Event: 30th October 2011
Now widely acclaimed as one of the country's major cycling challenges, the Exmoor Beast will this year celebrate its fifth birthday. Having overcome all the trials and tribulations of establishing the event as the last big sportive on the UK fixture list, it's future is now assured.
Since its launch in 2007, three different venues have hosted the event start, but it always wanted to locate to where it now is - Butlins, Minehead.
"At Wimbleball Lake in year two we thought we were finished,when the heavens opened and a road we had chosen for vehicles to arrive was just swept away the night before. And, although the rain stopped in time for the ride, it had affected the whole one-way system. Instead of welcoming riders home, we were using tractors to drag cars out the mud, while trying to direct traffic and riders in and out of the venue on one, very narrow, single-track lane. We knew then we had to move to Butlins," said event organiser Marcus Di-Vincenzo.
"Also in year one, when the event started at Dunster Castle, we only had 500 riders. Twelve months later there was nearly three times that number," he added.
The event route has also changed slightly over the years, each time getting better and more accurately matching the popular cyclo-sportive distances. "There's nothing worse than being on the bike having entered a 100 mile event and finding out, half way through, its actually 107 miles," comments Andy Cureton ,the route manager for ‘The Beast' as the event is now universally known.
"With the likelihood of challenging weather in October we must ensure the signs are big, bold and very well secured! Every junction has four signs, one to tell the riders in which direction to go and the others to alert approaching drivers, not that's there's much traffic in any direction on the moor at that time of year," he added.
The Exmoor Beast is run by ex Royal Marines with safety and quality in mind. They certainly don't claim to know it all and that's why they went to the organisers of the Dartmoor Classic to act as honest critics in all areas.
"As Marines, were trained to seek local knowledge in every country we go to and all we have done here is treated cycling as a country and gone to the old and bold of the sport in our quest for knowledge" says Di-Vincenzo. The event is unique, not just because of its approach to learning about best practices but in its ability to give the whole family an entertaining weekend away. While riders are battling to tame ‘The Beast', their supporters can enjoy all that Butlins has to offer.
Of the four editions held the conditions have been mixed, with riders enjoying an Indian summer one year, chilly temperatures the next year and a deluge, with gale force winds in 2009. "That was the year when God said no you can't and over a thousand cyclists said yes we can," quipped Di-Vincenzo.
As riders cross the finish line they are awarded a commemorative Exmoor Beast half pint mug to enjoy a half of local Exmoor Beast Ale, or recovery drink if preferred. The event is a challenge as well as an amazing scenic journey. Whether you choose the 100mile or the 100km route and whether it's a damp windy morning or a beautiful autumn day, you will forever more be drawn to return and endeavor to ‘Tame The Beast'.
Spaces are limited, so those wanting to participate are being advised to get in gear and apply as soon as possible via the website at www.exmoorbeast.org.