To call the Exmoor Beast a season-ending sting in the tail is to not do the arduous south-west sportive justice.
Returning on Sunday October 30 for the fifth year after launching in 2007, the Exmoor Beast is renowned as one of the most gruelling but rewarding events on the calendar.
Event HQ has moved to Butlins, Minehead, and riders attempting to tame The Beast have a choice of either 100km or 100-mile routes which wind through some magnificent coastal countryside.
Both include many tricky stages and features, ranging from steep climbs, paths buffeted by wind through to areas of slippery leaves, making The Beast as much a test of determination and character as of fitness and muscle power.
And that’s before you’ve added the greatest unknown quantity of all – what will the British weather add to the mix this year?
“At Wimbleball Lake in year two we thought we were finished when the heavens opened and a road we had chosen for vehicles to arrive on was just swept away the night before,” said event organiser Marcus Di-Vincenzo.
“And, although the rain stopped in time for the ride, it had affected the whole one-way system. Instead of welcoming riders home, we were using tractors to drag cars out the mud, while trying to direct traffic and riders in and out of the venue on one, very narrow, single-track lane. We knew then we had to move to Butlins.”
But the elements are not always bad when The Beast roars. Riders enjoyed an Indian summer one year, chilly temperatures the next year and a deluge, with gale force winds in 2009.
“That was the year when God said no you can’t and more than a thousand cyclists said yes we can,” quipped Di-Vincenzo.
Riders who cross the finish line are rewarded with a commemorative Exmoor Beast half-pint mug to enjoy a well-deserved helping of local Exmoor Beast Ale – or recovery drink if preferred.
Route manager Andy Cureton added: “There’s nothing worse than being on the bike having entered a 100-mile event and finding out, half way through, it’s actually 107 miles.
“With the likelihood of challenging weather in October, we must ensure the signs are big, bold and very well secured. Every junction has four signs, one to tell the riders in which direction to go and the others to alert approaching drivers – not that’s there’s much traffic in any direction on the moor at that time of year.”
Entry costs £27. Secure your spot at www.exmoorbeast.org