + time lost on ascents - time gained on descents
and could only calculate my time when inputting the best figures from last years sportive riding. (30kmh on flat + 30 seconds per 10 metres climbed - 6 seconds per 10m descended)

Therefore, my Dragon performance was not only the best of the year to date, but just as good (although over a shorter distance) as any sportive last year, Etape included.

Mighty pleased!


Simon Lewis said...

A really good ride. Well done. And having ridden 150 miles on Sunday, your 600km seems ever more amazing to me now. Stunning,

Datameister said...

If only my feet were as pleased! I have "significant soft tissue damage" and am banned from cycling for at least 2 weeks.