The Dartmoor Classic

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Yesterday’s event was a very tough 105 miles in the West Country. The day featured 6 hours of hard riding over relentless hills, more solo slogging than group work, and a sensational performance from Jamie Balment.

Overall my form on the day was about 85-90%. Starting out, I felt some tight-chestedness for the first 90 mins. This could have been the humidity, hay fever or some cat hair on the rug we used in the car on the way to the event – whatever the reason, it was the first time I’d experienced it this year, and it bothered me. I’ll certainly take a few Ventolin tokes before the Marmotte to rule this out.

For much of the ride, again abnormally, I felt slightly sick, and had no appetite. I ate nothing unusual before the ride, and only one fig bar before I started to feel queasy. Swallowing one of the Maxim energy gels given out at the feed stops didn’t help – all 3 of us agreed these were completely unpalatable.

Finally, my lower back, again, despite hours of core exercises over the last 5 weeks, was a knot of burning pain in the last 2 hours of the ride. The only thing for it will be painkillers on La Marmotte. If, at the second feed stop, someone had injected my lower back with some miracle drug that completely eradicated the stiffness, the last 30 miles of the ride would have been fast and pain-free – it felt like the only thing holding me back.

Anyway, the ride. We rode as a trio for the first 35 miles – other than this I can’t recall a single thing between the start and the first feed. By this point we were 5 minutes inside gold pace and riding comfortably. Then, Jamie was out front, riding ahead solo while Duncan and I tried to save energy by working with one other rider. We couldn’t figure out why Jamie was hammering into the wind on his own 50 yards ahead, unless it was because we were about to pass through his home town, so we left the local boy to it.

Jamie was 75 yards ahead, then 100, then he was out of sight as we descended into Tavistock. He’ll be waiting at the top of the climb out of town, we reasoned. No – he wasn’t. There followed a long, 20-mile stretch during which Duncan and I did what we could to take turns drafting while keeping our pace high. Just as I thought we were never going to see any other riders the rest of the day, a small strong cluster caught us up. I rode with them for a while before we were split apart by the day’s big sustained climbs, from Hartford Bridge to Rundlestone. The head wind on this exposed section of the moor had me chewing my handlebar tape in an effort to keep the revs going.

Heading into the second feed, owing to the nature of the course, I passed Jamie going the other way; he was at least 5 minutes ahead, although by now I had a couple of minutes on Duncan.

The final 30 miles was a test of endurance, punctuated by short morale-boosting blips as I passed herds of slower riders completing the 100km circuit (no disrespect to them either, it was great to see such a big field of all abilities). Despite 3 days complaining of a cold and sore kidneys, Jamie pulled a phenomenal ride out of the bag to finish in a little over 6 hours. I got 6hrs 09.

Check the photos here.

Credit must go to Mid-Devon CC who organised a cracking day.

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