Verenti Dragon Ride: new route unveiled, entry date confirmed

New route hits the coast first, entries open midnight 29 December

by Dave Atkinson   October 4, 2010  

Dragon Ride 2011 - new route (Google Maps)

The Verenti Dragon ride 2011 details have been announced, and though the routes are still provisional it looks like there's going to be some major changes in 2011, with the Gran Fondo missing out the Beacons/Crai reservoirs section in favour of a coastal loop right at the start.

"The coastline to the south of the M4 in this part of South Wales is spectacular and for a few years we’ve wanted to send the Dragon Ride this way", organiser Lou Lusardi told us. "Also since the ride moved from Bridgend to Pencoed we’ve always had some element of conflict between entrants trying to access the car park and riders leaving the start. The new route avoids this by heading south from the start, a right turn instead of a left. The Grand Fondo route however still includes the iconic climbs of the Bwlch and Rhigos mountains, both climbed from the most difficult sides"

What this means in practice is that all three routes first head south, crossing the M4 and hitting a few minor climbs as the Dragon heads for the coast. A right turn at Llantwit Major will take the riders along the lanes to Ogmore by Sea, and round the Ogmore estuary before the first feed stop at Porthcawl.

After the stop the Corto route heads back to base whilst the Medio and Gran Fondo riders nip up the M4 corridor to Port Talbot where they're treated to the full ascent of the Bwlch; from the town (more or less at sea level) to the top of the climb (532m) is 23km of more or less continuous climbing. It's mostly fairly gentle but ramps up towards the summit. From there the Medio route heads back, while the Gran Fondo goes over the Rhigos. A left instead of a right at the bottom of the descent takes you to Glyn-Neath, from where the new route meets up with the old one, heading down the Dulais valley towards Neath before another go at the Bwlch and the return leg via the final climb at Llangeinor.

So what does this mean in terms of ride quality, length and difficulty? Well, the organisers claim that the new route will push the total distance over 200km, which will please anyone who's gone up and down the dual carriageway a couple of times at the end of the Dragon to push their kilometerage over the double hundred (Just you, Dave... Ed) They also claim that there's 3,000m of climbing in the new route, but our quick and dirty recreation of the route in the normally reliable Bikehike puts the climbing total at about 2,600m, less than in previous years. Certainly we'd be surprised if the new loop contained as much climbing as the slog over the tops to the Beacons reservoir followed by the climb past Crai and back down to Abercraf, which is the section missing from the new route. We've included a GPX file of the route as we understand it at the bottom of this page, although it's still subject to change.

Also – and more importantly from our point of view – the new route means you do the Bwlch twice from the same side. The great thing about the Bwlch is there's three ways to the top, and the old route made good use of that fact; it's disappointing that you'll be riding the same stretch of tarmac twice in the same direction when there's so many good roads in the area. Since we haven't ridden the new coastal section, the views from which we're promised are 'breathtaking' (and we can imagine they are), we're unsure as to whether the trade-off is worth it. I guess we'll have to send someone to have a recce. The other big change is that the Medio route now misses out the Rhigos, which will be a big disappointment to anyone who doesn't fancy the long route; although there's only 200m less climbing in total you're only getting one of the two signature climbs.

Anyway, whatever the merits or otherwise of the new route the Dragon is very likely to be a sell-out, even with the increased capacity of 4,000 for this year. If you want to get a place you'll need to get yourself online pretty smartish once entries open, and we can confirm that'll be happening at midnight on 29 December: put it in your calendar and set your alarm clock.

For more info head over to www.verentidragonride.com

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6 user comments

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Typical journalist, not getting the facts straight before writing! You missed out the section between Abercraf and Ystradgynlais.

The organisers are correct, the route for 2011 is virtually the same amount of climbing as in 2010, I've just compared both on Bikehike and there's less than 100m difference in climbing.

I personally think the new route is a refreshing change, the section around the coast is superb with enough climbs straight from the start to make your legs hurt by the time you get to Llantwit.

True the Medio is a bit easier, but sometimes this is not a bad thing as it's been quite hard in past years. Many foreign sportives don't have all of the big climbs on their "middle" rides.

I think the organisers should be applauded for not being afraid to make changes, with what will still be a very challenging ride.

posted by bocco [1 posts]
5th October 2010 - 7:27

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right, that'd be the section between abercraf and ystradgynlais that's on this Google map link that the organisers sent me, would it?

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?hl=en&ie=UTF8&msa=0&msid=11462068811834...

don't be so quick to assume you know where the errors come from, if errors there are. I'm happy to be corrected but I'm using the information I've been given.

my main criticism of the new route still stands: why go up the bwlch twice the same way? if you want to put a coastal loop in there's other routes available, what about a figure of eight like the one attached to this comment? Obviously I've just drawn it in Bikehike and not ridden it or risk checked it, but there must be options

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it'll be a great event. And you're right - the organisers shouldn't be afraid to make changes. but then i shouldn't be afraid to have my say either.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [6714 posts]
5th October 2010 - 8:46

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Let's not forget also that the Dragon has become a signature event, one that people will come back to year after year to try and beat their best time. You change the course, you deny them that challlenge.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [6714 posts]
5th October 2010 - 8:48

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I agree with Dave on this one. I wouldn’t be wild about tackling the Bwlch twice from the same side – once you despatch these climbs there’s not much appeal in facing them again a couple of hours later.

However, I like the coastal sections, the stretch after Llantwit Major to Ogmore-by-sea and beyond IS stunning, especially on a clear day when the views across the Bristol Channel to Devon can be spectacular.

As for Bocco's comment, yes we are "typical journalists" in that we are imperfect. Thankfully you are not typical of the majority of commenters we get on the site, most of whom are civil and appreciate the efforts made to go the extra mile for their benefit.

posted by Mark Appleton [554 posts]
5th October 2010 - 9:28

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I obviously ride that Ogmore-Llantwit section with my head down. All the times I've ridden it (it's a semi regular training route for me) I've never noticed the view! Must remember to look up next time I'm out.

Would personally prefer more and varied climbing to the coastal section, but that may just be me...

posted by nellybuck@msn.com [149 posts]
5th October 2010 - 9:48

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incidentally here's the new route with the abercraf bit added. bikehike suggests there's almost as much climbing as the 2010 route, 2678m compared to 2730m

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posted by Dave Atkinson [6714 posts]
5th October 2010 - 10:50

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