When the sun comes out everyone enjoys riding their bikes, heading around the steep Chiltern 100 may change that outlook. As the relief was either up or down it was a tough day in early summer sun.
Sportives are always vying for the most challenging course, the hardest, the toughest, the longest, the steepest. The Chiltern 100 encompasses all these factors and leaves every competitor screaming in pain, well before the end is in sight.
A sold out event in 2008, saw organiser Eddie Spriggs raise the field to 1300, offering three different distances to cater for all. The Gran Fondo of 171km, with a gruelling ascent of 2,620m made up most of the field. With 21 climbs across three counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire the route filled the legs with lactate.
If the steep hills didn’t get to riders the heat did, with the first real summer weekend of the year. Temperatures of 25 degrees plus were recorded as cyclists’ cherished relief in the tree shrouded lanes.
Registration opened at 7am and event HQ in Great Missenden was buzzing with The Roald Dahl Foundation’s Saddlebag Café, providing homemade rolls, cakes and drinks for the riders to raise funds for children with neurology, hematology and literacy needs. Released in groups of 20 at two minute intervals the start was hassle free, roads were clear and easy to get on a wheel. Bunches soon dissolved as cyclists hit Frith Hill and Berkhamsted Hill on cold legs.
The real climbing started on Bison Hill; at 21% no one was spared. Setting the tone for the day, climb after climb destroyed the souls of many. The double wammy of Whiteleaf Hill and Wardrobes was exemplified by having to drag up Watlington Hill at the end.
The two feed stations en route were devoured by hot sticky cyclists. They were not disappointed with tables stoked to the brim, even for the riders at the back of the event. The volunteers, standing in the heat all day, keep the motivation levels high for all. One rider went as far as saying ‘in fact at the 72 mile break I genuinely wanted someone to nick my bike so I could claim on the insurance and buy a train set or something else non physical.’
The timing system gave finishing time read outs promptly at the HQ while weary cyclists enjoyed the festivities and comparing just how hard that hill was.
The Organiser – Eddie Spriggs
This year was an absolute cracker of an event. The routes relentless gradients of the 15% plus that make our ride that much tougher than other sportives. Plus the cunning ploy of making it an easy first 30 miles suckering the riders for the brutal last 40 miles. Everybody was right on their limit and many went way beyond. Of the 200 email feedback (20% of the field) I’ve had so far, no one has suggested we should make it any harder. Whatever we do, when the weather and the Chilterns are as good as Sunday it would be hard not to make a cracking event.
Sportive Sound Bites
Peter Hardcastle 3 times Olympic rower 5hrs 42mins
The day was magical, the food and supplies were amazing. I didn’t think there were going to be that many good products, good great slices and cakes on the table to help yourself to. I have had lots of stuff given to me in my old sport when I was at the top level and yesterday was just like that. I felt like I was treated with the best food and fuel to get me though the ride along with friendly staff. A huge thanks to the organization team, it was a very well run event. I did not like the hills at the time but loved them afterwards. I look forward to the photos and results.
Elaine Garvicam 9hrs 5mins
It was pretty hard, but I am training for an ironman, so have done several 100 mile sportives in training. Each had a similar amount of climbing so I was well prepared. It didn’t make it any easier though going over hill 18 knowing I still had three more to go. The pot holes in the roads and two punctures lost me a lot of time. Gorgeous views made up for slogging up the hills.
Tom Sugden 8hrs 46mins
It was very hard work, as it was my first sportive and I didn’t have the right drinks for the heat. I was chuffed to get around and didn’t walk any of the hills. Working together with another girl we worked our way around the well laid out route. We were pleased to see the organisers had left the timing mats out at the finish so we could have a complete time even though it was after the cut off of 5pm.
My Cyclo-sportive – Darren Bailes 8hours
God it was hard! It was hard, hot and steep. My club, Fireflies, decided to do this in preparation for our charity ride from Geneva to Cannes, raising money for Leukaemia. I have done the ride through the Alps before and it was a breeze compared to the Chiltern 100.
A very well run event with straightforward registration made for a great start to the day. The route was well laid out and I only found myself in an industrial area once before coming back on to the route.
What I saw of the route was really beautiful, the downs, gliders and a white horse on the hill. But to be honest I couldn’t recall any significant landmarks after 30 miles. My legs ached so much I just got my head down and just kept pedalling climb after climb. I had a 24 cassette on the back and it didn’t help the agony of the numerous 20 odd percent climbs.
The aid stations were full of food and water, including the end. All the volunteers were cheerful and motivating to keep going. The heat and the hills took their toll on me and I could barely speak on Monday. Even though I hated the ride and route at the time, I’m sure I will be back again. The Alps will be a walk in the park in several weeks time!