Distance: Grande 107m, Medio 68m, Debutante 33m
Major climbs: Trendlebere Down, Holne Chase, Pork Hill, Merrivale, Doccombe
Terrain: Open moorland and narrow Devon lanes
Number of finishers: 2,447
Best: Teign Valley finale
Worst: Flooded dirt track near Bowerman’s Nose
After seven years as the promoter of this event, this year I decided it was about time that I witnessed it from the rider’s perspective.
There were three routes available, the Grande, Medio and Debutante; the latter being a female-only recent addition to the event’s established distances, run in association with British Cycling’s Breeze rides. I chose the Medio, which, as it turned out, was to be a wise move and near the limit of my ability.
The event’s substantial welcome village had found a new home at Newton Abbot Racecourse this year and when I arrived to sign in, the eve-of-ride party was already in full swing, with live music, trade stands and spot prize draws creating a real carnival atmosphere.
However, by the next morning, all the excitement had turned to dismay after the weather had changed; intermittent rain was falling and a west-north-westerly wind was rising. Exchanging start-line pleasantries with, and dwarfed by, ex-England rugby union captain Martin Johnson, I wondered how my nine-stone frame would stand up to the buffeting awaiting me on the exposed sections of the high moor.
Away with the first wave of 100 riders, I left the pen and headed for the day’s first climb, Trendlebere Down, with its spectacular views out over the Lustleigh Cleave. Just beyond Manaton, the course dived down a very muddy track, in the dip of which was a huge ‘pond’, to be cautiously navigated, followed by a viciously steep short hill.
As height was gained and the temperature dropped my winter base layer and long-sleeved jersey was proving a wise move.
Right on target
So far so good; an hour in and I was on schedule for a silver medal time. A fast and technical descent, by-passing Ashburton, then led to the notorious killer climb of Holne Chase.
Here, those over-geared or under-strength were forced to dismount by the 20 per cent opening gradient. Just about managing to keep turning the pedals, I made it and continued out on to the open moor. Now the wind took its toll and by the time the Princetown feed was reached my hopes of a silver had gone.
Princetown was the event’s geographical hub and the point where those targeting the Grande followed a loop to the north of Tavistock before returning via the Pork Hill and Merrivale climbs. However, with a few riders in space blankets already being ferried back to the finish in shuttle buses, missing out the loop and riding back, via the Medio’s second half, proved too tempting for some.
For me, it was time to don my waterproof and dig in for the finish. A wind-assisted ride to Moretonhampstead led to Doccombe, the final climb of the day and common to all three routes. Finally the rain had stopped and a warm, sun-drenched spin down the picturesque Teign Valley concluded a truly awesome challenge.
At the finish, the welcome village party continued to rock and I collected my ride reward bag. Sadly, the medals were unavailable for presentation and exiting by car pedestrian. Nevertheless, for me it was a classic sportive experience – with marshals and helpers in abundance, incredible mobile support, an absolutely fantastic atmosphere and, belatedly, a bronze medal.
This article was first published in the October 31 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!