Chris Ward didn't cope well with the heat of The Dragon Ride - fare better?

Well, that was a lot harder than we all thought it would be! ‘Sufferfest’ and ‘hot as hell’ were two comments from riders much, much stronger than me’, ‘Brutal’ and ‘DNF, heatstroke’ were two from club riding friends, out for a good ride!


The Dragon Ride is into its 16th year. I’d heard lots about it and managed to get an entry to the Devil at the last moment, that’s 300km and 4,000+m of climbing. That’s a good long day on the bike – but should offer nothing untoward.


So, why did I, like so many others, hit the wall, literally? Climbing like a snail up the last big climb before returning to Port Talbot. I wanted to stop, I wanted to ring my wife for some normality, if there was one shop open in Wales on a Sunday I'd have bought every ice cream they had. I was a blithering mess. I just wanted to go home! If there was anyway of getting to the finish line, on a shorter, flatter road than the route – I WOULD HAVE TAKEN IT!


The problem? The difference from previous years? Cycling into the fire of a Dragon. The BBC weather predicted 20 degrees for Brecon. I reckon it was more like 25+ at times - that’s hot – and that changes everything. Especially, as I’m sure for many, it was probably our first ride in such heat since last Summer.


I have never - ever - wanted a race to finish so much as this one.


The ride is beautiful, genuinely, around the Llyn Brianne reservoir, the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever ridden though in the UK. But this ride was the real exception to the rule – you can’t have enough of a good thing. The riding was amazing, the scenery beautiful – but I just wanted out – I just wanted to be back on a road that didn’t contain a 25% climb and mile after mile of undulating road. I'd had too much of a good thing!


I think the temperature caught everyone out – even the organisers. I thought Human Race did a fantastic job. The best organised ride I’ve done for years but it was around the reservoir, the extra loop in the Devil ride, where the Devil riders ended up on a 50 mile section, caught in the mid day sun – and without any shade or food stop.


We were caught up a motorbike outrider who slowed and asked if we needed water. Three of our group of five were out. He was a lifesaver, as he decanted his bottles into ours.


The food stop after the Devil loop was carnage – more like a banquet for punch drink people. I’ve never seen so much eaten by so few – and I’ve actually never seen boiled potatoes covered in salt eaten by any cyclists ever! Very welcome addition to race fuel though.


After crawling to the line I managed the ride in 11.26hrs / 190 miles / 4,500m climbing. Finishing 18th out of 260 overall and 6th of 49 in 50+ age group.


A lot of my trouble was completely my own fault. I set off way too hard as I was in the last wave and another cyclist and I madly tried to catch everyone up. that’s what really did for me, and him… I saw him crawl in 45 minutes after me, wacked. After two hours we were averaging 20mph. by the end I averaged 17.7mph. you can guess how slow the last two hours were.


This seems to be a good learning ride for everyone though. You should never stop learning. For me it was the big reminder not to go off too fast - haven't made that fundamental mistake for a few years. And how to cope with hitting the wall - cry!


For others it’s about hydration and fueling. I have no strategy other than drink when I can. My mouth/throat are always very dry early on, so I find I drink a lot in first hour and then I struggle to even get it down later on.


But I do think it is good to occasionally reach your limits. Otherwise you don't learn and don't progress. You progress so much more from the learning’s of one ride like The Dragon, than just finishing as normal.


Well done to everyone who started – that was a tough day!


My own recipe for disaster - for hitting a wall!



6 boiled potatoes with salt

half a flapjack

an eggy roll

4 litres of water

2 litres of energy drink

50 jelly babies

1 pot of pasta

3 slices cheese on toast

1 Snicker Bar

3 energy bars


To Finish (almost repeated at every service station from Port Talbot to London)

1 Hotdog

2 cartons of coconut water

1 McDonald’s milkshake

! McDonalds chicken legend!

1 family packet of chocolate buttons

1 litre of water


Next day

keep eating, eating, eating - pancakes courtesy of 10 year old nutritionist, Audrey




Chris Ward was brought up with the dodgy sight of his father appearing in their lounge every Sunday lunchtime in the brightest red & yellow wool of FCCC (Farnborough & Camberley Cycling Club). It was the spindle thin bright white legs though that put him off cycling until he was 40.

