The fourth edition of the Dartmoor Classic took place at the weekend on the hottest day of the year so far, ratcheting up the challenge of an already testing sportive.
A field of almost 1,750 riders departed from the start village of Kingsteignton on Sunday, evenly split between those tackling the 104- and 65-mile courses which featured 3,407m and 2,163m of climbing, respectively.
Responding to the sweltering conditions, event organisers Mid Devon Cycling Club arranged extra water stops by alerting local pubs who agreed to fill riders’ bottles, although the communication of this arrangement to participants was patchy.
The routes were unchanged from last year and included plenty of taxing climbs, pulse-quickening descents and majestic views across Dartmoor National Park with its wide open spaces, wild ponies and fascinating rock formations.
The theme this year was “A taste of Devon” and the feed stations stocked locally produced pies – a popular change from standard sportive fare.
Charlotte Hardy prepares to tackle the final big climb near Doccombe
Riders had come from as far afield as the US, Holland and Germany to take part in the 2010 version of what has quickly established itself as one of the most popular sportives on the UK calendar. Their reward for travelling such distances was to enjoy the best weather conditions the event has yet seen.
As well as those from foreign parts, plenty of riders were from closer to home including first time sportivers David Taylor and John Finney, both of Devon & Cornwall Police.
“We got bikes on the Cycle to Work scheme and this event has been an incentive for us to train, it’s given us a focus,” said David. “We were impressed by the camaraderie among riders out on the course and by people clapping on the roadside.
William Debois was part of a strong Yogi club contingent
Ray Savage, who rode the long route, said the event was well put together. “The signage was big enough to be seen by those of us whose eyesight isn’t the best, the marshalling was good and the feed stations reasonably generous,” he said, before adding that, unaware of the extra water stations, he had knocked on a stranger’s door to top up his bottles when he ran dry.
Ian Homer enjoyed the challenging terrain of Mid Devon
For Ian Homer from the Cardiff Ajax club, the topography made a change from the valleys of South Wales where he normally rides. “The course seems to attack you all the time, there are lots of short, sharp climbs and it wears you down by attrition," he said. "It was also phenomenally hot, but it is a great ride and the organisation was awesome.”
Peter Abel and son had plenty to celebrate
For some riders there was an extra incentive to get round the course in a decent time: England’s World Cup match with Germany. Most must have wished they hadn’t bothered, but there was at least one exception. Peter Abel, a German national from Dortmund, was taking part in his second consecutive Dartmoor Classic and he, along with many other riders, watched the game in a social club next to the event village.
He said it was the attractions of Devon and the shared experience of the sportive that had brought him back to the West Country. “I always thought England was a flat country where it rained all the time,” he said. “I was astonished by the hills when I came last year but I liked it so much that I came back. It’s a chance to ride my bike and practise my English and everyone has been very friendly, even after the football result!”
The finishing kite was a sight for sore eyes and a relief for tired legs
Another rider who had travelled some distance to get to the event was Marcus Di-Vincenzo. Although a local, he had jetted in from Minsk in Belarus by private jet courtesy of an on-tour Sir Elton John for whom his company provides security services. Along with Team Griffin he was raising money for a child cancer charity.
As for the day’s fastest finishers, they were Tim Shaw, who got around the 65-mile course in 3:35:05, and James Richardson of Fred Baker Cycles, who completed the 106-mile route in 5:28:36.
Riders who completed the course got to take home a bit of Devon