Wiggle Dragon Ride

Are you ready for a rant?  Because you’re sure as eggs gonna get one…

We arrived at the queue for the car park at 7:15am, on schedule for a c. 8.00am start as planned.  And so it begins…

  • It took about 45 minutes to get into the car park and parked.
  • I then had to queue for 20+ minutes to use one of the 4 toilet paper free portable loos.  (for 4000 riders…)
  • We got to the massive queue for the start at 8:36am.
  • And we did not get going until 9:45am.  That’s 2 1/2 hours all in all. Un  bl**dy believable.

Oh, but it gets worse.

They’ve changed the route.  Yes the new seaside bit is very pretty, and the route is relatively flat for the first 1 1/2 hours or so, which is good for running in the legs.   But there really aren’t any hills until you get to the big one, and as a result it just wasn’t half as scenic as previously.   Lots of nothingy towns, a bit too much traffic, and not much to look at.  I found myself looking forward to the big climb – the Bwlch.   Having been up it before I was prepared for it, and I did a storming job going up it.  I was really pleased with myself – I proper powered up it, and even left GB behind.  I even had a chat to Howie from Cyclosport who I met on the way up.  So I got to the 2nd foodstop just past the top with a grin on my face, despite the rain which was starting, and GB arrived shortly afterwards.   I queued for the one loo, and in the meantime a yellow Mavic support car went past which, now we look back on it, must have been the broom wagon because…

…when we got on our way and to the route split just down the road we were told it was closed!   Take the Medio Fondo route, or if you insist on taking the Gran Fondo, hand in your number, oh and by the way they’ll be taking the signs down.   Apparently 1.30pm was cut off, so we must just have missed it – thus adding insult to injury.   So we took the shorter route rather than risk it leaving us around 20 miles to do if that, and descended the hill in the by now pouring rain.  My 200km ride had turned into a 120km one that wasn’t even that hilly.

I was, and am, absolutely furious, as well as very disappointed.  I had presumed that due to the disastrous start that any cut-off times would be adjusted accordingly.  More fool me hey?  I have NEVER been cut off, or swept up by the Broom Wagon, and I’ve now done 25+ sportives.  As you’ll see, my average speed today was much faster than usual, so it’s not like I was even being a slow rider.

So, fueled by anger and indignation, having vented somewhat, and with around 12 miles to go, I decided I would see how fast I could get to the end. And I flew home!  I totally kicked ar*e.  GB followed suit, and we had quite a posse flying along behind us.  At speed!  Anger is good ;).  Oh, and my new wheels – I think I’m going to divorce hubby and marry them *grin*.  They are just amazing.  Faster, more responsive, the tyres are grippier…

Thus we arrived back at the start, complete with amusing sprint finish, but I’m fairly sure my timing chip wasn’t working – no beep, although by then I was past caring.

We parked up by, as it turns out, Ride HQ, so I thought I might as well do the organisers the courtesy of making my feelings known in person.  And was essentially told that well, they’d had more riders than ever before, we should have been there earlier, and that’s just the way it goes…  Not so much as an apology.  *speechless*.

Well if that’s the case, then they manifestly can’t cope with that number of riders!  I have done the Dragon 3 times now, and I will NEVER be doing it again.  Nor would I recommend it to anyone else.  It is the only ride I have ever had to queue in such a way to start for.  And apparently not getting to the cut off point in time is MY fault?!!  The route used to make up for the event’s shortcomings but I don’t think that’s even true now.

I’d have hung around for a coffee – but there was a queue

Cycling time: 4:16:52 hrs
Distance: 71.09 miles
Avs: 16.5 mph
ODO: 8766 miles

If you want positives, and they are few and far between today – I give you my ascent of the Bwlch, my descents, and my sprint at the end.  None of which have anything to do with the organisers.  The Wiggle Dragon Ride recently attained UCI Golden Bike World Series status for 2012 – and I think it should be taken off them pronto!  I’d like my £32.00 back please, since I sure as eggs didn’t get what I paid for.

*still fuming*.

If you’d like a list of vocabulary I would like to use, today’s entry is brought to you by the words “fiasco, shambles, farcical”.  Hubby reckons I should sign this Apoplectic of Axbridge…and he’s probably not far wrong…*grrrr*.

PS: Regardless of how long I had to queue, the timings should mean that travelling at a reasonable average speed you should be able to start at the latest time allowed and make the split before the cutoff time…  Today I was going faster than I have at the last two Dragons, and it’s never been a problem before.  Missing the cutoff is why I’m quite so mad…

19 thoughts on “Wiggle Dragon Ride

  1. Tony Smith

    Couldnt agree more, the toilet situation was awfu.After the queue in the car park, then the loo’s to have to wait for 57 minutes to ride out over the mat was not on in my opinion. Liked the route, good signage but average feed stations and an early cut off mean i wont be doing this again!

  2. admin

    Hi Matt! I guess you can tell I’m not feeling the love then… 😉

    And Tony: That makes two of us clearly 🙂 I’ve complained to the organisers, not that I expect much from that, but I think the more that do the better…so send ’em an email?

