â€œ5-4-3-2-1 off you go and have a good rideâ€ announced the loudspeaker at Bridgend Recreation centre. Actually I think it was the Mayor of Bridgend with the microphone but as we were near the back of a queue of 2300 riders it could have been Tom Jones for all we knew!
This was the Dragon Ride in south Wales and the Wheelers contingent tried to meet up at the Fire Station next to the start for a group photo. It didnâ€™t quite work as we planned since Dominic overslept, Justin didnâ€™t tell us he was there and the two Kens did their own thing and rode the 200km. Better luck next year.
We (the 135km group) eventually set off just after 8.30am (they set us off in groups of 100) by which time the overnight rain had stopped, and our group of 100 (6 Wheelers) set off along the coast towards Port Talbot before turning inland towards the mountains. After 20 miles or so we come to the first feed station which has been moved to the foot of the first major climb of the day (the Bwlch Mountain) as the organisers anticipated rain and high winds at the top of the mountain!!!! We all stop for either a call of nature or a snack or both and Dominic catches up with us.
Now we are 7 and we set off up the climb. This is not a climb as we know it fellow Club members. This road goes up for about 5 miles at an average gradient of 7%. We settle in to a steady pace (about 9mph) and grind up the hill. As we ride along, looking up ahead we can see a long line of riders wending their way up the climb as it cuts across the hillside above us. Our Club group gradually splits and at the top Dom, Dave and Nigel are away, with ChairmanSteve chasing and the others a little further back. The good news is that there is no rain and only light winds at the top, and the view over Treorchy is superb.
The 4 mile descent is fun (dry) and the Chairman gets back to the front three with the remaining three (Steve H, Ian and Jonathan) chasing only a few minutes behind. Only a few miles along the valley floor and we start the next climb. This is the Rhigos mountain and is pretty much the same grind as the Bwlch but only (!?) 4 miles. The Chairman gets dropped again but much to his surprise catches the front three again after the descent towards Glynneath. The Rhigos descent was long and straight and those of us with compact chainsets were wishing we still had the 53 chainring!
We pause again at the feed station before heading off to Neath where the climb out of the town surprises us all. Itâ€™s the usual grinding hill but a lot longer than it looks on the map. The Chairman is dropped again (getting a bit repetitive isnâ€™t it) but once again gets back on at the final feed at the foot of the Bwlch â€“ oh yes, did I forget to mention we have to go over this one again! Once more over the Bwlch (some light rain to keep us cool this time) and the sun comes out for the descent into the valley. This is the best descent of the day with dry roads and long sweeping bends for about 4 miles.
The last 10 miles are along the Ogmore Valley into Bridgend and itâ€™s fairly fast. The front three Wheelers decide the Chairman is a lost cause and press on. The Chairman decides he is a lost cause and joins a slower group for the run in. They catch Justin on his tandem in time to sit on him for the flat run around the Bridgend ring road. The Chairman is amazed to find that his â€œslowerâ€ group are not that slow and he finishes only a few minutes behind the leading three Wheelers.
Ian and Steve H rode in with Jonathan who did a fantastic ride since he only bought his first road bike this Spring and is not a regular club rider. We never did see the two Kens but it sounded as though they had a good day. The whole event was excellent and all the Wheelers group thoroughly enjoyed it. We all agreed this was a great day out and weâ€™ll be trying to pursuade you all to have a go next year.
The event is not a race although timing chips are used and times published. For your entertainment I have listed the Wheelers times below.
Dominic Harrison: 5:25:30
Dave Collins: 5:38:41
Nigel Exell: 5:45:55
Justin Lindsey-Noble: 6:10:47
Steve Hesketh: 6:56:37
Ian Forrester: 6:56:49
Jonathan Hesketh: 6:56:40
Ken Gregor: 7:36:41
Ken Smith: 8:04:39
Don’t forget we all spent at least an hour at the feed stations!