Thursday, 23 April 2009

North Cornwall Tor(ture)

Kilotogo proclaim their North Cornwall Tor Sportive to be "the toughest many riders, even well seasoned one's, will ever enter. They ain't kidding!

With jobs to do round home, neither Brett or I could justify 2 nights away, so we travelled down on Saturday afternoon and pitched tent on the side of the footie pitch at the Dragon Centre where the ride was due to start.

Sunday dawned clear. It had no choice, there were no clouds, which rendered Saturday night very, very cold. Waking at 6 and getting up was an excellent opportunity to try to get warm.

Faffing (obligatory) was done, so we slightly missed the 8 a.m. start, setting off at about 8:10. Within 200 metres my legs were asking what the hell was going on, and Brett disappeared into the distance.

In Cornwall, it seems that the adage "what goes up must come down" is reversed, because what goes down always goes back up. So it was right at the start with a 'leg warmer' out of Bodmin up onto the moor that has no equal either where I live or work. Suitably warmed up, the next 20km over the moor was stunning. The clarity of the air was amazing.Eventually the first control arrived, followed by the net downhill of the second section to Bude. On this section I met Mike from Leeds, a rider I had ridden part of the Cheshire Cat with, prior to his elimination with a technical failure. He was back, and going well, now equipped with a compact chainset. Going well, until about 3 miles short of Bude, when a downhill section got the better of him, and dumped him into a hedge on a corner. Thankfully, he proclaimed the greatest damage was to his ego, and he was able to carry on.

This ride really starts at Bude, and after the climb out of the town, you get the first real sight of the cliffs to come. Also at this point, I was starting to experience a small voice in the back of my mind going "you forgot the sunscreen". Oh bugger!

At the end of Widemouth Bay comes the first 'real' stinker at Wanson, up to Penhalt Cliff. I still remember the smell of burning clutch from when we took a fully loaded car up there. I got to stop at the bottom, under the reason of helping out another rider with a broken chain (I have now given away both of my quick links in the last two sportives) but got to the top still on the bike. And is the view worth it, or what?

There follows the hardest part of any ride I have ever done. Even after surviving the 1:3 descent of Millhook, you have to get up the 1:3 the other side, followed by climbs of varying severity into/out of Crackington Haven, Boscastle, Tintagel, Trebarwith, Port Gaverne and Port Isaac.

As a cyclist, you learn to pay attention to place names. Anywhere called "Nether", "Lower", etc is to be feared. This is because you will inevitably follow a signpost to similarly named places either "Upper", "Higher", "Superior" etc. Imagine my delight (not) to spot a place name on a signpost called "High Cliff". At least the view was good back over the route we had come.
After the departure from the coast, one might expect the lunacy to end, but "No", then you get to Bishops Wood, a wall proclaimed by the sign at the bottom to be 28%. By the time I got there, I was so tired, it took me nearly 10 minutes to walk up it, and its only 300 metres long!

How I managed to not take the short route back to Bodmin along the main road, I know not. It will be interesting to see from the split times how many people baled out on the last section, but I did it all and limped over the line in 10 hours 11 minutes at about 6:20 in the evening.

As we left Bodmin an hour later, stragglers were still finishing. The last I saw of Mike was halfway up Millhook, sat at the side of the road looking for Oxygen. He finished after 8p.m. in a time of 12:22. Chapeau both to him for having the willpower to finish, and to the organisers for refusing to shut up shop until he made it.

Will I do it again? Probably, but probably not next year. Biggest mistake, not applying suncream (I still glow in the dark). Second biggest mistake, not taking the Kinesis. I know its heavier, but I really needed lower gears. I'm still not going as well as last year.


Simon Lewis said...

Well done for an excellent ride. It looks like a fantastic place.

Can you tell me where you get your chian quick links from. Are they for any chain? Thanks.

the E.Port Sloth said...

I've done the roads around Boscastle (the route up out of town many times - we stayed at a farm at the top of the hill) and Tintagel both on foot (hard work) and by car (much easier). To do it on a pushbike requires the rider to be suffering from a particular medical condition ... UTTER MADNESS!
Did you avoid the local pasties (absolute heaven in a pastry case) or did you return heavier than you went?

Datameister said...

Quick links have to be procured from the Local Bike Shop, and often have to be ordered in. I haven't looked on Wiggle yet.

There are 9 speed and 10 speed specific chains, and ones for Shimano or Campag. That said for "get you home" duties, the 10 speed I got, whilst Shimano specific, got a Campag man home at the weekend.

The ones I had were entitled "Missing Link" from KMC. Never leave home without one