It gives the Devil a bad name

“You are logged in to the web site for the DARTMOOR DEVIL. From here there may be no return. What awaits you is over 100Km of testing terrain, with over 2000 metres of climbing, and descents along twisty lanes, probably coated with debris from autumnal storms”. This is the greeting one gets from the Dartmoor Devil webpage; What is there not to like? Some may fill their bucket list with canoeing down the Grand Canyon; at a tenner, this seemed more up my street. The ride has been organised by one Kevin Presland for the last 25 years, this being his last. For Raymondo it was his 8th, Trevor just one behind and Phil1 a few less. This was my first, and almost definitely, my last.

A 9am start was not too unreasonable, even through we had been robbed of an hour sometime in the night (Phil1 has told me that he gained an hour. He could be right), and the steep, but short, lane out of Bovey Tracey gave a gentle introduction as to what lay in store. I lost contact with Phil when my extra front light flew off on a rutted road surface and spread components across the road and the next few k were not too challenging but my enthusiasm started to wain when I noticed a flat rear tyre. Devon farmers start hedge trimming later than their Cornish comrades. I lost 15 minutes here and having only packed 2 spares another flat would mean I might have to turn for home. A 1 in 5 was manageable but took its toll and I was relieved to reach the second control, though dismayed that this was only the quarter way mark. Having left navigation to Mr Garmin I had only given the route sheet a cursory glance, not paying too much attention to the obvious clues, “up long climb” and “up a series of hills to high moor”. At times I was going so slowly that Mr Garmin thought I had stopped, so shut down. It was quicker to walk. When on the moor the roads were more undulating and without Max (Headwind) would have been almost pleasant. Eventually the route actually turned down one of the many lanes signposted “Chagford” and I climbed the stairs to the control in the upstairs room of the Globe Inn, with only a couple of minutes to spare. Hot soup and a chat worked wonders, though the chap I was chatting to informed me that he was turning back home. Mr Garmin had downloaded the ride in 2 uneven parts, the first, 78k to Princetown, and part 2 the remaining 18k to the finish at Manaton. If I could just get to Princetown.

The approach to Princetown was heralded by first Phil, then Raymondo and Trevor freewheeling down the hill and the Foxtor Café was crowded. If they all thought they could get back in time, perhaps I could do too.

“I think there is just the one hill on the last section” said a younger guy. He obviously hadn’t paid much attention to the route sheet either. He was with two others who were having as much trouble with the hills as I was. A deviation from previous years was to miss out “Widecombe Hill” but the alternative, described as a “fabulous if rather tough minor road called Bone Hill” was still long and hard. “Faecal matter”, I mutter to myself. As the distance to the finish dropped; 13miles, just about the ride back from Stithians; 5 miles, Halvasso corner to home; I finally realised that I might finish. Just half a mile and I was overtaken by the stronger of the group of three, but turning the next bend he was stretched out in the lane, yards from his bike. He had thrown up a stick, which had jammed itself between his forks; his bike stopped dead, and for a moment I thought he had too. But apart from loss of blood, skin, and lycra, he was ok and I got him back on his feet and walking, towards the finish, with 5 minutes to spare. There was a Haloween theme to the ride and he fitted in just right.

Trevor and Raymondo were at the bar, having a drink whilst waiting for me. Not wishing to delay them anymore I just had a swift half. The Kestor Inn is 4 miles outside Bovey so there is the small matter of the ride back, in the dark. Raymondo was good enough to loan me one of his front lights and after picking up my “AAA” badge, we set off. “Your coat really glows in the dark”, said Trevor, “you should include details of it in your report”. Remind me to do that.


* photo is from an earlier year

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