Tour of Britain: Merrivale

The Tour of Britain took in some of the lumpier terrain of Devon this morning and afternoon in a stage that went from coast (well, Taw estuary) to coast, up and out of North Devon before hitting the National Park and climbing up Merrivale. The stage started in Barnstaple, outside the Atheneum. It seemed strange watching on the terrorbox this evening, the peloton was a psychedelic ribbon strung across Barnstaple bridge. It seemed more odd than it might otherwise because i was born there and spent some incredibly tedious and empty years hanging out in the nether regions of a town described by Ross Noble as ‘the toilet of the universe.’ It’s hard to imagine that Ivan Basso, Mark Cavendish and Sammy Sanchez would be charging up Sticklepath Hill. I’m sure they found it equally momentous.

I headed down to Merrivale on the top of Dartmoor to watch the peloton climb up. Prior to the arrival of the race there was a hillclimb organised by Tavistock Wheelers. It was a team event and the Bristol South CC outfit consisted of myself, Tavis Walker and Glyndwr Griffiths. We were fairly close together in the end, Tavis was 1st with 6.45, Glyn 2nd with 6.56, and I was 4th with 7.04. When the pros came up later their times were a bit slower – Tom Moses, riding for the GB academy team put in a 7.33. Anyway, they were riding tempo for over a hundred miles. I can forgive them. A particularly rapid young rider beat me to the final podium place by one second. We won the team prize by 3 minutes from the next best outfit. The prizes were terrific, some local ale, a pint glass, champagne, a trophy, meal vouchers, free cake, all sorts. Hats off to the local club and all involved in running the event, especially the Tavy contingent, but also the Yogi who turned out en masse. It was a great first race for the BSCC Hill Climb Dream Team.

Watching the pros come up the hill was a fantastic experience, especially with Ivan Basso in the lead group. The atmosphere and general feeling engendered on the hill from the massed ranks of eager spectators was comparable with anything I’ve seen in Europe. It was amazing to be there.

glyn recovers with a garage pasty
Basso! In Devon! With Sanchez!
Devon boy John Tiernan Locke shows the peloton a clean pair of heels
Devon boy Jeremy Hunt

It will be great if Tiernan-Locke can keep hold of the golden fleece at the end of hostilities tomorrow. Fingers crossed….

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