Another year, another Devil. I’ve never been the greatest cyclist uphill – although not a large rider, I lack the real power required to get up steep hills quickly. So this year I’d actually done some hill climb specific training, around the hills of Brill and Chearlsey over the preceding weeks, in the last of the summer sunshine. Naturally, the weather was not so kind on the day, and a fierce storm was predicted to hit the UK on Sunday night; hopefully we’d be off the moors before the worst of it hit. This being my fourth Devil, we’d be riding the same route as my first (with a minor difference in the first few miles to avoid a road closure). The route rotates between three routes.
After a bit of a disturbed night’s sleep with the wind whistling around Haytor Vale where I was staying, I freewheeled down to the Cromwell Arms to pick up my Brevet card and sip a coffee or two over some friendly banter. Off the 9am start, I like to be in the first few riders up Hind Street so I’m not caught out behind anyone fluffing a gear change or reduced to a walk. From there, it’s a bit of a sprint to get clear of the bunch and settle into the first long drag out of Bovey, towards Moretonhampstead.
A bunch of three and then another two quickly overhauled me, but I wasn’t keen to press on hard so early on, and let them go. They were soon out of sight, although one had a mechanical problem up the road (I later discovered) and I overhauled two more of them (on carbon race bikes, with race gearing!) on the run into the first checkpoint (Drewsteignton), to leave just two riders out in front of me. After their quick early pace, I had them in sight for almost all of the rest of the day. Although the wind got up, apart from a stretch across the back of Hound Tor we were sheltered from it in the lanes, and indeed, there were some fantastic views to be had in the bright sunshine.
Descending to Ashburton the weather was closing in and I donned my rain jacket for the next stretch, although I was soon too hot in it on the long, long climb past Holne and stopped to take it off again. It was going to be one of those afternoons. Once out on the Dartmeet road the rain started again and I needed that jacket once more. The wind and rain was in our face, and it was a real fight to get to Princetown, the kilometres were ticking by so slowly! I saw my old friend Andy Watt here, speeding past on his way back – he must’ve been amongst the 8am starters.
Quickly in and out of the Foxtor Cafe, we had a fantastic tailwind, freewheeling at +40km/h at times, for the next run past Two Bridges and across to Shapley Tor and an improvised checkpoint out the back of a campervan for the next turn, back into headwind to the foot of Widecombe Hill. I caught Andy here and he told me he was down to just three gears due to a problem with his rear gear cable, ouch. The other two 9am starters were still just ahead of me and although I didn’t have the legs to get up to them on this long hill, they carried straight on over the top while I turned left and took a road new to me. I’d sussed it out on Googlestreetview in the week before but hadn’t realised that it had two gates in it (rather than the cattle grids you find on other roads here) so that although my new route was a kilometre or two shorter, it seemed to take me a long time to cover it, and I had some horses to bypass halfway along. (You get a free route choice from the top of the last climb, hence my experimentation.) I rolled into the Kestor Inn at the same time as the two other guys who’d been in front of me all day. I later discovered that one of them, David H, is a local and has won many of the Strava KOMs around here. No wonder I struggled to stay with him and his mate on the climbs!
Despite the strong winds, I’d got back to the Kestor Inn in 4h55, the first time I’d ridden this event in under 5 hours. I was pretty happy with that and maybe the hill climbing I’d done in the weeks before had helped a bit. Mum was there to meet me at the Inn, as vocal in her support as ever.
Link to my ride on Strava. 2399m of climbing, I think this version of the Devil is slightly easier than the other two, mainly because you get some rest before the last struggle up Widecombe Hill.