For more photos of last weekend’s events, The Exmoor Beast and Exmoor Stagger, pop over to www.robbarkerimages.com/events
Gary’s account of the popular cycling event, which took place this weekend, was first published on his blog here.
Exmoor Beast 2013…………or “In the darkness at the dances in the school canteen”
I’m normally only awake at 5.00am when I’m at work or getting ready to go to work but this Sunday I was eating my Weetabix and getting ready to drive to the Exmoor Beast sportive which was starting in Tiverton this year. I for one liked it when it was based in Minehead because it meant a five minute roll down to the start. At least driving over the moors gave me an idea on what condition the roads were in which was covered in debris, apparently there was a storm, I slept through it, other aspects of my life resulted in no sleep the night before.It was very dark when I got parked up at the school in Tiverton, the last time I was hanging around a high school in the dark was back in my schooldays lurking around the school disco. We never had proms in my day mainly because I lived in a northern industrial city and we weren’t the kids in America. I registered in the gym were they told me the start was delayed until 7.15 due to the gloom, checked my helmet tag and bumped into Andrew who was doing some photography for The Western Morning news. I then bumped into Chris and Jennifer who said Guy was also there as I made my way back to the car, Chris cheerily reminded me what fun it must be to drive thirty miles to ride back past my house, yeah, cheers! As I thought I had some time to kill I sat in the car and considered going back to sleep only to hear the PA calling the riders to the start and starting the briefing. So a I quickly threw on my far too warm should have left at home jacket and made my way to the start. I shuffled into the second pen but couldn’t see anyone else I knew except Guy who was in the first pen and set off before I could say hello, he was wearing shades though so I doubt he would have seen me.
So just after 7.00am I set off into the dark which was quite a novelty for me, I was glad some people had really good lights so I sat behind them. This first half of the ride was pretty new to me and I quite enjoyed the gentle climbs up around Bampton and Morebath and past Wimbleball Lake. It was warm, I was warm and overdressed for the occasion and with just one heavy shower was a bit annoyed with myself for my poor choice of cyclewear. Perhaps I should of worn a shirt, jeans and wellies like one bloke and ridden my mtb for one hundred miles, well done to you for putting us Lycra lovies to shame.
I like the descent down to Timberscombe but I knew what to expect as I normally ride up it (?) I was slightly worried by the over confidence of one rider in front of me who insisted on riding down no-handed, bloody show off. I was soon in Dunster and the first feed stop, I only had a banana and I probably should of had more and was about to get on my way when Chris and Jennifer rolled in. I thought it rude not to say hello and also bumped into one of my workmates, Carl, who was doing his first sportive although he is a seasoned cyclist. Off we went again, past my house, sort of, without first nearly becoming victim of a water bottle incident and it was my mates bottle!
We were soon at the foot of the climb up and over Dunkery. I’ve tried it before and failed miserably and guess what I did again. It doesn’t matter what gearing or bike you have it’s about your head, heart and lungs and I had none, nothing there I even felt like turning tail and going home. I limply persevered and did the hill by instalment, ride, stop, ride a bit more until I got over the thing. I didn’t think anyone would wait for me as I was taking so long and quite rightly they didn’t. They got over it though and was quite rightly happy and they deserve to be in a happy place once in a while 🙂 It was very busy on Dunkery with horsey types and weekend warrior downhillers getting a lift up with a Land Rover and trailer. Note to driver of said Landy, don’t beep your horn at cyclists struggling up a hill you should know better! So I carried on alone again but not after blowing up big time as I rode up from Luckwell Bridge, if I was a car they would probably say my big end had gone. The legs were turning but not a lot happening, I just told myself to get to the split point and have a breather and eat something. I nearly missed the split point I was in such a stupor, another sixty hilly miles would not be a good idea.
