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Dartmoor Classic REVIEW

by Jennifer Trotman


Date: Sunday 24th June
Distances: * 65 miles - 2163 metres of climbing* 104 miles - 3407 metres of climbing
Entry fee: £27.  Sold out within weeks of entry opening.
Start: Abbrook Park Sports and Social Club, Strap Lane, Kingsteignton, Devon TQ12 3PS
HQ: Event village at start with a wide range of catering on offer.  Various stands/stalls, live music, children's activities on the Saturday for pre-event registration and road race, as well as during the event on Sunday.
Feed stops: Princetown - used once by the short route and twice by the long route,  with additional waterstop on the longer route.
Participants: 2800 - sold out within weeks last year.
Timing: helmet sticker/chip on LHS - by Race Timing Systems
Signs: black/yellow direction signs, large cycling event warning signs, various other warning signs.
Roads: quiet scenic country lanes with wider roads over the Moor.
Goody bag:  medal (time dependant), Dartmoor stone trophy, specialized inner tube, saddle bag, and brochure.

The Ride:

The Dartmoor Classic has an earlier start than some - 7:00am - so it makes sense to stay over the night before. This has the added advantage of meaning you can register the day before too, removing a whole element of faff from the morning of the event. So on Saturday afternoon, I packed myself up, and headed down to HQ in Kingsteignton, which is only an hour and a half or so away - easy peasy.  I was marshalled in to the parking on the nearby sports pitch, where I parked up my little red car, and walked over to the event village, along with a great many other people who didn't fancy waiting to sign up if they didn't have to.

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<sign-on>The registration tent wasn't busy, so I found my name, signed up, disclaimed all responsibility, and had my timing chip checked. I was number 2149, though I could have sworn the website said I was 2505 when I looked it up as instructed beforehand. I met up with my two riding buddies - Gary and Guy - in the tent, serendipitously, and we wandered around the event village for a while, with live music in the background, and the once pleasant weather slowly deteriorating.

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Specialized Tent

The Specialized tent and groovy seating, which was proving very popular.

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Attention Seeker

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Event Village

Lots of stalls, aka opportunities to spend money on last minute essentials.  Or non-essentials. I got a couple of SiS bottles as my bottles are knackered and don't match - and that's just not on, right?

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Time to take a seat, drink some surprisingly good coffee, and debate the weather forecast, the layers to be worn, where to stick the jersey numbers all the usual pre-sportive type of chat.

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Coffee and Tags

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Plenty Of Toilets

I love that the ladies get luxury toilets.  With fresh flowers in them too!  As it got colder, the wind got up, rain threatened, and hanging around became a lot less attractive.  It was time to go and hole up for the night, and hope that the bad weather would pass by as forecast.  I do not sleep well before sportives, and this was no exception. My night was not restful, and I was up shortly before my 5:45 alarm. Outside the rain was still falling but, by the time I'd faffed enough to head over for breakfast, it had pretty much stopped. Can't get started in the morning without a decent cup of black coffee!

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Jersey and Personalised Number

Now, all sorted, layered up, and checked up, I could have left my car at the hotel and cycled to the start as many others were doing. However the route on the way to the hotel had seemed a bit convoluted, and a little lumpy, and besides, I can't review an event if I'm not getting the entire rider experience right? Into the car I went, and back to HQ, early enough to be parked up in exactly the same, by now slightly boggy, field as I was in yesterday.

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Empty Car Parking Field

It wouldn't be empty for long, and once full, riders would be marshalled into all sorts of bitty car parks in the vicinity of HQ, as we were last year. I prefer my field - though the long recently mowed grass was interesting to negotiate by bike, or when walking in cleats.

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Timing Tent

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Mechanics Tent

Since all the formalities had been done the day before all I had to do was turn up, use the still posh facilities, and join the queue for the start, with my mates.  At that point it was still a fairly short queue. Riders were coralled into three pens, which were let go, and re-filled, in the relevant order.

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Cyclist Coralled

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Queue Behind

Ron, one of the organisers, gave a comprehensive rider briefing, full of details about the last minute fallen tree induced route deviation, where/when to take care, and what to do with litter and for calls of nature. First time I've ever heard a rider briefing get a round of applause at the finish!

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The Start

It was a bit tricky getting going over the grass, past the timing things, and over the rug at the gate to leave HQ.  We were at the front of our pen which made things a little easier though.  We set off around 7:20ish, and were on our way.  It was wet, and windy, and to be fair not all that pleasant.  But not all that cold either - until you got wet and the wind blew. The climbing started after about 20 minutes, which is a shame because these days it takes me way longer than that to warm up!

