Close to 4,000 riders took part in this year's Dragon Ride L'Etape Wales in beautiful weather, overcoming warm conditions and even sabotage to complete a memorable day's cycling.
Temperatures hit 25 degrees on the day, and riders sweated it out tackling one of the four routes, from the Macmillan 100 (100km), right up to the Dragon Devil (300km) - the UK's longest one day sportive.
But for some riders the day got off to an unexpected start as they encountered drawing pins scattered across the road on Bwlch, the first climb of the day.
Jacob Skinner of Brighton Excelsior CC was one of the riders to suffer a flat.
"As the lead group approached the first climb of the day after 20km, I noticed a shiny object in my front tyre" Jacob recounts. "I pressed on, but after a few moments riders were spilling off left and right with shouts of puncture!
"As we started the climb, we stopped, as all three of us had drawing pins embedded in our hoops. 10 mins and 400 midge bites later, we plodded up the climb and the racing part of our ride was over!"
Despite this setback the Dragon Ride once again rewarded riders with a stunning route. Cyclists from 26 countries arrived in South Wales to tackle the sportive, which is part of the global L'Etape series. They faced up to 3,600m of vertical climbing, and the appearance of Le Tour's super-fan, Didi "The Devil" Senft, delighted riders and added a touch of magic from the world's greatest cycling event.
With riders heading out from 6.45am, the spectacular routes took in some of the most famous climbs, including Black Mountain, Bwlych, Rhigos and the Devil's Staircase. Riders were treated to the sight of Didi the Devil leaping about as they climbed the Devil's Elbow, which was the site of the closed-road timed climb competition (1km distance, 9.8% gradient). With official Le Tour de France polka-dot jerseys up for grabs, Andy Cunningham from Ilkley Cycling Club claimed the King of the Mountain title with a time of 00:03:55, while the title of Queen of the Mountains went to Carol Bridge from Team Erdinger in a time of 00:05:03.
The climbs were punctuated by the famous feed-stations featuring 800kg of garlic and rosemary roast potatoes, which have become an event signature. Riders were also delighted to receive a refreshing glass of ERDINGER Alkoholfrei - the perfect post-ride isotonic thirst quencher at the finish - much appreciated given the warm conditions on the day!
Mechanical wizards from VONCRANK provided sterling on course mechanical support, and their team tuned up hundred of bikes over the weekend demonstrating the efficiency of their mobile mechanic service app.
520 of the riders who completed the Dragon Ride L'Etape Wales, were actually on Day 3 of the Dragon Tour. Now in its fourth year, the Dragon Tour has two or three-day options for riders to make the most of a weekend away and tackle up to 500km over the weekend (and up to 6,000m of vertical climbing). This year the Dragon Tour was run from the beautiful Glanusk Estate in the heart of the Black Mountains and took in the additional iconic climbs of Gospel Pass and The Tumble.
Nick Rusling, CEO of Human Race Events, said: "The sheer splendour of the route is the reason riders come back year on year, and this year was particularly awesome. It's always emotional welcoming the final riders - a number of whom had been out on the road for upwards of 15 hours. You couldn't fail to recognise what completing the ride meant to these riders, nor the grit and determination involved in taking on the challenge."
320 riders were taking part for Team Macmillan, whose support team cheered with all of might at their on-course cheer station on Devil's Elbow. Their incredible efforts have so far raised £60,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support, and they're hoping to hit £100,000 in total.
The 2019 event will take place on Sunday 9 June and will again start and finish at Margam Park. Entries will re-open in the autumn, but if you can't wait until next summer, then get signed up to TP ICAP L'Etape London, the official Le Tour de France sportive in the capital, which takes place on Sunday 23 September at the Lee Valley Velo Park.
For more details and to enter visit www.letapeuk.co.uk/london.