It seems to be the fashion among CW staffers to say they were unfit and unprepared, a woefully transparent excuse for poor performance, but I’m afraid I am going to follow suit.
Fully aware of my own lack of fitness I had sensibly entered the 30-mile event only to decide on the morning that the only way to get fit is to get on with it. The sun was finally shining and I figured there was no better way to kick off my fitness drive than battering myself around the hills of Surrey for the full 81 miles of the Epic Route. I did have some assistance though, Stu Bowers agreed to ride with me, but I made it very clear that my intentions were to be a sit-on-wheel sucker, however I did promise him the sprint in return.
Starting from The Road Cycling Show venue at Sandown Park Esher I expected the opening miles to be fairly busy with traffic, but was pleasantly surprised to find we were hitting the country lanes within a few miles. Esher is placed on the edge of the North Downs so the 81-mile Epic route climbed over them once on the outward leg south toward the furthest point at Wisborough Green and then turning homeward went back over them once you had more than 60 miles in your legs. I think brutal would have been a more fair title than Epic.
Box Hill has become such a mecca for Surrey cyclists that many of the better climbs are over looked. By better I mean longer, harder and steeper. Leith Hill was a particularly unpleasant experience beginning as it did after the final feed, both long and in places steep, it takes you to the top of the highest hill in Surrey. I would argue the last 20 miles were the hardest of the route. The horrors of White Down and its 25 per cent hairpin were compounded by a short sharp hailstorm and despite the weather brightening up, the short yet steep ascent of Ranmore meant I had a slight sense of humour malfunction. I don’t think I was the only one as many of the riders who had entered the “fun” route were huffing and puffing and pushing their bikes. It may have been shorter, but it certainly wasn’t easier.
The last few miles were thankfully both fast and relatively traffic-free as my lack of fitness was beginning to bite. I detected the ominous flicker of cramp and onset of hunger knock so it became a case of counting down the miles in the hope I could stave off blowing up until I had crossed the finish line. We finished in a time of 4.45 that was significantly better than I had expected, but I did pay the price of under preparation. It was a few days before the fatigue lifted, but I still maintain the battering did me good. Not that you will see that advice on the fitness pages.
Number of participants: 915
Women: 20per cent vs Men: 80per cent
Distances: Epic 81mile (Difficulty 4.5/5)
Standard 66mile (Dificulty 4/5)
Fun 35.5mile (Difficulty 3/5)
Website: Uk Cycling Events
Terrain: Road/rolling hills
Best Aspect: Well organised.
Worst Aspect: The fun ride was hard!