The Dragon Dash was waved off in spectacular style by Welsh Rugby international Leigh Halfpenny at Cardiff Castle early on Friday morning.
After a hearty (and early) breakfast at our hotel all the riders cycled together over to the castle where we were given exclusive access to the castle and Welsh classical singers Mark Llewelyn Evans and Georgina Kellen came along to sing for us, creating an amazing atmosphere.
We’d only learnt the night before that Leigh Halfpenny and the Lord Mayor of Cardiff would be waving us off; as you can imagine we all wanted to get a selfie and an autograph!
We formed up inside the castle gates, in pelaton style, ready for the off and Leigh and the Lord Mayor lowered the flags to signal the start. Police cars and motorcyclists gave us a blue light escort out of Cardiff to help us on our way. It certainly made it easier to negotiate the Cardiff traffic!
We headed off to our first water stop at Newport; there was a very special and emotional moment for one of our veterans Allie McClellan as we passed Newport Hospital where she had been treated following her stroke.
Our water stop crew, Alex and Daisy (both members of the Band of Brothers who now work at Help for Heroes) had gone ahead to the Hilton Newport, where they were greeted by some amazing staff who helped set up and run the water stop for the riders, putting on an amazing spread which the riders really appreciated.
The whole Dragon Dash ride, riders and crew, had bonded as a team the night before; but that first leg cemented the team spirit, with everyone watching out for each other. Before you could blink it was time to set off again. The next leg took us from Newport to Tockington in England! After a couple of testing inclines for the riders, one of the highlights of the day was cycling over the River Severn.
Cycling through the lovely South Gloucestershire countryside in beautiful sunshine, we reached our lunch stop. Lunch was put on by Extreme Catering, who provided an incredible spread of food to help refuel the riders after a 34 mile ride. So Hero Ride cycling is mainly about cycling from one meal to the next! We met a lovely couple who were getting married the next day and they kindly made a donation to the fundraising and we all wished them good luck.
The third leg took us to our next water stop at Tormarton where local H4H volunteers provided homemade cakes. Some of our riders missed this treat (the SatNav took them onto the next stop) but that just meant there was more for the rest of us! It was one of the few times we didn’t all keep together because of a very steep hill. We caught up with them at Castle Coombe Circuit before heading off on our final leg of the day to our overnight stop in Chippenham.
In the evening we all met for debriefs, followed by dinner, where we played a great game. We had to write something interesting about ourselves that no one knew, all notes put into a hat to be drawn out a random, and the group then had to decide who they though that particular interesting thought was about. It was a great ice breaker after the first day of riding, and great way to get to know each other even more.