The Dartmoor Devil is a 111km bicycle ride which reaches parts of Dartmoor other events do not reach. It is organised by CTC Devon. The event is an Audax ‘gold grimpeur’ Calendar Event. This means that the ride is worth 2 AAA points.
The Dartmoor Devil 2015 is ‘the 23rd Thrash’ and took place on Sunday 25th October. Unexpectedly for the time of year, the weather was dry, warm(ish), sunny with light winds. Most undevil like.
About 200 riders started the ride at the Cromwell Arms in Bovey Tracey.
On turning out of the pub car park the first obstacle is a very steep (though quite short) hill. After this the riders were lulled into a false sense of security by a pleasant, easy ten kilometres of gentle undulation on dry, smooth roads. Then the first climb onto the moor started. It was fairly relentless but at 17kilometers at Cold East Cross there was cake at the first check point.
There were spectacular views across the moor before as we turned off towards Widdecombe.
We turned and plunged down a steep twisty descent – quite slippery and pot holed, but dry before emerging at picturesque Widdecombe.
It did cross my mind that when I returned to Widdecombe in about 6 hours I would only have one hill left to climb!
The lanes that followed merge into a memory of leaves, potholes, puddles and constant undulations – none of the hills were huge but it was just constantly up and down. One particular descent caused me to skid and slide on mud and leaves and I only just stayed on the bike at a tight bend at the bottom – through a puddle. Fortunately there were no cars.
We descended to the A382 and then turned on an ‘unsuitable for motors’ lane up the infamous Pepperdon Hill. I was doing really well – right down in my lowest granny gear but riding well and being very determined.
Then I had to stand up to keep going – the back wheel slipped – I sat down – the front wheel lifted and that was it. I was walking! But not for long – I got back on at the earliest opportunity and ground my way up to the cross roads. Lots of riders were so relieved to have got the infamous Peppardon out of the way that they missed the next right turn (poor road surface!) which eventually led to the Heltor Rock Control. We had only done 38km in two and a half hours!
After the control we dropped down into the Teign valley at Dunsford and wound our undulating way to Drewsteignton. After 58km we thankfully reached the Post Inn at Whiddon Down where we were provided with soup and a roll.
I had been riding for 4 hours – 59 kilometers down and 1220m of elevation. Half way.
Suitably fortified by a sit down with soup and roll and the reassurance that everybody else was finding this little jaunt around Dartmoor as hard as I was, I set off on the next section – Dartmoor Outward Bound. The route took a steep descent down towards Chagford.
There followed a long sustained ascent which eventually emerged out onto the open moor.
Hurrah – Dartmoor. We were on top of the world. The weather was amazing and it was a privilege to be up there with such awesome scenery and far reaching views. What a splendid day. The ride across the moor was fab. Gone were the slippery twisty scary steep descents. Now we had a wide open moor dry road and great surface – and good weather to boot. As I swooped down the fantastic descent into Postbridge the guy who I free wheeled past ruefully commented that we had just had the good bit! It was a great descent but I had been this way a few times before and knew that there were plenty more splendid riding still to come.
The road continues down to Two Bridges and then ascends fairly gently to Princetown and the next control at the Foxtor cafe.
The wide, well surfaced dry road and great conditions had speeded up progress a bit and it had only taken 2 hours for the last 25 kilometers and 500 metres of elevation.
I bounced through Foxtor as the cafe had a huge queue. I think the 9am starters had caught up with the tail end Charlies on the 8am start. I pressed on retracing the route back to Two Bridges where I turned right for Dartmeet. What a beautiful ride across the moor it is to Dartmeet. It was a spectacular afternoon. I was riding on my own at this point and there was hardly any traffic. Very special. The stunningly beautiful scenery kept my mind off the 3 ‘proper’ hills that stood between my present position and the finish! Ha ! No problem – I can do anything.
The descent to Dartmeet is fairly gentle. The cattle grid at the bottom limits the run up to the much steeper climb at the other side.
Dartmeet is number 8 in the 100 Best Climbs.
Apparently this part of the country is hill climbing paradise! This climb is just over a kilometre with 119m of height gain. Granny gear – head up – smile and breathe! I was quite proud of myself when I finally reached the brow and felt I deserved the round of applause from a few folk in the car park amidst the sheep, cattle and Dartmoor ponies.
Turn left and down the hill to Ponsworthy.
The route was on smaller lanes again now but the surface was still ok and the ford at the bottom wasn’t very deep. Now, I have been here before and last time I underestimated the steepness of the hill and had to descend and engage the granny gear before having a second go. This time I nailed it – right down in the low gear from the start. It is quite steep at the bottom but it doesn’t go on for very long and soon the brow appeared and once more the views emerged as I followed the lane back to Widdecombe. Widdecombe had been waiting for me all day, with it’s lovely church and souvenir shops– it was still there. I dropped down from the village to the bottom of the famous Widdecombe Hill. Number 10 in the 100 best climbs.
The climb out of Widdecombe is the jewel in Dartmoor’s crown. The road is well surfaced – the remorseless 16% gradient that goes on and on – all 1.5kilometers of it with a height gain of 163 meters. This was the last hill of the day, though, so I relished the challenge. I chatted to the chaps who went past me and shared a grimace with those who I passed as I ground my way up. The summit was in view most of the way and I was delighted to reach the car park on Bonehill Down.
Once more, stunning scenery and a well surfaced road. The onward route towards Haytor was splendid in the late afternoon light. The view down to the South Devon coast from Haytor was fabulous.
All that remained was to ride along past Haytor and down to the left turn to Manaton. The steep descent through the woods to Manaton was the final delight – before the finish at the Kestor Inn. 7 hours and 34 minutes it took me. A grand day out.
There was still the 7 kilometers to ride back to the car at Bovey Tracey – it was mainly downhill – just one little bump to climb over.
Huge thanks to Kevin Presland and his team of organisers and helpers for another fabulous Dartmoor Devil.