Event Review

REVIEW: The Bala Devil

by Stuart Wilkinson

GB Flag


Date: Sunday 1 June 2014 
Distances: 81 or 100miles. 
Elevation gain: 2562m (short course) 
Entry fee: £25 or £35 on the day 
Start: Bala Leisure Centre 
Feed stops: 2 on short course - about the right quantity and mix of savoury and sweet fillers. 
Participants: c75 
Timing: Electronic tags (6:21:15 total, 5:48:42 moving) 
Signage: Pink arrows on black background. Generally good, a bit of guesswork needed in Dolgellau where a few more would have helped. 
Roads: Mostly country lanes, quiet mountain passes and a few stretches of main roads. 
Photos: CAC Photography 
Freebies: High5 bidon + gel, Red Kite events finishers T-shirt. 

Having cleaned the blood off my frame, handlebars and axles, I'm ready to type up a brief review of the debut running of Red Kite Events' worthily named Bala Devil Sportive. 

Although I was only about 30 minutes before the advertised start time, when I arrived at Bala leisure centre at about 7.45 the car park was nearly empty. I quickly realised this would be a niche event. Indeed it was, for most of the day we were riding alone. In fact, I think we saw fewer than 10 other riders in total out on the road, plus a handful more at the two stops. So apart from the signage, timing, and feed stations, it had a training or audax ride feel to it more than a sportive. But that's no criticism. The roads and hills and stunning scenery on sunny summer's day in North Wales are what you've been longing for through the most of the year, and the organisation was pretty good overall. 

Three of us domestiques from Marford & Gresford Velo had signed on at the deserted registration desk. Mark, who made it clear he was happy to suffer in private and ride alone, leaving Julian and myself to see what we could do as a pair. 


After a short briefing, we bumped over the timing strip and rolled out along the awakening high street of Bala. Straight after the row of cafes and twee gift shops we turned left and immediately homed in on the nearest section of inclined tarmac. The Bala Devil route is all about the mountains almost from the get go, undulating gradually up past the flat expanse of Llyn Arenig and on into the high uplands. As the steady uphill sections are mostly not that steep and are punctuated by short swooping descents, you don't realise that most of the first 10 miles are uphill, and we gradually accumulated a sizeable altitude. The two routes split at the derelict café of Pont yr Afon Gam, which was once apparently the highest petrol station in Wales. 

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Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 8 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 10 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 8 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 9 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 8 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 9 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 8 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 10 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 9 out of 10
Overall Rating 87.8%