Meet Ellen Cameron, one of our sportive blog competition entrants, who blogs her experiences at a wet, wild and challenging Exmoor Beauty.
Whilst 38,000 runners piled into the Big Smoke and readied themselves for a long, crowded marathon around London, about 600 cyclists headed to deepest Exmoor for a new event on the cyclosportive calendar. In fact, possibly the most poorly named sportive ever: The Exmoor Beauty. I hoped that this contrasting event to the very aptly named Exmoor Beast might just be a little easier. How wrong I was.
Within about a mile I immediately regretted the winter gloves and jacket I had decided upon. The sun was beaming down and the first climb on the course had me sweltering. With only two tiny pockets, ditching kit was not an option, nor was attempting to stop on any of these hills for fear of never being able to start again! However, my luck soon changed (sort of) and after not too long the moors darkened, the wind picked up, the skies opened and I was really rather pleased with my clothing choices.
Another killer climb commenced, leading us to what should have been a spectacular passage atop the moors with outstanding views. An enormous headwind ruined the experience and as my speed dropped, I started to have a sense of humour failure. It was a tough traverse and every cyclist I met was feeling it too. Eventually, we hit the end of the road and turned into a long, wide and brilliantly fast descent. I had taken my glasses off due to the rain but as I descended, hail and sleet were forced into my eyes and I couldn't see a thing. I lasted as long as I could by contorting my face and only opening one eye at a time before admitting to myself that I really did need to stop and put them back on again if I wanted to get to the bottom unscathed. As I stopped, a chap whizzed past me exclaiming "I can't see anything either!!" Fortunately I saw him at the bottom, in one piece!
In 70 miles, there was over 5700ft of elevation gain. A huge hill awaits you around every corner. The one that really got me though, was the approach to Dunkery Beacon. As you turn one corner, you can see a road leading to the top, a road that winds upwards forever. My heart sank, my legs were tired and looking up, I really didn't think I would be able to make it. As I got closer though, I realised that was a walker’s track and the road skirted around the side at what was actually a very pleasant gradient indeed. Phew!
A glorious, meandering descent followed, becoming more tight, twisty and wet as it progressed, with my fingers firmly squeezing the brakes.I was actually delirious as I rode back into Minehead; amazed I had made it and pleased to have got around without incident.
In summary: it isn't a beauty, at all. It is however, definitely worth a go; just take it easy on the descents!