Cycle 118km, including the Dartmoor Devil audax. Hard, HR144(173) ascent 2610m
104km Audax/5h25 (inc. 43 min stopped) (22.3km/h) __ asc. 2390m
A drizzly start to the day as I freewheeled down the hill to the Cromwell Arms HQ, Bovey Tracey. By the 9am start it had cleared up, although the roads were still wet. I quickly got into the early eager group up the first testing climb to Ilsington, where my mum and her partner Martin were waiting to cheer me on. Shortly after that I could feel my front tyre going soft and stopped in a convenient gate entrance to fix it. It took me a while to sort it out, bedding the tube into the tyre and so on, and by the time I was ready to go another rider freewheeled up to me with a flat. He was on a borrowed bike and although he had a pump and a spare tube, no tyre levers. I gave him a hand and once he was up to the point where he just needed to stick some air in it, I rode off down the hill.
My tyre went flat again on the run into Ashburton. This time I found the offending glass shard I’d missed the first time around. I struggled to get any decent pressure into the tube though – my new Lezyne Road Drive pump wasn’t playing, a problem I’ve had with it before – it’s going to be up for sale soon and I’m going back to my trusty rattly old Zefal HPX! I eventually got going though, aware that I was running close to the time limit for this first stage. I got to the checkpoint at Cross Furzes with 20 minutes to spare though.
The next few lanes were really muddy and my bike got nicely covered. The sun started to come out a bit though and I was getting hot on the climbs, but with two holed inner tubes in my back pockets I didn’t have enough room to even stash my gloves. I was catching quite a few riders all along this stretch and made up more than an hour on the slowest possible time, plenty of cushion, although the fast boys had long since disappeared.
After the Chagford halfway control there was yet more climbing to take us out on top of the moor, towards Princetown. This was made harder by the strong headwind we had to cope with along here, but there was a bit of sunshine and, once I’d reached the top, some good views to the north. Through Two Bridges we were crossing over with other riders from the 8am start, and after a slog up yet another hill into the wind, the Fox Tor cafe control at Princetown. Almost there! I stopped here briefly to chat and wash the sweat from my sunglasses before heading back out and enjoying a great tailwind all the way back to the descent down to Dartmeet.
There were two more long 20% hills to negotiate here – those out of Dartmeet and Widecombe – and a smaller climb around Ponsworthy which must also have been close to that gradient. I overtook a few small groups of riders slogging up these climbs, glad I’d fitted a 34×29 bottom gear – it gave me just a little more leeway to spin on these climbs – before heading over the tops and the final descent to the Kestor Inn finish in Manaton. Mum and Martin were waiting to cheer me home here and buy me a pint (orange juice and lemonade – I still had the ride home to deal with, back up Haytor hill!).