My Ride: Local Surrey lanes, just for ?fun?
Challenge: Rolling terrain and sizzling weather
Living, as I do, in the back end of Surrey, I can?t really be bothered to travel much for my cycling, as I have great riding on my doorstep.
However, with the imposing Dragon Ride in Wales looming ? which I had promised a fellow club-mate I would do ? and trying to get a TT career going, it?s about time I got some distance and a few hills in the legs. This event was perfect ? only about 15 miles from home, so no real travelling.
I entered at quite late notice and also sportingly entered my partner, who had no idea as she was away in Spain and would only be home three days prior.
?It?s only 140 kilometres,? I said ? good training.
With a plan just to get round and enjoy it, we set off. Aiming to get off as early as possible, we pulled up in the car park to see crowds of fellow riders lining up to sign on ? I guess most of them were early as the weather forecast was for a scorcher.
The signing on was a breeze; you got the route map and a brevet card with all the phone numbers for any emergency, the broomwagon etc.
Follow the arrows
We were given a talk about the course directions and what to look for if they were missing ? in this case they were yellow arrows painted or chalked on the road ? and we then set off in groups of about 20.
I must admit that I didn?t know much of the route at all. From the start though, it was all quiet back roads, and the group I was with were keen to get a move on.
The first proper climb comes after about 10km. It isn?t too steep, only about 10 per cent, but there is no shade until you reach the top, and by 9.30 that morning everyone was bathed in sweat. Of course, this was where the first
photographer had set up.
Next up is a super-fast descent down Coombe Bottom, then some fast, flat work through the pretty Surrey villages of Albury, Chilworth and Wonersh.
The first checkpoint came after about 30km, where we all queued to have our cards signed.
The marshals were very helpful in topping up water bottles and handing out bananas. At this point, the route split for the riders doing the 80km ride, but most of the people seemed to be opting for the longer distance on the day.
All well and good so far ? 40km to the next checkpoint. The next part of the ride can be truly described as ?rolling? ? one minute you?re bowling along no problem, then it?s bottom gear for a short, sharp 16 per center.
Surrey gives way to Sussex with very little scenery change, just loads of old houses covered in wisteria.
There are a few long drags on this part of the course, and my partner was beginning to feel it in the legs as the heat and the exposed nature of the terrain took its toll. We could have stopped at the Lurgashall winery en route but that would have probably been the end of our sportive!
The course then meanders around Midhurst, Duncton and a beautiful mill pond and house at Burton, just before the Roman villa at Bignor, where the owner and his wife toasted us as we sped past.
We were nearly at the checkpoint and the furthest point south, not that far from the coast, near the bottom of Bury Hill. Riding into the wind for the first time, we glimpsed a well-stocked feed station, offering cake, drinks and a chance for a breather.
I didn?t want to stop for too long; if we kept going the legs wouldn?t seize up. Luckily, the next section started off fairly flattish and we were soon eating up the miles. Faster groups were coming through now, so we hooked on for a brief tow ? at one point there must have been 30 riders all strung out blasting along ? but when it came to the draggy bits the string inevitably broke.
After four hours in the saddle your body does start to protest a bit. Things hurt ? my feet were getting pins and needles, then the saddle did not have a comfortable part on it ? then it all goes away, only to resurface on some hill. As we were heading homewards and hit some roads we knew, our spirits started to rise, but we were still glad to reach the final check and feed station. Only 30km left now.
This part skirts Cranleigh, Ewhurst and Peaslake, then finally heads into Shere, where we take on the final climb of the day. After about 130km on a hot day the last place I want to be is Coombe Bottom ? a long drag of six to eight per cent, then a steeper section. A hairpin looms into view. I know its steep here ? 15-16 per cent.
It had been so hot the tarmac was melting, sucking at the wheels. Once more, a photographer had picked this spot to record our pain, and he was right out in the road, forcing us to use the steepest part of the hairpin ? boy, was I glad to get that over with.
After that, it was all plain sailing ? virtually downhill all the way to the finish. A well-stocked village hall greeted us after we handed our cards in, with loads of riders stretching out in the garden, munching on rolls and cake.
The whole event was so well organised that we never looked at the map at all, and the SWRC helpers were a cheerful bunch. The course was quite testing, though, especially if you took it at a faster pace than we did.
It must have taken a heroic effort to piece together a ride of that distance, all on roads that are virtually traffic-free, and it made for a great day out.
WANT TO RIDE IT?
If you fancy flying through the beautifully quiet lanes of Surrey and Sussex next May, be it on the shorter route or the full 140km Monty, then keep an eye on the South Western Road Club website: www.swrc.org.uk.
My Ride: Local Surrey lanes, just for ?fun?