I own trees in a wood near an estate called Yarner just outside Bovey Tracey in Devon. Of course I don't think I'm entitled to go and uproot them, they are part of a nature reserve, one of those "this will make you feel good" presents that I was bought once. I appreciated it, still do.
The slightly amended route of the Dartmoor Classic last Sunday encircled the estate, and if I had been a bit more observant I'm sure I could have seen my trees. At the time I was too busy trying to stay upright as I cycled up a steep, narrow, newly-resurfaced lane. Those horrible chippings in copious quantities.
That was about the only thing unpleasant about the day. Of course it was tough, there was pain, and gurning, even a very minor headache. But there was blessed sunshine, heat in abundance. I am not a cold-weather cyclist, with an ancestor from Nimes, and a childhood forged on Broadsands and Haytor Rocks, how could I be?
Last time I was in these parts had been for the Tour of Britain. They were fast up that hill, Chris was pretty quick too, he disappeared ahead of me pretty early, with Martyn (although I caught up with him later at Princetown, first time around), and shortly after I lost Steve behind me. Jennifer was rudely dropped by all of us without an explanation near the start.
Some may talk about the difficulty of the conditions but not I. I loved them. Especially as it meant short sleeves all day, no need for donning or disrobing or choices. Ride, drink, eat, breathe. Smile.
Then smile some more and pedal like fuck in the last section to get back before 7 hours and 35 minutes had elapsed. Oh that last glorious descent, newly re-surfaced with expensive blacktop . If I were Pope I would be kissing that shady, leafy road with its swooping bends and canopy of sunlight-filtering trees, every day of the week.
I doubted my capacity to finish in time for the long-awaited silver award. Had to get it this year before it becomes easier next as I move over the hill. Perfect conditions, reasonable form, some riding companions (I rode with Martyn most of the way, until I executed what he called a sneaky commuter-style move to overtake a car on the drop down into Moretonhampstead and dropped him) when would conditions be right again? And next year I'm likely to miss it for I will have other things to prepare for.
Not to worry though, my fastest ever Dartmoor Classic saw me into the finish in total time of 7.09, riding time a pleasing 6.59, according to Garmin if not to Strava. Also my fastest ever spot time on a bike. Smile again.
Because I felt like this when I'd finished. So one last smile then.