After three successive years spent on the course of last year’s event, the 2011 Wiggle-sponsored Dragon Ride has a heavily-revised route for the Medio and Lungo rides that waits until some 50 miles have been covered before the real climbing starts.
Instead of heading straight into the mountains, the new route heads south immediately after the start for a delightful excursion into the Vale of Glamorgan, visiting Cowbridge, Llantwit Major, Nicole Cooke’s home town of Wick, Ogmore-by-Sea and Porthcawl before running north to Port Talbot and the start of the infamous climb of the Bwlch.
Anyone hoping that the revised parcours will make life a little easier in the early stages of the Dragon is, however, in for a bit of a shock. The terrain of the first 30 miles or so is surprisingly lumpy with several long, fast flattish sections interspersed with short, sharp slopes.
The first of them comes after just half a mile and, at around 10percent gradient, will hurt cold muscles. Several more of the same sort follow in short succession before there’s an extended rolling section between Llantwit Major and Ogmore. More lumpy climbing between here and Porthcawl and then before Port Talbot will soften legs up nicely for the first ascent of the Bwlch, the famed cattle grid that marks the start of the climb proper coming at the 50 mile mark.
At the summit, 120km Medio Fondo riders turn south with the Llangeinor climb the only real obstacle between them and the finish. Those tackling the 200km Gran Fondo, however, are in for a real treat. The Bwlch is followed in swift succession by the climbs of the Rhigos, Coel Bren, Crynant and Cimla before the second bite of the Bwlch cherry, which is then followed, as with the Medio, by the short but punishing Llangeinor mountain.
Judging by our experience on the recent preview ride, led by Paralympic gold medallist Simon Richardson MBE, the new route will take longer to cover. Perhaps up to half an hour longer. There’ll be some hard decisions being made at the top of the Bwlch, first time around.