One Hundred Miles of Solitude

The Dartmoor Classic Sportive has its 13th outing this weekend. Nine years ago I did the 100 miler; this is how I recorded it at the time . . .

I have a lump of granite rock. It sits on the mantelpiece and is inscribed with the words ‘Dartmoor Classic 2010 Century’. I got it for finishing the Dartmoor Classic Cycle Sportive: a gruelling, one hundred mile tour of Dartmoor, with hills I would usually go out of my way to avoid. Everyone had one, but I did also get a medal for finishing in less than seven hours – or something like that. The weather was hot, one of hottest days of that summer; I drank five litres of ‘energy drink’ and only peed once. The energy went to my legs I guess, along with five bananas; I got round so it must’ve gone somewhere other than up against the hedges and stonewalls. There are only so many bananas you can eat in a day you know – it plays havoc with your digestive system, what with all that fluid . . . but I digress. Dartmoor has any number of leg-breaking hills, but five were enough. What about that killer just before Moorshop – I can’t remember the name – I was effing and blinding my way up and wanted to stop and get off, but there were kids at the top, clapping, so I only stopped the effing. It’s true what they say, that only the last ten miles are hard. Going out was easy, I was enjoying it, but the long drag up to Princetown took it out of me – I remember the moment; the lass, who I’d passed miles and miles ago, came steaming past me on the steep section. I was in bottom gear with nowhere to go, my jersey unzipped and the sweat streaming into my eyes and mouth; salty sweat – I was practically recycling my own bodily fluids. I wanted to get off and cry; some people did, doubled up with cramp, salty patches crusting their brows, legs in the air and bike discarded at the roadside. I don’t suffer from cramp; I just feel like shit instead. The climb out of Mortenhampstead was murder but that’s where I hitched up with the ‘Jif’ boys; they had a ‘Jif’ logo – you know, the cleaning stuff – emblazoned across plum coloured cycling tops, so were unmistakable. I hung off the back of them at various times; the whippet-like one disappearing up the climbs while his chunkier partner plodded along behind me, and then I tucked in behind on the flat and got towed along when chunky took it on. I rode myself into the ground on the last part; my legs screamed at me to stop. The hardest part was about a mile from the finish, only a short slope, but I was in tatters by then; ‘Jif 1’ at the front put the hammer down and I went backwards. I finished under time though – six and something hours, or something like that. A burger never tasted so good nor disappeared so fast; like I said, there are only so many bananas you can eat.

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