No Excuses Sportive
Updated: Mar 11, 2019
My first fully coached tri camp is coming up in Mallorca in just three weeks time, which is rather exciting! Unlike my normal January/February Training schedule of watt bikes, turbo and short rides if the weather isn’t completely rubbish, I’ve had to get out and hit the tarmac as much as possible. We’ve been so lucky to have beautiful weather so it’s been relatively easy to do, racking up a few decent 30-40 miles and a longer 48.5 mile ride. I was warned that there was a possibility of a LONG ride on the tri camp (last year was a 90 miler) so I needed a Sportive to use for a Training ride.
Welcome to the ‘No Excuses Sportive’, organised by UK Cycling Events. Starting at Exeter Racecourse, this Sportive has a 45 mile (Standard) and 70 mile (Epic) route, both of which are very challenging!
The course begins through Haldon Forest and across Dartmoor before the route splits and I began to truly question what I was thinking entering the Epic route.... The standard route is still pretty challenging with elevation of 3923ft, tracking the edge of Dartmoor and along the River Teign and still tackling the same headwinds with plenty of tough climbing.
We pulled up our ‘big girl pants’ and continued bravely along epic route. There was a gruelling climb from Dunsford to Doccombe (the website says this is the first big climb of the day and at this point my legs were already in pieces!) But we made it (slowly) to the top.
By about mile 15 I had truly lost it with the horrific headwinds. My Garmin had died so I asked my friend Nicki what mileage we were on.... she asked me to take a guess and I was hoping 30 miles. She laughed and told me we were at mile 18.... Stand by for a sense of humour failure! I really did have no idea how I was going to get though another 52 miles!
We continued towards Two Bridges and then headed towards the coast. More climbs in Dartmeet and Widecombe but arguably some of the most spectacular views along the way. As the saying goes- ‘What goes up must come down’, so those climbs just grinding away with your head down trying to breathe are rewarded with some brilliant descents (still pedalling against those headwinds though!). Thankfully I had some good company, two feed stations for a refuel, snacks and coffee! The beautiful spells of sunshine across the moors and no rain or snow just about kept us both going!
We rejoined the standard route near Bovey Tracey and continued through Teignmouth, and then all along the coast to Powderham Castle, Dawlish, Dawlish Warren, Cockwood and Starcross. It’s beautiful, it’s flat, we chatted, caught our breaths, our legs recovered a little and we got lulled into a false sense of security that ‘this was it’ all the way to the end.
Then we hit the final climb up to Haldon Forest. I was done. I made it 3/4 of the way. My legs went to jelly and I got off and pushed my bike up that damn hill! Nicki was a total trooper and ground those pedals all the way to the top. One final breath of relief as we hit the flat road all the way back to the racecourse and got our finisher medal!
My husband Mark finished quite a way before us in a fantastic time of 4hrs 55. Our finisher time was 7hrs 5mins but our ride time on the Garmin was 6hrs 10mins and an overall elevation of 7782ft. Average speed 11.5mph (my usual average is 15mph....). My mother-in-law cracked the 45 mile standard route in 4hrs 20. Amazing effort all round by everyone!
My legs totally blew on the walk to the car and the short car journey to the campsite was enough for them to seize up enough to make walking quite a challenge! Everything recovered slightly with a hot shower, a glass of prosecco and some delicious pub grub at The Ley Arms!
All in all, I would completely recommend this brutally challenging Sportive but don’t underestimate it! It’s the toughest ride I have EVER done, not helped by the fact it’s early on in the year so unless you’ve done your winter training you might find it harder then you’d think. Just grind it out, keep the morale where you can find it and keep going to the finish line.