Dragon Ride - L Etape Wales
The Dragon Ride, or, L’Etape Wales - call it what you will - but it has the reputation of being probably the toughest sportive in the UK …… if you do the longest distance that is !. The event is now into it’s 15th year and, based from Margam Park in South Wales, it offers riders a choice of distances and challenges to be completed in one day:
Now, following the advice of Clint Eastwood (aka Dirty Harry ) - “a man’s got to know his limitations”, so I opted for the 100km ride and the far more civilised start time of 9.50am. Despite the fact there was somewhere around 10,000 entries, the start offs for all competitors was well organised, not rushed and there wasn’t the sense of some treating it as a road race from the start (which I’ve experienced at several other sportives). Somehow, Didi (yes, he of Le Tour Devil fame !!) put in a guest appearance at the start line and apparently there is only Le Tour itself and the Welsh L’Etape that he shows up at – check out the selfie !!.
The route was well marked and although the roads were still open to the public (despite the numbers) we were kept off busy and/or A roads for almost the whole distance. The organisers had clearly put masses of time and effort into the day, the roads never felt crowded and the years of planning and experience clearly showed.
The Macmillan route was a great route with two big but really enjoyable climbs; Y Bwlch (classed as ‘Britain’s Mont Ventoux’ by Cycling Weekly) and Rhigos (listed in the UK’s top 100 cycling climbs). They also found a third climb to throw in at around 48 miles to remind us it wasn’t over and the roads in between were well marked, undulating and overall had good surfaces (by no means a complaint, but why doesn’t Wales seem to suffer the same lousy roads as the rest of us ?.....). The feed station was just over half way and it was well stocked and offered a variety of tasty snacks that I’ve not had on a ride before. Arrival back at Margam Park was as well organised as the start, and we were greeted with a finisher’s medal and a selection of stalls offering alcohol free beer (still gratefully accepted and tasty) and/or a variety of coffees.
On the whole, a great ride, well organised and if you’ve ever thought about doing it, do so !; I don’t think you’ll regret it and I’ll see you there next year.
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