Designed to be a season opener and closer by organisers Stefan Stone and Jimmy George, the two VO2 sportives start from the Walled Garden, a health and fitness facility. Both the 65 and 120km routes take riders over 10 killer hills.
Sign-on took place at the new time of 7am after British Summer Time kicked in and was a bit hard to swallow. However, 300 riders got themselves ready to tackle the sunny roads of Kent. As a fully timed event, riders were set off at 8.30am. Taking a deep breath I got the mental checklist going to tick off the 10 climbs that I had previously checked on the event website. Key climbs included Shipbourne Hill, Toys Hill, Ide Hill and Groombridge Hill.
On the bike for the first time this year and feeling hot, I worked my way to Shipbourne, Weald, Chiddingstone, East Grinstead and through the Ashdown Forest, a sweaty business.
Food, glorious food
Catching our breath between counting down the climbs, we were treated to a stunning tour of the West Kent and East Sussex countryside, with breathtaking views. The roads were a mix of quiet country lanes and main roads, however, there was little in the way of traffic to be seen.
Feed stations appeared just when you thought your eyeballs were about to pop out of your head from the sheer exertion of getting to the top of the climbs. While it was heavenly to stop and fill up on food, it was torturous to zoom down the other side and try to get the lactate-soaked legs working once again.
Winding back to Chiddingstone and into Leigh left only Victoria Hill to go. Crossing the finish line, times were flashed on screen, but bypassed by most riders who headed straight to the massage tent and food. A total of £640 was raised for the Fire Fighters Charity Benevolent Fund; a number of the marshals were local fire fighters.
Sportive Sound Bites
Rowan Bradley (35)
Time: 65km in 2-30
“It was very tough for the heavier-built person, such as myself. Riding my 30-year-old steel bike, I really felt the pain as some of the more slender hill climbers passed me. I flew past them down the hills though, and my none-too- reliable brakes just added to the excitement.”
Leslie Pendlebury-Bowe (44)
Time: 65km in 3-17
“There was one part, Toys Hill, I thought would never end, and to be honest towards the end of that climb I nearly gave up and took a breather. The feed station was a relief.”