I stopped, ate something and got on my way, twenty odd miles to the finish, head down and just get it done. I passed the odd cyclist and many passed me all far too quick for me to jump on with. I finally managed to jump onto the back of a little group in the last few miles and got a tow to the finish. I like the finish, inside the gym, name announced and a free tankard to fill with ale and a friendly face as Carl said hello. I chucked the bike back in the car and grabbed my change of clothes and made my way back to the gym where Chris and Jennifer were enjoying their ale after a good ride around Exmoor. We sat and chatted and I got changed in lovely warm changing rooms before heading off home the way I had just ridden, at least I beat the rain if little else.
I think I might have preferred last year’s route but I’m probably only saying that because I could ride most of it. Last year I took over six hours for sixty two miles this year albeit a different route I did sixty six in five and a half. I should be pleased with that but I feel slightly disappointed with myself, just one of those days……
Porlock hill climb
by the winner of the race, Tevjan Pettinger.
Sunday 29th was a 4 mile hill climb up Porlock Toll Road, organised by Minehead CC. The road was closed to traffic and it was a really great event, enthusiastically promoted by Minehead CC with support from Porlock toll road and Porlock village. There was also a very generous prize list sponsored by (www.exmoorexplorer.com). – a big mountain bike race held each August.
Porlock hill climb Toll road to the right, A39 to the left.
Despite travelling around the country quite a bit, I rarely go further south west than Bristol. I’ve done very little riding around Somerset so it was a great opportunity to start riding some of the Exmoor climbs.
The village of Porlock is quite charming and for a hill climber, seems inundated with great hill climbs at every junction. (hill climbers heaven or hell, depending on your point of view!) The A39 main road climb out of Porlock features number 4, in Simon Warren’s 100 Greatest hill climbs. (rated 9/10) At 25%, it is reputably the steepest A road in the country. However, the race was to be held on the alternative climb – Porlock Toll Road. This is a fantastic climb – 4 miles of pretty constant 5-6%. The road surface is good; and it’s as close to riding an ‘Alpine’ style climb as you will get in the south of England. On the lower slopes it is mostly in sheltered woods, though every now and then you can get a glimpse of the sea to your right.
There are two 180 degree switch backs. It’s a great feeling when you’re climbing and can see the road down below you’ve just come up. Towards the top, the climb shallows out, and is a bit more exposed. I rode it once before the race started and liked it straight away.
Double switch back
Porlock Hill climb (toll road)
- Distance – 4.1 miles
- Avg Grade – 5.5%
- Max gradient – 8%
- Lowest Elev 160ft
- Highest Elev – 1,360ft (414m)
- Elevation gain (370 metres)
I believe it is the first time that a race has been held on the whole climb, so it was hard to gauge how long it would take. I thought it would be a little like Snake Pass, just a bit longer. I started off reasonably hard. The hill is slightly steeper on the bottom. It is a good hill to get in a rhythm and I stayed in the saddle all the way to the top. The 180 degree switchbacks were interesting. I’m not used to racing on these kind of climbs. On one corner, I had to touch my brakes as I was running out of road. Towards the top, the trees disappeared, and fortunately a tailwind gave a little help to the finish. The gradient also became a bit shallower for the last mile. I finished in a time of 13.24 (just under 18mph) This was enough for first place, and I think I can claim a course record.
It was also nice to get quite a few cheers from a surprisingly large number of spectators and marshals by the side of the road.
After the race, I couldn’t resist having a go at the other Porlock hill climb. It’s been a light week of training and it’s not often you get a category two, 370 metre hill to have a go at. That’s a real brute. A wicked section of 25% at the bottom and then another couple of miles long slog to the top. I’m sure many were glad to be racing up the toll road!
After the race there was a prize ceremony with former world champion Wendy Houvenaghel giving out the prizes. The whole event was really good, you felt a lot of work and enthusiasm had gone into it from members of Minehead CC, and it was nice to see it pay off.
One nice touch, the village of Porlock were really keen to encourage the event, helping us to have good facilities and a local womens group did the refreshments. I also received a homemade trophy by local schoolchildren. Very cool. Perhaps we can suggest something similar to the residents around Box Hill in Surrey.