  3. Adi

    Isn’t this just a case of bad planning on your behalf? I mean you say you’ve done 25+ sportives so surely by now you’d know that getting several thousand people parked up and on the road will take some time? It doesn’t take much forward thinking to err on the side of caution and not think turning up 45 minutes before roll out will be good enough.

    Surely also, as a grown adult and all, you’d plan ahead and go to the toilet before you leave the house/hotel that morning? Given what a bloody pain it is to pee in bib shorts, surely any experienced cyclist will endeavour to empty their bladders before even putting them on!

    I’m sorry you had a bad time today, but as an equally experienced sportive’r I found the organisation of today probably the best I’ve encountered. The signs and marshalls were all spot on, whilst the feed stations were very nicely manned.

  4. admin

    a) I was there at 7:15am – which would normally be plenty of time. I’d have been happy to leave at 8:45 if you’d rather I allowed 90 minutes. Not 9:45am! After all, even with the bottle neck at the entrance last year, it only took half an hour or so to get through and out to the start – so I was going on past experience. I expect events to get better not worse!

    b) I went to the loo at my house – back in Somerset! Maybe if it hadn’t taken 45 minutes to get into the car park I wouldn’t have felt the need to go again….? Oh, and as a girl, the open urinals/side of the road option doesn’t really appeal… Then again, neither do bib shorts.

    c) Judging by all the other comments going on out there I’m not alone…

  5. alex jones

    We parked in the Mercedes car park as we didn’t fancy the queue to turn right off the M4! Rode to the start (after using McDonald’s toilet- they are good for something then!) and was flabbergasted by the queue. Went to the back from where it was blindingly obvious plenty of people were pushing in (could this not have been marshalled rather than empty threats aobut taking numbers?), started at 9 after having been at the start since 7.45
    I was prepared to put up with all of this as I was riding with a mate who’s just go into cycling and was doing his first sportive. Having already done the Fred Whitton (the organisation of which was fantastic) I was happy to ride round at his pace but go for it up Bwlch to get a time. However as my chip beeped at the top, but not the bottom I suspect this will be unlikely now!!
    Feed stations were chaos. I suspect too many entries and second rate (cheap) equipment are the main faults of the event.
    A victim of its own success??

  6. bathpaul

    Must have been somewhere near you in all of the various queues!!

    Having done the dragon last year I left the house at exactly the same time and it took exactly the same time to get to Jct 35, that’s where the similarity ends….

    45 minutes to get parked then a further 90 minutes to get over the timing mat and my chip didn’t even work!!!!!

    Thought the route was alright but not a real test like last year, won’t be back next year.

  7. Niall

    Can see both sides of this. In terms of the road markings, I’d agree that this was very well run – I’ve gone off the route on previous sportives – and there were enough people in the right place.

    However … the start was a bit of a joke. Luckily I was being dropped off, so I stopped off at the Texaco garage and was able to ride to the start. So while not exactly early – arrived at 7:45 – I’d expected to wait a little bit, but not 90mins to 9:15. I guess its a learning point, but clearly most riders wanted to start early and not following the staggered start instructions, so I suspect that the organisers may need to consider better ways of managing this, like pooled starts.

    I also thought the feedstations could have been a lot better – should have been more toilets (although it didn’t affect me) and would have been nice to have some real food, even if this meant buying it.

    Given how popular the ride clearly is, I think the organisers should just increase the fee and spend a bit more money on facilities.

    But overall, I doubt that that I will rush back. Of course I say that now….

  8. Andy

    The start was a joke and to those people who keep saying get their earlier, whats the point when they are not starting till 0800 anyway, why turn up at 0600, pointless. I had to get up at 0430 as it was any earlier would have been ridiculous. Car parking was jammed, we went straight to the overflow and got parked and got the bikes ready.

    So we got to the start line at 0800 and couldnt believe the queue. We didnt get across the line to actually start the ride until 0925 thats 85 minutes stood around getting cold. They supposed to be letting go 100 riders at a time but from the comments I have read and from what I saw it was more like 50 if that. There were no marshalls on the queue so people were pushing in all over the place, yet 4 standing at the line when I got there drinking coffee. From previous events and the numbers involved these issues could surely have been anticipated and additional starting areas utilised? The issue with the cut off is just plain poor, this should have been communicated to the gate and the time extended by an hour or something.

    The toilet thing was the same for me, went before I left home from Yeovil, 2 hours away, stopped in the services on the way up but then needed to go again before the start of the ride. Ended up using the hedge like a lot of others (sorry girls, easier for us I know).

    Didnt think this was worth 35 quid personally, probably wont be doing it again, Did the Jurassic beast 4 weeks ago, another Wiggle event, and apart from the same shortages of toilets it was much better organised at the start although less people there I guess.

