This was a fabulous event that I almost didn’t ride. The organisation was superb, the event village was one of the best that I’ve seen and the route was certainly challenging. Before I get into the meat of the article I would like to offer a big thank you to all of the organisers at Mid Devon Cycling Club (MDCC) for a fantastic weekend, as well as to Specialized and Garmin for supporting it. My reasons for getting this in so early will soon become obvious, read on to find out more. I only recently moved back to Devon and last November, while visiting the Motorbike show at the NEC, I bumped into an old friend. He strongly suggested that I should enter the Dartmoor Classic as it was an event that shouldn’t be missed if you are into cycling. When I got home I went to the event website, www.dartmoorclassic.co.uk, and was disapointed to see that all of the places had sold out within a short while of it opening. I
popped it in my diary for next year and then thought no more of it until a few weeks ago. I was working in my office and picked up a phone call to the cheery voice of Emily from Specialized, who asked me if I remembered entering a competition a few weeks ago to get a place in the Dartmoor Classic. I racked my brain and had vague recollections of entering something, she laughed and advised me not to worry. I was the lucky winner of two places in the Dartmoor Classic, two Specialized S-Works Helmets and two Garmin Edge 200 cycle computers. What a fantastic haul! Not only that, but MDCC would also put me and one other up for dinner, bed and breakfast in the Best Western Passage House Hotel the night before the event. I obviously accepted the prize and couldn’t believe my luck.I now had to figure out how I was going to get to the event as it came in the middle of a two week stint of working in the north of Scotland (near Inverness). I also had two run stages of the Real Relay planned for the week before, one on Tuesday at midnight and the other on the Friday evening, both over 10 miles long. I quickly changed my transport to a hire car, for more flexibility, and my itinerary worked out as follows:
- Finish work at noon and drive to the start of my Real Relay stage at Dunfermline, 148 miles.
- Collect baton at 17:25 (it ended up running late so I didn’t get it until 18:35)
- Run 10 miles through Rosyth, across the Forth Bridge to Hopetoun House and pass over the baton. I clawed back 40 minutes of the lost time.
- Get a lift with an old friend back to my car in Dunfermline
- Drive to the Travelodge in Crewe (266 miles). Arrived at half past midnight.
- Drive the remaining 240 miles back to Ivybridge to collect my Wife and sort out my gear.
- Arrive at Best Western Passage House Hotel at 4pm to check-in and head straight to Dartmoor Classic Event village to register.
- 7pm dinner in the hotel then bed!
- Up at 5am for breakfast and an 8am race start, finish 4 hours later, drop wife off in Ivybridge and head north for Scotland again.
Suprise suprise, this turned out to be quite an ambitious plan….It all went quite well until after the fabulous dinner in the hotel. I was simply so tired that I couldn’t face getting all of my kit set out and ready for the morning, let alone getting up at 5 am. I decided to veer away from my normally meticulous pre ride/race prep and simply go to bed, setting my alarm for 7am, and then try to get to the start for one of the latter waves nearer 9am. As it turned out this didn’t go too badly: I woke up; ate two Zipvit ZV8 energy bars for breakfast, instead of my normal porridge and dried fruit; mixed two bottles of SiS Electrolyte drink and put 2 gels and one SiS energy bar into my pocket for each hour that I would be riding, plus one of each as a spare. I then staggered out to the car, assembled my bicycle and tottered off in the direction of the start. Oh, I should probably add that I did get dressed somewhere in that lot and I was wearing my cycling gear, I wasn’t THAT tired!
It was about 08:45 by the time that I rolled through the start area with my wave. We were warned that due to a tree falling in the night that the route had changed slightly, but it was no less hilly. Due to my late start I spent most of the morning overtaking people, which was ok for my ego, but it also meant that I didn’t have any other riders around me of a similar ability for drafting. This made the more exposed sections across to Princetown quite difficult due to the headwind, however once we turned around the ride off of the Moors and back to Kingsteignton was spectacular.
