Haytor Vale – the National!

It’s long this year; 3.1 miles to be precise, and it’s a technical climb. It’s possible the winner might be someone unexpected. I’m tipping Phil Stonelake for the Vets. This is what I wrote for the MDCC programme:

“Yes, Dartmoor is a worthy setting. If the devil did desire to have a hand in our affairs.”

And so it goes… the championship returns to Devon and the long, undulating climb of Haytor. The clocks reverse and a deep darkness descends to a landscape unchanged since Jeff Williams crested the summit 40 years ago. The onlooking cairns and kistvaens of prehistory are soundless witnesses to our savage efforts.

“A grey, melancholy hill, with a strange jagged summit, dim in the distance like some fantastic landscape in a dream.”

Of late, the weightless roadmen and testers have been but shadows sketched onto the shorter, shiftier climbs, lurking in the gloaming of Pea Royd or Bank Road, watching the watt monsters racing into and through, rather than over the hill. But now the cleat is on the other foot. Haytor is a rhythm climb, 13 minutes with eyeballs bulging but not bloodied. It is a spiteful sibling to the Horseshoe and the Tumble, where pacing triumphs over power.

“I counsel to forbear you from crossing the moor in those dark hours when the powers of evil are exalted.”

Watch out for Hayley Simmonds taking on Joscelin Lowden, Emily Meakins and Fiona Burnie. See if Andrew Feather can ward off those reliant on the rhythm method in pursuit of ecstasy; think Laverack, Gildea and Evans.  Let’s hope for a kind day; a long climb in spiteful rain and wind is no friend to the spectator or rider. Lastly look out for the MDCC, home to Colin Lewis, Yanto Barker and Jeremy Hunt. They are the keepers of the flame, eager to see who will be spoken of alongside Williams, Webster and Boardman in the years to come.

“That which is clearly known has less terror than that which is but hinted at.”

Words by Paul Jones (with apologies to Arthur Conan-Doyle)


2 thoughts on “Haytor Vale – the National!

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  1. Evocative piece. I enjoyed it, as I do all of your writing. It brought to mind my only recollection of Jeff Williams, who if I have this correct, was one of two Williams brothers from Manchester? My brief contact with their significant talents was at a BCF training weekend for 50 or so ‘decent’ juniors, probably around 1972/3, held at the Crystal Palace circuit. I could hold my own in London West division junior road races, but I wasn’t Peter Buckley Trophy level. I’d blagged my way onto the BCF programme using the name of a teammate’s coach. I spent two or three days having my legs ridden-off, in the vernacular, by these two guys in blue and a handful of other top riders, tearing it up at the front of the bunch. That weekend gave me a very clear view of my place in the junior road race national pecking order. I left the sport shortly afterwards, due to being hit by a car whilst out training, but the talent, power and class of the Williams boys left an indelible mark on my memory. Now I’m back in the sport it’s great to be reminded of those moments, both in these short pieces and your excellent book ‘I Like Alf’.

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