Dartmoor Devil Audax

Cycle 119km, inc. Dartmoor Devil Audax 106km (9 am start) 5h06. HR137(176), ascent 2548m

Ride to Start 4.7km

Bovey Tracey -> Drewsteignton 21.5km (10:08)_ 20.8km/h
__ HR147(176) asc. 554m
Drewsteignton -> Ashburton 26.8km (11:22)___ 22.7km/h
 __HR133(167) asc. 406m
Ashburton -> Princetown 21.9km (12:29) _____ 20.9km/h
 __ HR140(162) asc. 606m
Princetown -> Manaton 35.5km (14:08) ______ 23.0km/h
 __ HR136(165) asc. 620m

Ride home 9.0km

When I got up it was looking a lot gloomier than the day before – foggy, and the odd heavy shower or two, but I’d not come all this way not to ride so I got changed and unpacked my bike from the back of the car. The ride down to Bovey Tracey for the start wasn’t too bad, although wet leaves and grit on the lanes was making the descent tricky.

I shared a few stories over a complimentary cup of coffee and met a chap from Oxonian CC, Miles Barrington-Smith, and then we were out into the car park and off, just after 9am. The ride up Hind Street, straight uphill in bottom gear (34×25), quickly gave us a taste of what was to come, but after that there was a nice gradual section up and down the A382 to Moretonhampstead. A couple of riders pulled away ahead but I was taking my time and wary of the climbs ahead. I reeled in one of the riders but the other was still striking out ahead. I took my gloves off as I was getting quite warm. Turning off the main road we headed up a lane which reared up steeply – two chevrons on the OS map. It was covered in wet leaves and sticks, and every other pedal stroke my rear wheel slipped a bit. I caught the rider ahead, but he was also struggling with grip. We eventually topped out and he passed me again on the way down to Clifford Bridge. It had started chucking it down and I stopped to put my rain jacket on.

We had a few floods to negotiate along the road to Drewsteignton, and the roads were covered in mud and leaves. I wasn’t looking forward to another 80km of that. I got caught out by a sudden change of gradient at a “right at T” and had to walk up the hill to remount by leaning on a convenient cottage! The first checkpoint was a welcome sight, the helpers were all dressed up for the occasion. I shared a bit of banter with them, taking my rain jacket off before setting off again. Shortly after that though I had to put it back on again, and I took it off and put it back on again once more before the next checkpoint.

Climbing up past Houndtor from North Bovey I started to catch riders from the 8am start and the roads were getting clearer, even if the skies were still leaden. It was very eerie crossing the moor in the fog and rain and I was glad to hit the descent to Ashburton. I didn’t linger long at the control (long enough to be able to re-fold my papier mache routesheet – thank god for my waterproof GPS – and munch half an energy bar) as I’d got quite cold on the way down and we were soon climbing again, up to Holne. Once again, bottom gear was engaged and I was starting to struggle, wishing I had some even lower gearing to turn. I was still passing other riders though. There was a nice section past Venford Reservoir and we were picking up a following wind (I heard later that a rider lost control and crashed rather heavily here, having to be air-ambulanced off the moor).

Rolling into the Fox Tor Cafe in Princetown, a steady drizzle was starting to fall again. I stuffed the last of an energy bar into my mouth and headed back out. The next section, climb across the moor, was miserable. A headwind was blowing the rain and I was riding along with my face screwed up against the elements. Rain was pouring through the vents in my helmet. I was still catching riders from the 8am start though. My hands were getting cold and I stopped on the way down from the last, temporary control to try and put my gloves back on but it was impossible – my hands were too wet and cold and the gloves too damp. On the valley road I had to weave between escaped cows and then the route took us through Widecombe and up the final climb.

Back into bottom gear and the wind and rain was right in my face. The road was awash with water but at least there were no leaves. I caught another rider here, riding a beautiful beige Condor bike and wearing Rapha kit – a Londoner, surely! As I crested the climb, my mum was out, wearing her red rain cape and shouting encouragement at the top of her voice. Her partner Martin took a few pictures. It was good to see them, although I was barely able to raise a smile, so hard was I trying.

I struggled to change up a gear or two for the flattish bit at the top as my hands were so stiff and cold. Mum and Martin passed me in their car, mum cheering me on through the open window. I was feeling a bit cheerier and gave them a shout back in return. I took the left fork down the scenic finishing descent, carefully down a steep lane and over more wet leaves – my back brake blocks were worn right down – rolling into the HQ at the Kestor Inn at 14:08.

I stopped to warm up my hands under the hand dryer in the toilets, and finally managed to get my gloves on. Just as I was leaving, the guy I’d raced up the first climb with rolled in. He was pleased to tell me that (a) he’d turned 60 this year, and (b) he had a 29 sprocket on the back. I’m going to have to get one of those if I do this ride again!

I had a steady ride back to Green Lane. I decided to miss out on retracing the slippy route back up the scenic finish and instead rode down to the Edgemoor Hotel and took the longer climb back up from there. It was great to get showered and changed and some hot soup down me before saying goodbye to mum and Martin and taking the long drive home.