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First Climb

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Wet, Wet, Wet

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Dartmoor is stunning. Even in this kind of weather.  With rocks and everything.  Oh, and cows, horses, ponies, and remarkably small-brained sheep. Makes life more interesting right? To be fair, random roaming wildlife was less of an issue this year, probably due to the weather. Normal critters take shelter on days like this, they don't go cycling on 'em. Or, for that matter, spectating! I'm always amazed at the number of people who do turn out - their support is much appreciated, so I'm glad that, like us not being fair-weather cyclists, they're not fair-weather spectators.

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Dartmoor Riders and Sheep

I got my kit totally right today. I started off wearing all my layers, and by the day all the excess baggage (arm warmers, legwarmers, gilet) was in the saddle bag.  Perfect. These came in really handy, as well as being very natty.I'd like to tell you all about the hills with specifics and details and everything but, with this much climbing going on, they all kind of blur into one. Let's just say there were a lot of them? Some steeper than others, and often very long and drawn out.

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Riders Climbing In Front

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Soggy Dartmoor

The first (and last) food stop was at Princetown, which however you approach it involved a long climb to get there.  First time around this was enhanced by being a slog into the headwind. Even if stopping wasn't on your schedule, you have to go at least go through it as it included a timing check. Riders were being instructed to rack their bikes then sort themselves out if they were stopping, but there wasn't any space! Luckily Guy was still there, having left me behind some time before, and he grabbed me a banana so that I didn't have to find somewhere to park the bike.  We didn't hang around long though as it was getting chilly.

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First Feedstop

The 100km/100mile route split came just after the stop and, tempting though it clearly was to many considering the conditions, we did not take the 100km left.  Not us!  Right for 100 miles. After the big climb to Princetown, what goes up gets to go down, and there were some lovely downs today, as well as some rather technical and a bit hairy when it's wet descents, which were not so nice.  All the important junctions were manned by friendly yellow safety jacket, red flag equipped, marshalls, so there was the minimum amount of stopping all day.

Signs - black/yellow - seemed to be ok, but there were so many riders on the route that you were never going to feel lost. The .gpx file worked too apart from, obviously, the detour. Mind you, they'd re-arranged everything so slickly that if you hadn't been told there was a detour you'd never have known. There were also lots of warning signs both for us, and motorists using the road we were on, which I always think is a good idea. Especially when the route involved 2800 cyclists on a lot of narrow country lanes. There were some traffic issues from time to time - of both car and cyclist varieties - and I think if the event gets much bigger this might become a real issue, as even I got slowed down a few times. Bigger roads?  Staggered start times?

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Event Signage

At some point the hills started coming accessorised with informative yellow signs to tell you how bad it was going to be at worst, on average, and for how long.  I have to admit to having tried to ignore them, what with ignorance being bliss, but once I'd seen 'em, that was it.  At least I knew what I was in for, right?  

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Drying Out

It was starting to dry up now, as you can see, which made the climbs less slippery and the descents less scarey.

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Tree Tunnel

It wasn't all sweeping views and moors though, there was a fair share of tree lined roads and forest bits, as well as the more usual mundane run of the mill country lanes. Last year I found the first half proper hard work.  This time around, however slow, wet, cold, whatever, it was, I just wasn't suffering in quite the same way, which was nice.  Finally we reached the mental hurdle that is the halfway point.  Not quite so exciting when you're aware it's going to be a very long day with climbing like that, and that half is still a long time but it does make a difference knowing you're on the way back. There was a water stop around 58 miles in, with toilets in the village hall behind, and another timing check to ride past, where we took a little time to fill up, eat, and remove layers - leg warmers gone this time.

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Water Stop and Time Check

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Stretching into the Distance

Apparently the Plymouth based YoGI team had around 140 members entered, or so the tannoy at the start said, which I'm guessing explains this:

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Go Yogi

The longest climb of the day is the one that takes you back to Princetown again, with 65 odd miles in your legs already, which goes on, and on, and on, up and over the moor, with sightseeing traffic zooming by, rather too close on occasion. The Princetown food stop second time round was sunny and a little less busy. Spinach and feta tart anyone? However having a savoury option made a nice change even if I stuck to more banana. Time to add my gilet to the ever expanding saddle bag, and have a brief sit down to get myself together again.

