Event: 23 June 2013
“Exhilarating – Great Fun” – we asked Mid Devon CC’s Stewart Bergman to sum up the Dartmoor Classic in three words.
However, Stewart had much more than three words to say about the Devon event that has grown from its humble beginnings in 2007 to one of the biggest events on the Sportive calendar, with over 3,200 riders signed up for 2013, big sponsors, a new HQ and a new women’s only route. Don’t let this exponential growth make you think that the Dartmoor Classic has 'sold its soul' – more than ever, the event, run by club volunteers, is the kingpin of grass-roots cycling and youth development in the area and vital to Mid Devon CC’s continued success.
We spoke to Stewart a month ahead of the event, as he was busy working his way through the usual burgeoning inbox, full of rider queries. “There is a great deal of work that takes place behind the scenes,” said Stewart. “Just processing the online communications from our website, email and Social Media takes a considerable amount of time" he added.
The event is planned and executed by a committed group of club volunteers, with a small planning committee working year round and virtually every club member giving up their time on the weekend to make it all happen. Good events, regardless of their scale, look graceful and serene on the surface but like the proverbial swan, there’s frantic work going on under the surface. “Unless you are involved with event management, much of the hard work and event infrastructure will simply go unnoticed. A lot of emphasis has been placed on our safety and support services which we hope the riders will not require," explained Stewart. "We even have a bus service to transport participants and their bikes back to the HQ should they find themselves unable to complete the challenge." He added.
Aside from the substantial work ‘under the skin’ of the event, what can new and returning riders expect to see on the day? "The biggest change for returning riders in 2013 is the shift in venue from Abbrook Park Sports & Social Club to Newton Abbot Racecourse. This will be the new 'home' of the Dartmoor Classic Sportive, allowing for its continued development in the years ahead." replied Stewart. "Some of the main advantages will be the on-site parking, hotel facilities and the indoor conference centre," he continued. "For those new to the Dartmoor Classic, this will be their chance to experience the 'gold standard' for Sportive events."
“Our aim is to give the amateur cyclist that Pro Rider experience, as if they were entering one of the great 'one day classics'," said Stewart. "From the moment they sign the start sheets and affix their personalised rider numbers to the moment they cross the finish line and have their photos taken, on the podium, proudly holding their well earned medals".
"Whilst out on the course, Dartmoor Classic participants will have the reassurance that there are 'neutral service vehicles' providing mechanical support, National Escort Group motorcycle patrols, and a large number of friendly marshals, strategically positioned around the routes to assist them. On reaching the feed zones, riders will be faced with enough food for a banquette. There is a range of specialist energy products supplied by SiS plus other savoury and sweet foods, ensuring that there’s plenty of nutritional options for everyone,” continued Stewart.
At the finish, each participant will receive a commemorative t-shirt and a Specialized 'goody Bag'. Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals are also awarded to those who finish their chosen route within the designated time band for their age category.
Rider’s families aren’t forgotten either, the weekend has a real ‘festival atmosphere’ and that special ingredient that Mid Devon CC have incorporated to make the Dartmoor Classic live up to its ‘classic’ moniker. With stalls of locally sourced products, live music, bouncy castle, a Crazy Bike Circus and great food, the only thing that Mid Devon can’t control is the weather, but with plenty of indoor areas at the new HQ, they’ve got it covered even if the heaven’s do open.
In a continued effort to broaden the ride’s appeal, 2013 sees the introduction of a new women-only Dartmoor-Debutante 34 mile route, which uses elements of the Dartmoor Classic route, with traffic-free sections and support from British Cycling’s Breeze Champions. “Debutante riders will benefit from all the same things as those riding the Classic routes – they get the t-shirt, medals, and goody bags - whilst the route is shorter and less hilly, it is still a reasonable challenge in its own right,” explained Stewart. “This route has been designed for those who have progressed through the Breeze rides and are looking for something a little more challenging but are not quite ready to move up to the full sportive distances.”
The Grande (107 mile), and Medio (67 mile) routes have remained largely unchanged from previous years. "clearly we have had to modify the routes slightly due to the new venue," stated Stewart. "We know that riders like consistency in the routes so that they can compare their times from previous years to see how their fitness has progressed."
Finally, we asked Stewart how the ride benefits the club and the local cycling community: “Profits from this event are used to support local riders and British Cycling youth events – it helps subsidise local youth and junior riders as they develop their cycling careers. Mid Devon CC has produced a number of riders that have made it onto the pro-scene” – Bergman alluding to Team Sky neo-pro Jon Tiernan-Locke the latest in a long line of MDCC prodigies.
Stewart went on to emphasise the profound impact that the sportive has had on Mid Devon CC’s survival and success: “The club’s annual funding almost entirely comes from the sportive – Mid Devon CC promotes a number of road races in the South West region – with much of the clubs activities being subsidised through the Dartmoor Classic.”
The 2013 Dartmoor Classic is sold out but there is a reserve list on the event website. For those who haven’t managed to get a place but want to experience sportive riding in Devon, with some of the same Dartmoor Classic personnel working behind the scenes, there’s the Moor to Sea sportive in September, with the 2014 Dartmoor Classic confirmed as June 21/22 and entries opening soon.