15 Time Dragon Ride Legend Keith Shares Advice and Experience Ahead of Epic Sportive!
Many first time riders describe the Dragon Ride as a ‘bucket list’ event, but in fact, return to conquer the sportive multiple times after their first encounter with the Dragon. However, one sensational rider – Keith Prime – has heard the call of the Dragon across the rolling Welsh hills a total of FIFTEEN TIMES. That’s right, Keith has saddled up for the Dragon Ride almost every year since 2006, ‘missing’ only two events (once due to covid, when the event didn’t even take place).
So what experience and advice can we glean from such a legendary Dragon rider, and can Keith answer one burning question from us all: does the Dragon ride ever get easier?
We caught up with the ‘trail-blazer’ about his experience in the event to spill all the details! Check out the interview below.
Hi Keith! Thanks so much for agreeing to chat us through your history at the Dragon Ride. You are a true legend! How did you first get into cycling?
I took up cycling after I had finished playing football and it was a way of keeping fit and wanted to remain competitive. I then joined the local cycling club Icknield RC.
When did you first do the Dragon Ride and what is your memory of it like?
My first Dragon Ride was in 2006. I entered it as my mother and father in law lived nearby and it was an opportunity to see them as I live in Bedfordshire (they have both now sadly passed away) and a chance to get in some cycling too. I entered the Medio Fondo which was 68 miles. I recall completing the first 25 miles very quickly in under 1 1/2 hours and thought I was on track to have completed the entire distance in under 4 hours as it seemed quite flat. However, the support staff at first feed station told me not to get carried away as the ‘real ride’ hadn’t even started yet! They said the hills that I had climbed so far were only bumps, and the first real climb was a mile away… and when I got there, didn’t I know it. I remember that gruesome climb well. It took me around 40 minutes to get to the top; I had never experienced such huge incline – and I had a further two to go! I completed the ride in over 6 hours and although it was a humbling and tough experience, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Since that first ride in 2006, the event has grown fast. It’s nice to see so many people flock to Wales to challenge themselves and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Brecon Beacons.
What makes you keep returning to the Dragon Ride and is every event still a challenge for you now?
I keep returning to the event as it has something about it that draws me to it. It is challenging both physically and mentally. The feeling of elation that you get when crossing the finish line is awesome.
How have you seen the event change / grow over the years?
The first events I attended were held at Bridgend and as the Dragon Ride grew in number of participants, it moved to Pencoed and then Margam Park where it is currently held. Booking a spot in the event was not easy in the early days as it would often sell out within 24 hours! However, the organisers have expanded the capacity and added new distances to meet demand and accommodate everyone. You don’t have to be a prolific or ‘crazy’ cyclist to take part in the Dragon Ride now – if you enter one of the shorter distances, you just need to commit to some decent training, including hill work.
Do you have any stand-out memories from over the years?
I recall one memorable event in 2017. The weather was changeable and it had started off sunny. I wore a short sleeve jersey only and had forgotten to pack any additional clothing, but I didn’t worry as the weather in the past had always been good. After half an hour of riding, the heavens opened, and it poured down accompanied by a sharp drop in temperature. Then, on top of going up the climb and descents, riders had to contend with 20 mph cross winds. It was cold and uncomfortable but the worst was yet to come: the temperature was significantly colder at the top of the mountains, probably around 5 degrees! I shudder as I recall trying climbing up the Devil’s Elbow climb in a 20 mile per hour head wind with torrential rain, and I actually ended up walking up it. As I turned the penultimate corner of the course, there was a photographer waiting for me. It was slightly embarrassing as I should have been on my bike racing up the hill as I had in previous years. 2017 was a brutal year and taught me some important lessons: most importantly to never underestimate the weather in the Welsh hills and prepare additional clothing, even if the weather is sunny in the morning!
What other advice would you give someone doing their first Dragon Ride?
I would advise anyone who is doing it for the ride for first time to train properly and to know what to expect by reading all the information on the webpage and Event Guides. You can expect to spend over 6-8.30 hours in the saddle for the Medio Fondo distance – more for the Grand Fondo and Devil riders. Also, for the Medio Fondo, embrace the scenery which can be breath-taking at the top of the climbs – remember it’s a sportive, not a race, so you can pause to take it all in! Lastly, respect the hills and definitely make sure to get out to some steep ones on the training rides. Mental grit is also crucial here.
Thanks Keith! And finally, how do you usually celebrate after completing a Dragon Ride?
I celebrate after completing the ride with a can of Erdinger beer and pasta. This is followed by a 3.5 hour drive home and getting to bed in time for work on Monday. The excitement of completing the ride and the memories stay with me the whole week and more – I’m still riding that high well past the event, and enjoy sharing my stories with friends and family members, who are always full of praise and disbelief at my epic cycling ventures!
Best of luck to Keith who is taking on his 16th Dragon Ride this year – look out for him, and give a shout out to this legend!