Heroic Rider's Review

When Tozers sponsored the Haldon Heroic event last weekend I was the first to put my hand up and volunteer.  As a busy Mum of boys, my downtime is rare but when I do get the opportunity of some child-free time I am drawn to my road bike which I have owned for about a year now. 

Having built up to some 50 mile jaunts including a baptism of fire over Dartmoor and some rather more tame routes around East Devon, I hoped that this somewhat erratic training programme would give me a decent enough fitness base to tackle the Haldon Heroic event with its forest and road routes. Besides 3,300ft of climbing doesn’t sound too scary, does it? Not if it all were smooth road surfaces, perhaps. Cycling off piste though as I discovered, was triple the effort!

The morning of the event was bright and brisk and the 200-odd cyclists joining the event were all cheery and eager to get going. So as people sipped hot drinks from Code4Coffee and pumped up their tyres there was the question of layers and particularly a consideration for the wind (which thankfully was really only prominent for the first lap around Exeter Racecourse). The grass field was a tough beginning and a quick indication that I would be in for a lot more surprises than I bargained for!

Having hired a Genesis Croix de Fer cyclocross bike I was rather miffed when I read about its hefty 12kg mass; however once at the top of a brutal 29 per cent country lane ascent I realised that even though I had literally scraped the bottom of my lungs for air (they felt like sand paper for a good ten minutes), the bike had stood up to the test rather well and also made a fairly slick transition between grass, gravel, mud and tarmac.

The aforementioned hill climb came up in the first quarter of the 50 mile Mega route – fairly placed I thought. After this we were rewarded with a lot of fun through deep mud and large loose stones which required both muscle power and concentration to pick our way through. Thankfully the sun was shining so when we were pedalling under water through puddles our feet didn’t take too long to dry off.

For the more experienced cyclocross competitor there was a steep descent into a stream followed by an even steeper, very stony ascent – this momentarily took me off the saddle to trudge through as did one short section of a very sodden grassy country track. Most of the course was cyclable though even for a novice like me, providing you got the right rhythm and a good enough grip on your brakes!

For some the timed forest sections would have been great adrenaline rush and of course the lure of winning is always appealing if you are competitively-minded – for me though, I was just happy not to come a cropper in a ditch!

Out on the edge of Dartmoor there was a mixture of smooth flat cycle trails, gentle road sections and a generous amount of bog to contend with. Food was wisely placed at the 25 mile mark (while water was at miles 30, 35 and 41) and when we arrived we were greeted with an abundant spread and some very friendly people who had given up their day to keep us fully fuelled and happy. Thank you Country Kitchens! As well as a mouthwatering selection of cakes and teas and coffee, there were savoury pies and tarts as well as flapjacks, bananas and chocolate bars. With it being a village hall, there were also toilet facilities in case one did not want to brave the wild on route!

The only downside to stopping was that now we had a series of hills that led out of Chudleigh Knighton back towards Haldon and while my stomach was digesting my food my legs were not getting the maximum benefits of the blood supply so I felt a bit sluggish and also found myself overheating by the time I reached the brow of the long windy tarmac trail.

The combination of stripping down a layer and taking an electrolyte tablet worked wonders and back in the forest I was in the fun zone again! The scenery throughout the route was nothing short of spectacular; the panama of hills and villages surrounding Haldon certainly kept the spirit alive even when the legs were weary. There was also a fair amount of marshalls to gee us on, even the Charles Whitton photographers gave us an encouraging cheer!

The Haldon Heroic aptly fits in the unforgettable life experience bracket and for someone like me who relies on GPS to get 5 miles up the road in their car, it opened up a whole new world of adventure – stunning locations and hairy challenges I would never have discovered independently. It is even more fun than (very amateur) rally driving as you have to be much more at one with a bike and you get to enjoy the outdoor elements too!

The well-placed arrows made the Haldon Heroic super light work for the brain which is a great pay off when your body is under duress!

All in all then a very exhilarating day with so much variety and seamless professionalism from start to finish.

The gruelling ride was topped off by some deep tissue manipulation by Dartmoor Massage which was optional though highly recommended!

If you missed your free place on the Haldon Heroic through Tozers Solicitors, there are still plenty of sportives in the 2017 calendar at: http://www.justevents.org/ we urge you to give them a go and hope you enjoy them as much as we did! Keep tuned to Tozers news section too as we will be hosting and supporting more events soon…