Since then, in a bid to play catch up he has cycled up and down Ventoux 6 times in a day, cycled the whole Le Tour route with Tour de Force, managed C2C2C in a day, ridden around the M25, competed in the Trans Alp, Trans Rockies and Cape Epic Mountain Bike Races and finally in 2015 & 2016, qualified in St Tropez and Albi and competed for GB in the UCI amateur World Championships.

In Helen, he has the most understanding wife and so is able to continue looking for the answer to  'what next?' When he's not cycling he's hanging out in coffee shops writing books about it and trying to engage the world in charitable campaigns...





Leviathan [3057 posts] 3 years ago

No sausage rolls during event? Mediocre!

tritecommentbot [2266 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

Legendary stuff. Any Brit riding grades in that sort of heat is completely mental!


Ran a marathon in Tenerife last November. Went from 0 degree training runs here to a 20 degree race. Completely brutal, face melting stuff, so I've a fair idea what you were going through here. They say you can acclimatise quickly by turning the heating up and doing indoor work. I tried that. Didn't seem to help. 

imajez [124 posts] 3 years ago
1 like
unconstituted wrote:

Legendary stuff. Any Brit riding grades in that sort of heat is completely mental!

I rode up Col de La Madone last August in way higher temps. Paced myself and drank a lot and it wasn't a big deal, Well apart from the 1km of vertical climbing that is! kiss

That's the key thing though, imbibing enough fluid on a long ride. And not charging up/along sections when you have big distances to go. Resist the stra segments on such a ride.

Gasman Jim [223 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

Well done. Having ridden last year's Marmotte I know how you felt. My Garmin showed 44c on the final climb up Alpe d'Huez.

markovich [23 posts] 3 years ago

Great ride Chris, nice to meet you Sat night and thanks for sorting the Milltag kit. Hope the room I booked for you was ok.



Sswindells [67 posts] 3 years ago
Leviathan wrote:

No sausage rolls during event? Mediocre!


I sure there were at one of the stops along with cheese and onion and Cornish pasties.

Sswindells [67 posts] 3 years ago

Argh I felt the pain. It was so hot. 

I've done the medio route the last few years and got used to the great organisation at the start but felt this year there was a bit of dilly dally and this led to us being delayed by 40 minutes on our start time ( despite being there just about on time ). 


I personally would have welcomed some sun cream at the food stops. I couldn't carry mine with everything else I had in the pockets. 


I I also felt with the heat, an additional water ( not food ) stop was required, just after the routes all merge. I ended up finding a local shop to get a big bottle and filling up several other riders bottles with it too. 

That's it from me, next year looking for a new challenge, I've done the dragon to death. 

Nickwill31 [3 posts] 3 years ago

Great piece Chris that captures the the whole event in one.

It was an amazing ride with stunning scenery and some big climbs that reminded me of some of the famous alpine climbs you find in France (only smaller).

The weather conditions were unbelieveable and although made the scenery look even more impressive, really did not help the plight of the riders! Hydration was the key. The Moto riders with additional water bottles were absolute legends and life savers, and as for the garage just after one of the feed atations, well, that ice cream and can of ice cold coke probably saved my ride and got me to the finish!

Amazing day, brilliantly organised and recommended to anyone who wants a big challenge - just maybe turn the temperature down a bit!


Rapha Nadal [1168 posts] 3 years ago

I hate to piss on your chips, but, it wasn't a race.

That said, it was still an epic ride! Glad I opted out of it and went on my hols instead.

Stutoomey [1 post] 3 years ago

Great time and great article Chris, Certainly the last 30 miles was a real slog.. Facing the Black mountain after that 40 mile Staircase loop was a real test of the mind. The only thing I'd suggest was that the weather should be welcomed - having riden many miles in the area in the run up to the Devil this year I can certainly say the weather was a blessing - the standard gales and rain weren't missed one bit!  1