I can see the flag

An entry level runner on an entry level bike…

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The Nello – The Great Descenders

The stats first, get that outta the way. 100 miles (well near enough at 98.4), 5121 ft of climbing and 7:35 moving time. You can already see that this is going to be a different version of events from Velociraptor and eL Bee!’s from the running club.

JB and I entered this as a Plan B. Plan A sadly never materialised and this was a point that was rued on a couple of occasions throughout the day.

The Nello is (from memory) some bloke who died a while ago’s favourite route. Well – he needed to get out more. Organised by Force Charity the route takes you on a loop of Devon, starting in the estuary town of Tophsam. There were some 1,500 entrants and via the magic medium of bloggage we were fairly certain that among them would be another pair of Fetchies.

Anyhoo. It all started fairly normally. Loaded the car with (lovely new) bike, went and got JB and bike and managed, with no more than usual moaning about how bloody early it was to be up on a Sunday, to get us to Topsham with no incidents. We signed in with plenty of time before the start at 8am. Back to car, bikes, helmets and flapjacks and we were ready. So we joined the start pack and waited. Then we waited some more. And more. Then JB said “there, in Cumbria jerseys, there” and lo it was Velociraptor and eL Bee! whizzing by towards the start. We were totally jammed in and couldn’t move left or right We commented that we couldn’t shout “Velociraptor” or we’d have a stampede on our hands much like *that* scene in Jurassic Park. V’rap blogged that they were away by 8:18am but it took us until 8:34am to cross the line and get underway. We knew we’d never catch the tandem pair now.

It’s fair to say that our natural exuberance and puppy dog excitement had worn off a bit by then, and as we set off across Exeter and out towards Tiverton (and home, FFS, who pays to go on a ride right past their house?) we weren’t feeling the love.

One of the main reasons I agreed to the Nello was the promise of food stops every 20 miles. Actually, that was the only reason I agreed to the Nello ;-). So as promised, we rolled into Tiv (as we affectionately call our home town) just before 10am. The bad news was that this wasn’t a food stop, they were only dishing out banana (yuck) so JB and I shared my emergency double decker and had a wee. MrMegster and TheBoy popped down with additional drinks as we’d had a bottle malfunction at the start and we were on our way.

The ride improved a bit for me here, I’m not sure it did the whole day for JB, we aren’t speaking of it… Following the valley road to Black Cat (it’s Devon, we have a Black Dog too) and into Dulverton, the route starts a decent climb to the moor. There’s about 4.5 miles of it, nothing too steep, just draggy. I lost JB for a bit here, she just grinds up the long climbs and I can’t keep up. We’d agreed to meet at the next food stop, which was only about half a mile from the top of the climb.

I should probably do a weather report about now. Well, JB and I are doing a distance ride. There’s only two types of weather that we’re gonna get. And we did. Rain and wind. We got both, just as the climb began. It wasn’t cold though and neither of us felt the need to ‘coat up’.

Exmoor looked like it usually does, misty murky and lovely. There were ponies…89563

(top right hand corner…) and the food stop had coffee, cheese and pickle rolls,:-) loos and a bike mechanic to carry out some black magic on JB’s whatsit. My mood was improving, marginally.

We set off again, across the moor and down towards South Molton. This stretch was quite uppy-downy and when I glanced back from my sheltered spot in JB’s wheel I clocked about 4 girls sat in my wheel! Bloody cheek. I tried a big hint, shouting “I’ll take my turn now” and duly did. Eventually they cruised past us in formation and up to the next group along the road, whose wheels they settled into :-O. Well that’s just not cricket. JB and I, nicely taking turns to wheel suck inched towards the group of what was now 8 and settled in behind for a couple of miles. Well, we’d done our bit, right? ;-)

Finally into Simonsbath and the last significant climb for the day (and a brief moment of regret, for not going with Plan A). The group we were following stopped before beginning the climb but we soldiered on. Gaining about 500 feet in a mile and then we’d made it. Now the fun bit! Arses in the air and whoosh, downhill pretty much all the way into South Molton.

No one passed us on this stretch, oh no. Except one old boy. He shouted something as he went by. “huh?” He shouted it again “huh?” And again… Oooh. JB said “huh?”. I told her “he just said we were great descenders”. I first thought he had said we were condescending… When we caught him again, as he had slowed to wait for his “chicken livered cycling buddies” he said again “great descending”. We took it in the spirit in which it was given, but paused to wonder why we were never told great ascending! Pah – who needs Plan A.

Finally into South Molton for more cake and sandwiches. The lady dishing out the grub said “wait there, I’ve got a special plate of treats coming”, well you don’t say things like that to me without it being an *actual special plate of treats*. Sorry lady, your mini pasties and sausage rolls with no sausage don’t cut the mustard. Then those girls rolled into the stop and we weren’t going to be beaten by their wheel sucking cheating, so, we bit off our noses and got back on the road.

The next stretch took us out towards Copplestone and Crediton. Much like the first stretch to Tiverton this was predominantly flat valley road and dead dull. It had stopped raining and the wind had dropped but basically we were all out of optimism and had a pretty big case of the I can’t be bothereds. And we should have gone with Plan A.

Anyway, we made it to Copplestone and whereeveritwas that the last food stop was. Totally over cheese and pickle now. Brief chat with some folk who JB knows (she knows everyone, and even the ones who’s names she doesn’t know, she still knows).

Cross country now and the final 20 miles to Exeter. Into Exeter itself was the very last thing either of us fancied, twatting around in traffic, traffic lights, roundabouts, bus lanes and all manner of things that we had neither the energy for or inclination to deal with. Finally spat out at Countess Wear and across the roundabout and into Topsham. Bit of a good welcome with horns and cowbells and a pretty nice medal.

We packed the car, put proper shoes on, and ate the flapjack that JB had carried the whole way round. It was bloody lovely but needed a coffee to wash it down that neither of us could be bothered to go and get.

And Plan A? Plan A was helping fine triathletes out of their wetsuits at the local Iron Man. *shakes head