Some photos of Event
James Dobbin (Arctic Sram RT – National hill climb champion 2006, 2007
Paul Jones Bristol South CC
Tejvan Pettinger at the start. What you might call hill climbers arms.
(a VC Walcott rider)
Wendy Houvenaghel (Bike Chain Ricci) World Champion Team Pursuit
Aryavan Lanham, Sri Chinmoy CT
Fortunately, it was a warm day.
Using muesli bars to prop up rollers on the grass.
Village of Porlock.
View from the hill
Right on the top of Exmoor from A road climb.
After the event, the road was kept closed to traffic to allow other people to have a go at climbing the hill with car free roads. Quite a few people took advantage.
Partial Results click to enlarge
- Tejvan Pettinger Sri Chinmoy CT – 13.24
- William Harrison – Taw Velo – 14.36
- Charles Coleman – VC Walcott – 14.36
- James Dobbin – Arctic SRAM – 14.43
- Tavis Walker – VC Walcott – 14.56
- Paul Jones – Bristol South – 14.59
- James Coleman -VC Walcott – 15.02
- Wendy Houvenaghel – Bike Chain Ricci – 16.14
- Wiebke Rietz – 1st Chard Wheelers – 19.16
- Ayse Vahiboglu – Exeter Wheelers – 19.17
- Sean Henderson – North Devon Wheelers – -15.04
Thanks to Vilas for many photos. And again thanks to those who helped put on the race. Hopefully, the event will be held same date in 2014.
Minehead Cycling Club’s inaugural time trial Hill Climb event up the Porlock Toll road on Sunday 29 September has attracted some of the country’s leading climbers, but the star attraction and a true legend of recent times, will be Wendy Houvenaghel, a member of the all-conquering Great Britain Track Cycling team. Between 2008 -2012 her haul of 3 World Championship Gold medals in the Team Pursuit, 4 silvers at both Individual and Team Pursuit plus a silver in the Individual Pursuit at the Beijing Olympics mark her out as one of the country’s most successful riders of all time. Competing for the extensive prize list will be National Championship riders as well as a contingent of local and club cyclists.
Club Chairman Bernie Mitchell said “ The first staging of this exciting addition to the national cycling calendar has attracted a field of 88 top class riders from all over the west of England and beyond.
“The timed ascent of the iconic almost Alpine 4 mile climb, which Porlock Manor Estate is closing to traffic for the duration, will give the riders a rare chance to compete on a traffic-free road in one of the most scenic areas in Somerset. The route and particularly the finish are absolutely superb for spectators. The Exmoor Explorer Mountain Bike race committee has generously donated all of the extensive prize money and people from Porlock Village Hall are providing the riders catering facilities and many of the event marshals. West Somerset College Design and Technology students have designed the winners’ trophies specifically for the event.
The first rider departs at 11.01am with the remainder setting off at 1 minute intervals and I think spectators will be staggered at the rate these athletes will complete the ascent. After competing, Wendy has also agreed to present the prizes in the Village Hall at 2.0pm.
To give non-competitive cyclists and families a chance to take in the atmosphere the Club has organised the untimed Porlock Pedal starting at 1pm and casually cycling the 2 mile distance up to the Toll House. Entries are £2 per rider and anyone wishing to take part will need to sign in on the day at the Village Hall before the event. Any type of bike will be acceptable, even trikes and electric ones.”
….I keep looking at the sky……
I was never a boy scout when I was a kid, I’m sure I’d have made a really good one learning essential skills like helping old ladies up toll roads and the like, I’m sure my three chords would also help when singing those campfire songs. I normally plan my rides in advance, use route planning sites, check google street view for junctions the lot, not very spontaneous I know but I like to know where I’m going. Last night though I was in a bit of stupor,a malaise not quite knowing what to do, where to go, what to ride, so I went to bed.I awoke feeling just as tired and grumpy so I took my retired friend for a walk and decided I’d hit the hills on the mtb, onwards and upwards…….Had a bit of a monochrome day…..
This post was first published here