This weekend was a big one for ‘cross fans, with the 50th Three Peaks at one end of the country and the brand new Hell Of The West taking place way down in the deepest, darkest south-west.Steve Toze reports.
First ever Kinesis UK Hell of the West an epic success.
Sunday 30th October, 10am, riders set off on the first ever Kinesis UK Hell of the West, a tough 80km traverse of Dartmoor National Park ridden on cyclocross and mountain bikes. Conditions down in Devon were favourable, a couple of days of sunshine had dried out a lot of the trails and with rain forecast only for the late afternoon riders didn’t have to worry too much about battling mother nature.
It wasn’t a race, but with a brand spanking Kinesis Pro6 CX frame and wheels on offer for the rider that rolled over the line first there was definitely an incentive to up your personal challenge. From the get go it was going to be interesting to see whether the route would suit a mountain bike or a cross bike. Dartmoor is made of granite; grippy and easy to ride on, but also uncompromising on brake pads with sharp step ups/downs in places that could shred skinny tyres. The route took in a bit of everything; from the fast flowing woodland trails and stepping stone river crossings on the moor’s fringes to the exposed bogs and rocky trails to be found in the upper moor – hard on any type of bike. Throw into the mix a handful of 25% climbs and a brutal wind and you have everything in place to create a ride that will be as hard as it would be unforgettable.
The choice of bikes was amazing. Full suspension 29ers with cross tyres on, cross bikes with fat 43mm cross tyres on, flat bar cross bikes, singlespeed cross bikes, heavy hardtail mountain bikes and more regular looking rigid 29ers. There would be no perfect bike for the terrain but with a long day in the saddle for certain many would choose the comfort of a mountain bike.
The ride out to the Princetown feed zone was by far the toughest section, made worse by a relentless head wind that battered riders as they fought to make a strict 1pm cut off that would separate riders into two groups – those capable of doing the full Hell of the West route and those that would have to turn for home.
As with any good non competitive ride a ding dong to be the first person back soon developed. The contenders were Liam Glen (Kinesis Morvelo Project) and local wildman Jay Horton (Certini/McCauley’s) who seemed to extend their lead up to 20minutes over each other at times but still managed to end up in a sprint finish as they entered the finish arena, Jay (by his own admission) pathetic in a sprint allowing Liam Glen to add to his collection of Kinesis bikes riding over the line 4hrs and 48mins after he set off.
Some truly amazing tales were happening further back too, many from local riders that had never ridden the trails on their doorstep before and others that took suffering to a whole new dimension by picking up mountain bikes just a few months before and getting to know them for upwards for eight hours.
I don’t think there was a single rider that wasn’t happy to see the arena and a bottle of Dartmoor Legend ale, a few would say that they’d never return – the trails too tough and the hills just too much – but most now have a score to settle with Dartmoor and the Hell of the West has now become a Dartmoor legend in itself.