Before I get ahead of myself though I’d like to thank all of the drivers that tollerated the huge number of cyclists on the small roads during the event. There were a couple of nasty bottlenecks where drivers weren’t able to manouver simply due to the number of cyclists. Generally this worked out well, but I did experience some truly appaling behaviour from some of the cyclists who seemed to think it clever to shout out sexist remarks about female drivers when squeezing between the vehicles. This really was an incredibly stupid thing to do as it harms the reputation of all cyclists and means that the drivers concerned will most likely be a lot less tolerant of cyclists in the future. Please behave while you are out turning the pedals and do all that you can to enhance our reputation rather than damage it. After all, we are rather vulnerable on our two skinny wheels with only a helmet and a pair of gloves to protect us. Rant over, on with the tale!
The feed stop at Princetown was fantastically well organised and stocked. I paused briefly to top-up my bottles with SiS Electrolyte from one of the well marked drink containers, grabbed a Tropical SiS Isotonic Gel which I ate/drank immediately and within two minutes I was on my way again, feeling much better for the brief pause. It was also great to see SiS products at the stop rather than the usual ZipVit that seems to be in place at this type of event. I have nothing against Zipvit and really appreciate the support that they give to amateur events, but I get along better with the SiS product range.
The rest of the ride made all of the hard work getting to Princetown worthwhile. There was a fantastic rolling descent off of the moors, with some spectacular views, followed by a run down the Teign Valley. I know this route well as I used to ride it most weekends with MDCC when I was at University in Plymouth. It is slightly downhill and very sheltered, making it an ideal place to get into a chaingang, and I was lucky enough to be in a bunch of people that were willing to work together. We whizzed down there at quite a speed, with a couple of us doing the bulk of the work and one or two of the others coming through to the front on occasion when they could. There is a sting in the tail though as there is a small climb at the bottom that can be a real killer for already tired legs. We hauled ourselves over the top, losing a couple of members of the group to cramp and rushed down towards the finish.
It was a fabulous relief to roll across the finish line, I was totally exhausted and had really pushed hard, using all of my energy. Two members of the group were kind enough to compliment me on the work that I did on the front of the group, which was much appreciated. All that remained was to punch my number into one of the computers at the end and get my finishing time. I completed the 64 mile hilly route in 4hrs 6 mins and 59 seconds and was within the gold standard time. This meant that I got a gold medal, along with my awesome goody bag, containing a saddle pack, SiS energy food, water, a granite ornament etc. If you get the chance then I would strongly recommend taking part in this event as it is an experience that should not be missed by any cyclist. Just remember not to be too ambitious, it is a difficult course, so choose a distance that you know you can finish and enjoy.
Before I sign off, a quick mention about the event village. It was in Abbrook Park Sports and Social Club and it was one of the best event villages that I’ve seen, and I’ve been to quite a few. There were several food wagons, the best of which we thought was Timary Spice, serving delicious carribean food. Think rice, potato, patties, chicken stew etc. We will certainly make a bee line for them next time. It wasn’t just that the food was good and reasonably priced, but the staff were lovely too. There was also live music, a Specialized tent, a Colin Lewis Cycles tent selling goodies, a Dartmoor Classic Merchandise Tent and several others. There was even a section in the middle of the park full of wierd and wonderful leg powered, wheeled devices for both adults and kids to play on, which seemed really popular.
Thanks to Barby, Ken (MDCC staff, not the dolls!), Emily from Specialized, The Specialized Concept Store in Saltash for holding our prizes, Garmin for the Edge 200 computers, the amazingly helpful lady on the desk at The Best Western Passage House Hotel, my Wife for coming and cheering me on, and the guy in the polka dot jersey who did a spectacular trackstand on the hill at the bottom of the Teign Valley and then almost fell off with cramp, that still has me laughing! Apologies to anyone that I’ve forgotten, it’s purely due to my terrible memory rather than any intentional slight!