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Dartmoor Water

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Guy thought it was time we starting riding and stopped talking, but then disappeared slowly but inexorably into the distance, never to be seen again. This left me free to do the remaining climbing my way, and descend without any pressure to do either better.

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Sweeping Views

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Sweeping Descent

The final climb is a doozy, out of Moretonhampstead, and it just goes on and on and on and up and on and on and up!

What made it marginally more doable was the knowledge that the last 15 miles or so are initially downhill and then essentially, by comparison, flat. And man were they ever fun! Having eaten and drunk even when I didn't want to, my legs were up to a sprint for home, and the faster I went, the sooner the pain would be over and done with anyway right? Flying along the valley, through tree shaded descents where sadly one poor rider had clearly come a cropper and was being dealt with by the ambulance. I do hope he/she's ok. That kind of thing always gives you a bit of a mental check and makes you ride a little more carefully. Well, it does me, it doesn't seem to work for some eejots, who went hurtling past me as traffic came the other way.

After overtaking a couple of YoGI guys, a little while later they went past me again, and I grabbed a wheel.  Well, actually, if there were 140 of them, I guess I'm just presuming they were the same two! I ended up in a little peloton with them, which grew as we went.  After a while I felt bad for wheel sucking, so took a turn on the front for a bit which I thoroughly enjoyed. I met one of the guys at the end after - having noted his name from his number, and thanked him for towing me in, although he said it really wasn't necessary what with me having done my share 'n all.

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Event Village in the Sun

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I was really pleased to get in, properly chuffed with my time, and very happy with how it all went. Once over the finish line it was off to the timing tent to get my time ticket - after getting to jump the queue a bit because Guy was already in it - cheeky but handy.  Turns out I got a Bronze, same as last year, but it's a 35 minutes faster bronze than last year.

Cycling time: 7:07:23 hrs (7:49 last year)
Distance: 102.42 miles
Avs: 14.4 mph.
Official time: 7:39:13 - BRONZE (8:14 last year)

From there it was on to the next queue to get my bronze medal, stone trophy, and goodie bag complete with Specialized brochure, inner tube, and saddle bag - quality stuff.  Breaking the process down into two parts split the waiting up, and you could choose to join the queues whenever you wanted to.  Even once in them they moved at a reasonable speed and no-one seemed to be complaining about it. Us British are good at queuing right?

Apparently there were 12 overseas nations represented too - and at some point on the moors I spent a while following a useful windbreak of a Russian cyclist. So, one very well organised event, with a great route, stunning scenery, and lots of properly challenging hills. Which is what I said last year, and why I did it again this year. I wandered around the event village for a bit before heading for home. I chatted to Ron, and thanked him for his hospitality, grabbed some more Dartmoor water, and enjoyed the sunshine. There were lots of families enjoying their day out, with rather good live music, the kids activities, etc - which gave the whole event an atmosphere you don't get at most sportives, and which is one of the many things that makes this one stand out from the rest.

event village in the sun
Children on Bicycles

I think the picture below pretty much sums it up:

A Great Day Out

What They Thought:

Robin Radford

Rob was doing the Classic for the fourth time, and finally got his Silver.  He says he won't be back, however there's always Gold, right?  

"I had a great day out. The atmosphere throughout has been great.  At the event village the staff were all friendly and enthusiastic, with quick sign on and easy to get timings at the finish.  There was plenty of signage, loads of marshals, and a good selection of food, gel and drinks at the feed station, which did get a bit crowded. The crowds out cheering on the route were great, though some of the villagers on the loop after Tavistock looked a bit disgruntled. The freebies included a really useful saddle bag, and the medals were great - especially the silver ones!  It looks like the entrance fee was very well spent. I had only a couple of concerns. Some of the lanes around Asburton were too narrow and steep for the size of the event, and there were some terrible road surfaces in places, but that's not unusual on sportives. Having grown in size, the event looks to have outgrown its car parking, and the grassed start/finish area seemed to be only just coping with the wet conditions and the number of bikes."


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25th June 2012 3:41pm SteveCassidy wrote:

Fantastic review! And to write it all within 24hrs of doing the 100 miler! Love all the pictures too!

25th June 2012 11:13pm JenniferT wrote:

Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it :)
26th June 2012 6:01pm MartinD wrote:

Great review - completely agree. Thanks also to the mechanics who saved my drivetrain and the people around me from the dreadful noise once the lube error I made became apparent!