Report: Dartmoor Classic Cyclosportive

Report: Dartmoor Classic Cyclosportive

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Rider Report: 2010 Dartmoor Classic Cyclosportive

27th June 2010 | Report and Images: Eddie Allen

Above: The epic high level rolling road from Two Bridges to Moretonhampstead. 

Scorching temperatures greeted the 2010 edition of Mid Devon CC's Dartmoor Classic and I was there to soak up the atmosphere and pit mind and body against 100 gruelling kilometres of Devon's finest roads.

I'd visited Dartmoor on a few occasions before, but never pedalled a bike up and over the moor's forbidding climbs. That is, not until I was kindly invited to sample the area's cycling delights by event organisers Mid Devon CC.

Above: The ride in pictures

I arrived at the event village at around 7:15 to find it already bustling with activity. The hardy 100 mile folk were already streaming out of the control gates, temperatures were into the 20s and the sun was beating down from a pristine blue sky as riders signed on, checked their bikes and stuffed their jersey pockets with bananas, energy bars and the like. Sign-on was quick and easy, with friendly, helpful staff sorting out ride numbers and transponders in the blink of an eye. Before I knew it I was in one of three starting pens, alongside 100 fellow sportivers, laughing and joking in the morning sun.

Above: Riders throng in the event village prior to embarking.

I'd opted to try out the 100km version of the 2010 Classic, on good advice from a friend who assured me that Dartmoor miles were very different from the Imperial standard. However, the first few miles were easy going, as the route rolled out from the HQ at Kingsteignton and headed toward the delightful village of Bovey Tracey, where the route headed for the cover of dense woodland and the beginning of a whole heap of climbing.

Above: Riders breach the woodland cover above Bovey Tracey, on the way to Trendlebare Down.

From Bovey Tracey, the route climbed steadily for miles. We passed Yarner Wood on our left, eventually breaking clear of the tree cover to get our first glimpse of Dartmoor's archetypal moorland scenery - the dramatic open hillside of Trendlebare Down, with a ribbon of vertiginous tarmac wending its way up and around the spur.

Above: Scaling the lower flanks of Trendlebare Down. The road can be seen cutting across the down in the far distance.

By now, the heat of the day began to assert itself and many riders found themselves caught out by the gradient, dismounting and walking until the pitch of the tarmac eased. I pressed on and once around the spur of the hillside, the grade slackened as the road contoured towards Becky Falls and Manaton, before rearing up again and reaching the 400 metres above sea level at Hemsworthy Gate.

Above: Riders catch a glimpse of their first 'tor'.

From here we were treated to the first real descending of the day, as we caught a glimpse of another of Dartmoor's unmistakeable icons - the first of a whole series of incongruous, piled granite ‘tors' that were to visually punctuate the ride. The descending became more exciting and involving as we plummeted into the wooded cover of the beautiful Dart Valley, catching glimpses of holidaymakers bathing in the river as we fizzed over the arched stone bridge at Holne.

Above: On the road to Princetown and another tor looms on the horizon.

Foregoing the temptation of a morning dip we pressed on and were faced with the most feared climb of the day - the tarmac wall of Holne. Rearing up to over 15 percent in places, the climb was a real reckoner which saw me drop through my gears until I was churning the bottom ratio and working hard, until a snapped chain arrested my progress - testimony perhaps to the steepness of the climb. A host of riders passed, all offering assistance, but I'd packed a chain tool and was soon underway again (secretly glad of the rest!), continuing to climb out of the trees to Coombestone Tor. From here, our path bobbed and weaved across the baking-hot moor, gradually rising amid vast landscapes until the granite upland town of Princetown rose from the moor like mirage, and with it the control and feedstation.

Above: The superb feedstation at Princetown - riders refuel and bask in the midday sun.

And a better equipped feedstation I've never encountered. A great selection of food, including much needed savoury options (delicious spinach quiche!) for those, like me, who get sick of sugary energy foods. Also on the menu were bananas, cakes and flapjacks, industrial quantities of SiS energy drinks and gels, and a really nifty ‘water table' enabling six riders to replenish bottles simultaneously. Bike hanging racks avoided the usual tangled mess of strewn machines and first aid trained staff were on hand to attend to the needs of riders who were suffering with the heat or who'd picked up injuries on the opening leg.

Above: A rider flashes past one of Dartmoor's iconic granite outcrops.

Suitably impressed and refuelled I left Princetown and headed around the triangular loop which eventually led to a broad, blistering descent to Two Bridges (which we'd passed through earlier) and onto arguably the Classic's finest hour - the epic road crossing the moor diagonally, south west to north east, from Two Bridges to Moretonhamstead. It was past midday now and the temperatures were hovering in the high 20s, with shimmering heat-hazes adding to the stunning views either side of this spellbinding road.

Above: The blistering descent to Two Bridges.

However, the climb of Postbridge took our eyes off the views for a while, passing a host of Dartmoor's wild ponies, we topped the climb and plunged down the other side before yet another stiff climb at Warren House Inn. With the climb behind us, the edge of Dartmoor beckoned and the agricultural patchwork of North Devon stretched away far into the afternoon haze. This topographical watershed could mean only one thing - descending - and lots of it. For mile after mile, the route plummeted from the granite bastion of Dartmoor, carving through turns and thrumming over cattle grids until we left the moorland behind and were surrounded by the cooler, lush surroundings of the River Bovey.

Above: Riders crest the climb of Postbridge, sharing that 'top of the world' feeling with Dartmoor's famous equines.

All well-chosen routes have a narrative, and many good narratives have a final twist - a sting in the tail. In the case of the Dartmoor Classic it was the final climb of Doccombe - real thigh-burner which caught out many riders who'd given their all on Warren House Inn. However, the suffering was shortlived and the route plummeted sweetly as it headed for the Teign Valley, a soothing final movement in a huge sweeping symphony of a ride, taking riders back to the welcome of the event HQ. I checked my transponder in and collected my goody bag, including a superb granite trophy, a little piece of Dartmoor, which now sits on my mantelpiece, a permanent reminder of a ride that will live long in the memory of everyone who took part.

However the day wouldn't have gone so well if wasn't for superb work of Mid Devon CC's happy and hardworking band of marshals and helpers, who (along with excellent and well placed signage) made me feel right at home and ensured that I never had to reach into my pocket for the route card. To sum up, the superb route, organisation, great support and balmy weather made the 2010 edition of this wonderful event a classic amongst Classics.