Sigma Sports Dartmoor Demon Sportive

Last year, CW's very own Richard Windsor tackled UK Cycling Events hardest sportive the Dartmoor Demon - are you up for the challenge this year?

(Image credit: Chris Catchpole)

2019 Date: Saturday 4 May

Enter at:

Distance: Short 25 miles, Standard 5o miles or Epic 88 miles

Major climbs: Loads. Notably Dartmeet and Widecombe

Terrain: Extremely hilly and undulating

Participants: 500

Best bit: Well-stocked feed stations and easy course signage

Worst bit: Dartmeet climb

Even worse: Widecombe climb

>>>Enter this year's Sigma Sports Dartmoor Demon >>>

If the Dartmoor Demon isn’t the hardest event in the Sigma Sports Challenge Series, then it must come seriously close. I started to lose count of the amount of times I saw a morale-crushing sign warning me about an impending 20 per cent gradient up ahead, and that was just on the standard 55-mile course.

The only other option was to ride the 95-mile course, something that would have taken better legs and a stronger mentality than I carried with me that day. The standard course included a tough 1,677 metres of climbing, and I couldn’t even consider doing almost double that.

Nevertheless, the difficulty of the course (aside from having me face down over my handlebars most of the time) had no bearing on the brilliant aesthetics of the surroundings. If you’ve never seen or cycled Dartmoor, it’s a unique experience that is recommended especially for the ever-stretching vistas, where you can see the road laid out for miles ahead of you.

The entire day was blessed with sunshine, but strong winds are often inevitable on the moors and created some difficulty in the most exposed areas, as you fought through cross and headwinds to the next climb.

I started off with the first group of the day and was pleased to be able to ride as a group, at least for a short while, though it certainly brought a false sense of security. Things broke up quickly as the group hit the first climb at 14 miles; a long but steady effort that gave no indication of the steep ascents that were to follow.

In hindsight, it would have been better to at least look into the course before taking it on. But as I rolled out alone from the welcome relief of the Science in Sport gels and flapjacks at the first feed station around 25 miles, I had no idea that two of Simon Warren’s 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs were imminent.

Double trouble

Hitting Dartmeet was a shock. However, once I was over the 1km beast with a maximum gradient of 20 per cent, I was convinced the worst was over. Then came Widecombe.

Not that Widecombe is any steeper than Dartmeet, but coming so closely after it (less than 10km) was the real hammer blow.

Seeing riders sitting at the side of the road gave me little encouragement halfway up, but the sight of the next feed station at the top spurred me on. Like everyone though, the climb descended into nothing more than a slow grind.

I spoke to many other riders on the finish line who agreed this was the toughest part of the day, despite another hard climb coming towards the end.

While two punctures put a sour note on my day, a personal lack of preparation didn’t detract from the feeling that this was a well-organised and directed event.

If you’re looking for your next bike-based challenge then check out this year's Sigma Sports Dartmoor Demon

A recovery drink from SiS and some hot food indoors at the host venue, Exeter Racecourse, was well received by all at the finish, and as the leg pain subsided, everyone could feel a sense of achievement at completing such a punishing course.


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Richard Windsor

Follow on Twitter: @richwindy

Richard is digital editor of Cycling Weekly. Joining the team in 2013, Richard became editor of the website in 2014 and coordinates site content and strategy, leading the news team in coverage of the world's biggest races and working with the tech editor to deliver comprehensive buying guides, reviews, and the latest product news.

An occasional racer, Richard spends most of his time preparing for long-distance touring rides these days, or getting out to the Surrey Hills on the weekend on his Specialized Tarmac SL6 (with an obligatory pub stop of course).