Hell of the West
Event: 30 September 2012
Location: Parke Estate, Bovey Tracey
When Steve Toze decided to promote a cyclo-cross sportive on Dartmoor he had two ambitions; giving people a chance to get riding off road and providing that opportunity on rarely touched areas of the National Park. After over six months of negotiations and less than a week until the event, the original vision is set to be realised with an epic 80km of wilderness trails only to be marked before Sunday.
What follows is an analysis from Steve of what riders can look forward to, how the event was born and what’s to come.
“The key for us was to create an event where you got the far reaching views, a real taste of Dartmoor without riding over loads of boggy moorland, finding tracks and trails where you could do that. Some of the stuff we knew, but some of it is stuff that people have never ridden before because you just wouldn’t go there.
The route is quite hard, it’s 55 miles with half of it off road, so it’s a definite challenge and starts in Parke, near Bovey Tracy, which is an unlikely starting place for a ride because it’s a different way to approach Dartmoor. There are tonnes of tracks and trails and old railway lines available to use. The ones we’ve chosen work on both a cross bike and a mountain bike so we’re actually expecting an even spread of people on both types of bikes as each will have its own advantage.
The first 15 miles up toward Princetown are really hard, but on the route there’s all sorts of nice little touches, stepping stones across rivers and fords, there’s bits where you’re going to have to jump over stuff, it is a cross event.
Once the riders are on the route, it’s pretty hard to get to them – they only emerge into civilisation in a few key places. There we will have a feedstation stocked by Accelerade and basic technical support but everyone is encouraged to be self sufficient. We will have riders within the event as that’s the best way to support any emergencies. It’s hard to marshal because they are in the middle of nowhere essentially. But that’s part of the charm, it gives it a taste of mountain biking and makes kit choices important. The terrain is quite hard, in places rocky and after a long time it will be tiring, so comfort will be a priority for a lot of people.
All gold time riders will be entered into a raffle to win a Kinesis Pro-Six frame, spot prize raffle for all riders and a glass of Dartmoor Ale at the finish for everyone too.
SHOWCASING THE AREA
We’ve worked quite closely with the National Trust on all of our events; one of the key remits is to get more people exploring National Trust property and getting into National Parks, whether that’s our gravity event on Exmoor or the Hell of the West on Dartmoor. We went to them with the idea of the event. It took us a long time to get approval for the route, there are so many different stakeholders and getting them all to approve a route is actually more difficult than it would seem – it took around eight months. Both the National Park and the National Trust are aiming to grow visitor numbers, Dartmoor and Exmoor are trying to encourage more young people to get out in the Park and enjoy its resources.
So we wanted to create an event that actually got people out on to Dartmoor, there’s already a couple of good sportives in the area on the road, so a road sportive is not really our bag anyway, so what we wanted to create was an event that was probably a bit more sociable and allowed people to actually get out and enjoy the moors.
We are hoping to create is an alternative use for cross bikes. On a cross bike you probably will get round the route quicker – it’s a route suited to a cross bike but that allows people that aren’t that confident riding off road to get the experience of riding off road without any real risk of hurting themselves.
We want to get as many people as we can to get a taste of riding off road. Whether that’s the starting point of them getting into mountain biking, or cyclo-cross, it’s great. If they go away and do either of those things then the event has done its job.
It’s something we’re committed to doing for the next couple of years and hopefully we can grow the event.
The concept is a bit weird, it’s not a safely established format. I’m not sure Hell of the West will establish itself as a cyclo-cross sportive, I want it to be a good off road ride that anyone can do.”
If you’ve been tempted to ride the Hell of the West sportive – either on a mountain bike or cross bike – you can enter now on British Cycling.