  9. Ian Johns

    Not as p****d off as the author is (and has a right to be), but being my first Dragon and on my home patch-Swansea (although I now live in Hampshire) I was expecting big things, but the hour’s wait at the start and being sent off in the penultimate group at 10am didn’t bode well! Not so concerned about the toilet situation as I seem to have the bladder of a whale and depsite consuming four bottles worth en route, didn’t go until after the end of the ride!
    However, what is now really galling is that although I think my chip bleeped at the start it clearly didn’t do so at the end (I didn’t think it had) as I have no official time-for a ride (I did the medio fondo) my cycle computer showed a ride time of 3hrs 53 mins-gutted! And I had listened to the instructions and the number was flat and not stretched on the bars.
    The Feed stations were a bit underwhelming and I sympathise with the cut off situation (I chatted to a bloke after the race who said that two of his mates were caught in the same situation although their other mate had just managed to sneak through) The organisers clearly should have exercised some latitude given the chaos at the start.

  10. Herbie

    You were lucky! I had much the same experience as you, but after I’d finished the medio route, I got back and the club mate i was sharing a lift with who had forgotten his number had been left at the information desk by us as we joined the start queue – he managed to get a number was ushered into the start pen and got away at 8:15! So He made the 1:30 cut-off and I had to wait from 3pm until 6:30pm for him to come in!! I got home at 11:30 and finally got a shower!!!

  11. Sandra

    Hi Cycling Mayor – completely agree with your rant! We were “lucky” in that we stayed overnight and so were at the start at 7.30, so “only” had to wait an hour to set off. My gripe is that one sit down loo for 4000 riders is a bit much – especially if you’re a woman. (and no we shouldn’t go before the ride and then not again – we’re women!) Needing to go to the loo is not an unreasonable request. I’ve not had problems on other sportives…..The timing chip fiasco is disappointing to say the least, a basic requisite of running a sportive I should say is being able to time the riders – especially as I rode like the wind like you! My time was 4 hours 14 – medio route again. Loved the riding – great fun, and the sea side bit of the route was nice.

  12. Robin

    Hi Cycling Mayor, found this blog via the Bike Radar Forum. Hanging around at the start makes me fume also. I didn’t ride Dragon this year, but the 2 times I did there was a start and parking c_ck-up. It was a good ride but UCI standard and all that? – I think not. Anyway, enjoyed reading your blogs(s). Think Ive met a couple of people in some of your photos, I live in Wells and often ride with SVCC (radstock). I’ll say hello if I see you at the Dartmoor Classic, its my first sportive this year and judging by your blog you could be finishing several hours in front of me.
    Take care and enjoy.

  13. Pingback: The Cycling Mayor » Blog Archive » I feel the need, the need for speed…

  14. IainJH

    Well after reading this lot I’d never consider entering the Dragon ride, sounds like a terrible event.

    I just did the 3 day Tour of Wessex, 3 great routes, tons of parking, easy to start almost when you like, great feed stops.

    My only gripe is on day 1 there were portaloo’s near the start, very useful if all you need is a pee, but then they disappeared which meant a bit more of a wait for the remaining ones. Still not that bad though.

    Think I’d rather ride the Dragon route on my own on another day.

  15. Simon Connellan

    First time on the Dragon. Local to me so I know the roads. Turned up at 8, gave up on the queue, so went off and drank coffee for 1.5 hrs chatting to other riders. Ended up last one to leave. Gunned it all the way round the medio, avoiding feedstops, hoping for a good time. Seems all the timing chips are out. Finished in sub 4 hours, pleased, but it seems the final timings are all over the place, some without any timings, some that look very suspect. Entered this event to test myself against others. I’ll stick to doing the Merlin Ride in Carmarthen next year, much smaller numbers.

  16. mudshark

    My mate and I were very lucky to make the cut off point for the long route with a few mins to spare having started at 9:45am too and then taken our time at the food stops. I hadn’t bothered to remember the cut off as hadn’t expected to need to worry about it as was expecting to start riding around 9am – naive fool that I am! No times for me but my mate got them all so as we rode together I know what I did so overall happy enough with the event but only because I was lucky.

  17. Pete Rogers

    I did the Dragon for the first time this year, had to say the ride was good but the startline organisation was pathetic, why queue people to leave in small groups?
    Just open the timing up at 7am and let people turn up and ride when ready!
    I had a similar experience of 1hr+ wait in the cold at the startline, so didn’t leave until 9:30am, i think i was lucky by the sounds of it to make the cut and mange to do the full distance, that meant an extra 4 hours of great climbs in the glorious welsh rain, it was a tough ride at the full distance, especially the second bwlch climb, i averaged the whole ride at 15mph and the broom wagon was following me all the way up the bwlch, even though it had passed slower riders? very strange!
    The feed stations left a lot to be desired, same food on every stop, nothing savoury, lack of toilets all round.
    On the plus side the signage was good and plenty of ambulances were on hand, although not sure why they had so many TBH.
    Will probebly do it again next year but if there is the same queue fiasco, i’m just going to bypass the official start line and set off untimed.

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