Prep didn’t go quite as planned for this year – I’d been doing my usual hill circuits, but came down with a bit of a cold the weekend before which knocked me back a bit. I had, at least, fixed some orange devil horns to my bike helmet ;-)
As seems usual for this event, the weather was bright and sunny when I drove down to Devon on Saturday (stopping off at Argos Cycles in Bristol with my TT frame, ready for a respray for 2015). However this year, Sunday was expected to be warm(ish) and dry too. And so it transpired. I wore slightly fewer layers than previous years and could probably have got away with even less as I was overheating on the climbs. After an easy freewheel down to Bovey it was good to catch up with some familiar faces in the Cromwell Arms and collect my brevet. Mark Hummerstone was hoping, like me, to collect his 5th Devil today, but I heard he later suffered a mechanical problem halfway round and had to pack.
There was the usual sprint up the first climb, Hind Street. I like to get near the front here in case anyone has a mechanical, and this year the guy next to me came to a crunching halt when his chain snapped – not a good start to the day for him. David Henderson, who I’d tracked through last year’s edition, quickly rode off the front with a determined air. He owns a whole sheaf of Strava KOMs around this region and I was pretty sure I’d be better off leaving him to it today! Simon Dent rode the first few km with me, but this was his first Devil and he wasn’t sure what he was doing this far off the front so early on, quickly falling back on the day’s first long 25% ascent, into Ilsington.
My mum was there, with Martin, taking pictures and cheering me on. The next bit, through the lanes, twisting and turning into Ashburton is quite pleasant, and then on this edition of the route there’s a long climb to the first checkpoint. I took this fairly steadily, conserving my energies for later in the day, and was caught near the top by a determined bunch of three or four riders. I quickly got my card stamped and then we were off on the next leg, via the highest roads on the moor, to Chagford.
I passed a couple of tandems on this stretch – I wouldn’t like to try to tackle these climbs on one! Kevin Presland, the organiser, was on one long climb, and captured a shot of me with my jacket open, trying to smile:
I had another quick stop in Chagford to get my brevet stamped and grab a glass or two of squash before tackling the long climb back up on to the moor. I was catching and passing quite a few riders from the 8 o’clock start, and Kevin captured me near the top of a particularly steep section. This last bit comes just after you’ve “sprinted” to cross a cattle grid at a 25% gradient, so you’re always glad to see the main road where it levels off for a brief period.
The next bit, across the main road on the moor to the FoxTor Café in Princetown, is rolling and as usual into a stiff headwind. Just coming up to the junction at Two Bridges I crossed paths with David H, already heading back to Dartmeet for the final stretch and looking strong. I didn’t wait long at the FoxTor, just enough time to chew the last of an energy bar and put a little more water in my bidon and then off for the lovely tailwind back to Dartmeet, followed by the never-ending climb out of Widecombe. Although I felt like I was grinding along at my slowest pace and in bottom gear (34×29), I was still passing a few riders from the 8 o’clock start, and was very happy to roll into the final checkpoint at the Kestor Inn where my mum and Martin were waiting to cheer me and buy me a pint of orange and soda.
David H had been back some time already, but I was pretty happy to have knocked off another Devil, at 5 minutes under 5 hours for the 104km (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/620751779). And one which I could’ve ridden on my summer bike – dry roads, and my rainjacket stayed firmly in my back pocket. I just had to cycle back uphill to Martin’s place for a little “warm down”!