This years greatest challenge was always going to be the 2016 Dragon Ride L’Etape Wales by Le Tour de France which in short is a 143 mile ride with 11800 feet of climbing and the longest ride with the most climbing I have ever done. A few months ago I decided to up my hill training and to be honest its been going quite well. I have a nice 60 mile route with just under 5000′ climbing and my average has gone from 15mph to atone 17.5mph then a couple weeks ago I had a 100 mile charity ride with 6000′ climbing and after 70 miles and 5 punctures I bailed. Little was I to know how much that would effect me mentally. I really lost my confidence since then on anything longer or lumpy so the thought of the Dragon ride was pretty uncomfortable for me.
Having rode only about 120 miles between Monday and Friday we packed up and headed for Wales to our hotel and checked in and unloaded my bikes ready for the Sunday ride. We checked out the venue and parking and then settled in for dinner and a few beers.
Sunday morning We woke about 5am and I headed to the venue at 6am, found a parking spot and had a coffee and a couple pastries and waited for Matt, Paul and Andy the 3 guys I was planning to start with. In an ideal world bearing in mind my head I wanted to finish, nothing more than that so I planned to ride a sensible pace and hoped to finish at around 15mph which would be a totally respectable time on that course. After a few delays we started at 08:03 and off we went.
The first 10 miles was fast and fun, we averaged 22.7mph but clearly we all knew it would not last and sure enough someone put a bloody mountain in the way haha. Honestly the first 20/30 miles were amazing both scenery, company and hills I took them all in my pace and comfortably kept up with the 3 far more experienced cyclists, something that I was/am immensely proud of. we stopped at mile 36 for food and I grabbed a banana, water and flapjack I only had 1 water bottle because of my toolkit (fear of punctures) so water was a big issue.
Almost as soon as we left Andy started to feel poorly and with hindsight he probably should have cut the ride short but massive kudos to him he battled on. The next 20 or so miles were very hot and very hilly but again I kept pace without any problems but lets not forget 50 hilly miles is “relatively easy” for me. 2nd food stop was great, water a very large sausage roll and a few sweet treats as well as catching up with my friends Nick and Emyr and once again we were off. We were at 60 miles and I kept telling myself we were almost half way haha.
The next food stop was at 84 miles and Andy was really feeling poorly by then. Again we stopped and refuelled and I drank a couple pints of water it was really warm now, After leaving and drinking I felt great and started to put down the power for a few miles. To my absolute Joy 🙂 Matt said to me “wow you were doing so well then” and I realised that we had reached the 100 mile point and our average pace was 17:7mph and Matt and I carried on for the next few miles until in fact the next big climb when I lost Matt, to be fair this was the plan all along we all knew I could finish and I was 100% fine and happy with that. the next 15/20 miles were solo until I got to the last food stop where again I filled my water bottle and grabbed a handful of jelly babies. 27 miles to go and thanks to Emyr I knew there was a “sting in the tail” so with an little trepidation I plowed on solo, I joined a few pelotons or “trains” as Donna and I call them 🙂 and I am proud to say I led a few too which helped the miles go bit after that bastard of a sting I pulled over on the side of the road to eat a flapjack. To be honest I am sure I am not alone but because of my diabetic history I am not a big sweet food eater so I often struggle eating at these rides but the flapjack really hit the spot and with only 10 miles to go I really had a bug up my arse 🙂
I headed off at a pretty good pace and a few lads joined me and after about 5 hilly miles they took the lead for a couple which was a very welcome break. Then as we reached Port Talbot and I knew it was 4 or 5 miles I got the buzz and decided to go for the sprint finish, the last few miles were flat ish so I managed to keep pace and even got told off for going too fast into the park haha but into the park I did and for the first time in a while I felt AWESOME. I have ridden 142.5 HARD miles with 11842′ climbing and my Garmin was telling me that my average was a freking amazing 17:3mph I can honestly say that it was a very proud moment for me 🙂
I grabbed my medal and a beer (alcohol free) then gave some positive feedback and purchased a jersey before heading home to our hotel to see Susie which was the best part of my day… (Sue not finishing)
Great ride, great support, the people of Wales and HumanRace were just amazing as were my fellow riders.
Apologies to the cyclist at the top of the first climb I pulled in front of 🙂 Sorry dude that was fucking stupid thankfully you were clever’r than me (good word ha)
Thanks to Donna for the invite, Matt, Paul and Andy for the company. Faith for the content words of support but mostly Sue for having faith in me and my ability I love you all for what you make me….. 🙂
I am home now 24 hours after finishing and cant wait to get out on my bike again…
Confidence regained 🙂