A midweek Surrey Hills romp that’s just the ticket for work-shy fops
When is it? Wednesday June 22, registration opens at 11:15
Cycling Weekly difficulty rating: 6/10
Distance: 64 miles / 103km
Elevation: 5210′ / 1588m
Where is it?
The event starts from Denbies Wine Estate, near Dorking — a rural setting that’s also easy to get to. Situated on the edge of the Surrey Hills and the North Downs, this sportive takes on many of the roads that have become a two-wheeled heartland in the wake of road cycling’s popularity boom.
Why ride it?
When else do you get to knock off work early to go cycling? Enough said. In seriousness, the Work From Home sportive presents a respectable challenge despite its relatively short course distances. Its hills aren’t just a test, they’re among the best cycling roads in the country.
Only in its second year, the Work From Home sportive made a rip-roaring debut in 2015. Hundreds of workers in the South-East feigned broken boilers or child care issues in order to get out and squeeze every drop out of summer.
How to enter
Entry is simple, as with all UK Cycling Events rides.
Visit ukcyclingevents.co.uk to book your place. Entry is £35.
Casting an eye over the this sportive’s diminutive distance could see you scoffing with derision. In fact I confidently joked with my riding partner that there was no point even working from home. I figured I could work a full day and still turn up to smash this.
Oh, how very wrong I was. Don’t let the miniature sportive map of this event fool you; it’s harder than it looks. For what this curiously interesting afternoon ride lacks in challenging your endurance, it makes up for with some of the punchiest and steepest climbs around Surrey — and all in quick succession, too.
If you want to make it home before rush hour, we advise you to go hard.
Should you want to ride this event, you need to, well, work from home as the cut-off for start times is 12 noon. The thought of setting off for a sportive on a midweek afternoon could take a while to get used to, but it all adds to the charm of the day.
You’ll find that the roads around Box Hill, the Surrey countryside and the North Downs are just as quiet on a Wednesday afternoon as they are on an early Sunday morning. And as the course veers from one sharp climb to another you’ll find yourself rip-roaring around.
Box Hill’s famous Zig Zag is well positioned to be attacked early on, offering riders the chance to sharpen up their climbing legs. You might only be a few miles in but it’s worth breathing in those views and being thankful you’re not stuck at your desk.
While the other sharp climbs are severe, they’re often short and over in a flash. It’s only when you tackle one after the other in quick succession that your legs may feel a little jaded.
The stunning quiet countryside roads that link the event’s hills unquestionably make up for any ascending anguish. Whether zipping along picturesque singletrack rural roads at the foot of the North Downs, or powering through flatter sections that sit atop the risen terrain, the serenity of these unspoilt, and fast, sections of the course will override any lingering guilt you may have for skiving off an afternoon in the office.
There’s the joy of descending Coombe Lane, and watching your speed tick up on the Garmin. But do rein it in after the sharp right-hander where it begins to flatten out, as you’re about to meet with the A25. Then there’s the adrenalin-inducing descent of Pitch Hill into Ewhurst, mixed with the pain of tackling White Down Lane, which is waiting for you, of course, just before the finish line.
Stomping around much of the Surrey Hills, the route briefly flirts with West Sussex as the southernmost point just brushes the village of Rudgwick, before swinging back into the hills again for the slopes of Leith Hill Road — the highest point in Surrey.
The Work From Home sportive is a unique experience, and worth trying. It’s the perfect excuse to make the most of the June sunshine and swap your office tea and biscuits for recovery drinks and energy gels — just don’t tell the boss where you are. It’s all in a day’s work.
1 Ranmore Common Road
Heading onto the top of the North Downs via North Downs Way, which turns into Ranmore
Common Road, is tough. It can get very steep — take care not to stall on the switchback.
2 Pitch Hill
If you’re used to slogging up here you’ll enjoy a nice change of pace as you get to descend into Ewhurst on those 12 per cent slopes. It’s a mile and a half long so keep your speed under control.
3 White Down Lane
On every sportive you enter around the Box Hill area you can bet that White Down Lane will feature. If you’ve hammered around, make sure you’ve got something left for this 18 per cent slog.
Nail it: 4 Box Hill
There are no excuses for failing to set a PB on Box Hill. You’re sportive fresh, you’ve managed to blag the day off work and your boss thinks you’re taking care of business at home. Take care of business here, instead, on the familiar hill that is situated right at the start of the course.
Within minutes of rolling over the start line, you’ll come face to face with Zig Zag. Hang onto the wheel of a fellow sportive participant if you must — or power your way up to the top of the popular climb in record time. There are few better chances than this.
Denbies Wine Estate is situated just outside Dorking and is just minutes away from the M25, down the A24. It’s also easily accessible from Box Hill & Westhumble and Dorking train stations (one mile away).
Where to stay
The Mercure Box Hill Burford Bridge Hotel is situated a matter of metres away from the start line. Denbies Wine Estate offers accommodation at a fair price. In Dorking town centre there is Chart House bed and breakfast or there’s a Travelodge off the A25.
Where to eat
Pilgrim Cycles, located directly outside Box Hill & Westhumble train station, is popular with cyclists for lunch or cake and coffee. The Stepping Stones, in Westhumble village, offers rustic pub charm, as does Running Horses in Mickelham.
Local bike shop
As well as serving you coffee and cake, Pilgrim Cycles in Westhumble can take on repairs. Cycles Dauphin, at the top of Box Hill, is also recommended.