Wimborne, Dorset, with Eamon Deane
DISTANCE 47 miles (75km)
MAIN CLIMB Bullbarrow Hill
TOTAL CLIMB 570 metres
ACHTUNG! Take care on the main road crossings
None of my rides go south,” says Eamon Deane at his south coast home on the edge of the English Channel, before we set out for one of the circuits he uses in the winter, when he’s putting in the base training for his summer racing.
“A group of us ride together in the winter and we never miss a Sunday. We take it in turns to pick a route and try to make them hard. We start out at a steady pace, then someone will be feeling good so they force the tempo and pretty soon the ride turns into what we call a monument. The circuit I’ve picked today has been the base for some particularly memorable ones,” he explains.
Deane is a master of distance racing. A former marathon runner, with a PB of 2 hours 38 minutes, and an Ironman triathlete who has done 8 hour 58 minutes for the 2.4 miles swim, 122 miles of cycling and 26.2 miles of running that constitutes one of the ultimate tests of stamina in sport. Towards the end of the Nineties, Deane switched to cycling, and he won the National 12-hour Time Trial Championships in 1998.
This year, encouraged by his daughter, who has just completed a Masters degree in sports science, Deane had a go at the 24-hour Time Trial Championships. He won with a distance of 501 miles, nearly 25 miles ahead of the second-place finisher.
“Unfortunately, I think I’ve discovered my best distance,” says Dean, a bit tongue in cheek about his excellent debut at super-long-distance racing. The race went without a hitch, but Deane is uncertain whether he’ll defend his title. “Why? I’m pleased and proud to have won, and I’m pleased with the mileage, with getting over 500 miles. I could go for the record, but 525 miles is probably beyond me. Maybe it would be wise to leave it like that.”
Today’s circuit starts and finishes in Wimborne Minster, although true to his long-distance credentials Deane rides out and back to it. The town lies in East Dorset, and inspired one of the fictional settings of its most famous past resident, the novelist Thomas Hardy.
Hardy’s books were based on an imaginary version of the countryside around him that he called Wessex, which included Dorset and parts of many of the surrounding counties. Even Cornwall was called Outer Wessex. Hardy also changed the names of the towns in the area, so that Wimborne became Warborne and Dorchester, Casterbridge.
About the only name Hardy didn’t change is the big lump of chalk after Blandford Forum called Bullbarrow Hill — a long steady climb that rises to 900 feet. “I think it’s the highest point in Dorset, although I’m not sure,” says Deane. “We use it a lot though. It’s often part of a Sunday monument. There are eight ways up, and once when I was training for the Yorkshire Dales Triathlon, I managed to climb up all eight in one session.”
The views from the top are worth stopping for, you can see right across to Devon and over to the pretty Blackmore Vale. Today though, Deane descends to Ansty, past Milton Abbey and up the main street of Milton Abbas, between its famous double row
of identical white cottages.
They look tranquil now under a September evening sun. Hard to imagine that they were built when a future Earl of Dorchester decided he didn’t like the view of old Milton Abbas he could see from his new house. Such was his haughty indifference to the welfare of the villagers that he had the village knocked down and rebuilt around the corner out of sight, but without bothering to ensure that there was adequate room for the inhabitants. As many as 36 people were crammed into each half-cottage.
With the wind pushing him eastwards now, Deane crosses the A31 and into an area he calls, “Little Belgium, because that’s what the roads feel like.” How appropriate then, that one of the Sunday monument regulars used to be the DFL pro Daniel Lloyd, who has spent much of the last few years racing in Belgium. “We all like to think that we started him on the right way, but the truth is that he has so much class that he’d have made good wherever he started riding,” says Deane.
Back in Wimborne, Deane reveals a bit more about his 24-hour title ride. “I rode my normal time trial bike, I didn’t change the position or anything, and I used a disc wheel. That caused some raised eyebrows, but my thoughts were that a 24-hour was going to be uncomfortable anyway, so why lose any aerodynamic advantage. After all, every concession you make for comfort will adversely affect your speed.”
And did he suffer? “Not really. My back ached, and my triceps did towards the end. It was raining, so my feet were cold all the way through. I was concerned about the night, but I actually enjoyed that part. My wife and daughter were looking after me but I lost them at one bit. I just kept riding and when they found me again four hours had gone by. It was like when you sit on a turbo trainer and watch the clock. It takes ages to move, but if you cover it up time passes quickly.”
Long distance racing is all about mind games like that. Mind games and lots of solid but sensible training. “Some people do a lot of extra training, and if you want to sit on your bike for hours then that’s fine, but I think speed is the most important thing to train for, whatever the distance,” he says, before declining a lift back to Bournemouth. “The extra nine miles will do me good, although I think I’ve nearly got my base in for this year now.”
YOUR GUIDE: EAMON DEANE
Aged 48, lives in Bournemouth with his wife Bo and their daughter Hayley
A postman, also has catering qualifications and does all the family cooking
Inspired by endurance events since he was a kid. “When you see someone come into the stadium after a marathon, that’s glorious. But the 100 metres, that’s just a race from there to there, it has none of the same glory for me”
Take the B3082 north-west out of Wimborne Minster. Turn left (TL) on the B3082 then unclassified to Blandford Forum. Filter down underpass towards town centre. TL on unclassified to Winterborne Strickland.
Turn right (TR) and 1st TL on unclassified to top of Bullbarrow Hill. TL on unclassified to Ansty Cross and TL on unclassified through Hilton. TL on unclassified to Milton Abbas and TR on unclassified. Follow this road over A354 and A31, forking left to East Bloxworth and TL on unclassified and TL on A35.
TL on B3075 and past Morden, TR on unclassified to Lytchett Matravers. TL crossing the A350 to Corfe Mullen, and cross the B3074 and A31 to Wimborne Minster.