The raven surveyed his wintery landscape from atop coffin tor, above Dartmeet, where the East Dart meets the West, deep in the heart of Dartmoor. After four hours in the fresh snow that had fallen overnight I was taking a quick break for a photo before descending back down to The Badgers Holt where I’d stayed the night. I looked at him, he looked at me and as he flew high into the chilly grey sky I dropped down the icy hillside, through the frosty oak wood and across the icy stepping stones to the truck. A huge plate of steak and kidney pie was the welcome end to a pretty successful long weekend in the West Country that had started early on New Year’s Day.
I made my excuses about an hour after the champagne had been popped to my confused party mates that included Alice, the mad hatter and the Red Queen, but that’s another story! After a couple of hours of sleep I forced my eyes open and got into my fully laden truck to begin the 200 mile journey down to the hills around Exeter. After 100 miles I’d scarcely seen another car and therefore made great time down past Stonehenge and on, just past Exeter, to Sparkwell. My first days riding would take me on the wet bridle paths up and around the china clay mines on Lee moor. I’ve got used to this part of the moor whilst racing various events based in Newnham Park – originally a venue for the Grundig World Cup and now home to National Points races, the Soggy Bottom series and the Bontrager TwentyFour12 Enduro.
The next morning I headed over to Woodbury Common for the first ever Mud and Sweat Turkey Burner mountain bike race. The event is broken into four different races – a pairs and a solo navigation/orienteering problem, both of which are scored upon how many markers can be reached in a set time, and also a long and short Trailblazer or XC race. I entered the long version of the XC race which means I had six laps of the course to race in a time trial set-up. You can start anytime between 10am and 12noon as your electronic “dibber” records when you start each lap and how fast you are on course, so I warmed up in view of the start line for an hour so I could spy on what lap times people were setting.
At eleven I rolled out of the start gate on my all new hand built Kona Explosif with its Rohloff Speedhub taking the wet sandy conditions in its stride. I felt strong after the first few laps, even if the gorse was doing its best to stop me – ouch!. The last few weeks training seemed to be paying off as I was comfortably maintaining a pace which I felt would get me onto the podium. I hadn’t had a flawless race, but all in all I was happy to see that, as the Mud and Sweat team printed out the final results, my name was highlighted and had “P1” written next to it. I didn’t win a single race last year (which maybe isn’t the point, but was still very frustrating) and wasn’t expecting to go so fast so early on in 2011, but I very gladly took the top step of the podium and showed off the Cotswold lycra!
I’d stayed in Dartmeet that night so that I could make the most of the bank holiday Monday, but I hadn’t planned on fresh snow! Dartmoor looked stunning in the early morning light as I headed up the East Dart river to Postbridge and then across the silent white expanse of Bellever and Laughter Tor. As the sun hit his highest point in the cold, grey sky I rode down to the West Dart before making my way back to the truck via Sherberton, Hexworthy and Coombestone Tor. A magic day and one I’ll remember for a long time.
I’d like to say a massive thanks to Mud and Sweat for putting such a great race on – would be nice to see some more Cotswold jerseys in the race. You can find out about all of their events (including the ones which we support) on their website – http://www.mudandsweat.com/index.html – or by joining their Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/group.php?gid=109121589598 – Whilst we’re on that subject you can also follow my season and also keep up to date with races nationwide by joining my Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/TheAEightBicycleCompany/149812315055558 – or my Cotswold Community page – http://community.cotswoldoutdoor.com/ . And finally I’d like to say thanks to Cotswold, Schwalbe, Adidas, Kona, Rohloff and THEÆIGHTBICYCLECØMPANY for their continued support.