The SWRC Early Spring sportive is currently in its fourth running, after being re-branded from a reliability trial.
The challenging 100km route provides hardened racers the opportunity to stretch their legs in the early part of the season, whilst not proving an insurmountable distance for less experienced riders.
Starting in Fethcam, near Leatherhead in Surrey, the route heads straight into the picturesque, and indeed challenging, Surrey Hills. A lot of thought has gone into the planning of the route, as throughout the entire ride there is very little contact with the main roads.
With heavy rain forecast for the day, the riders were allowed to set off 45 minutes ahead of schedule; fortunately, the sportive gods were smiling on the south of England with the riders graced with blue skies, sunshine and fairly warm conditions.
Many of the riders looked to Leith Hill and Coombe Bottom as the key climbs of the day, but it was the 17% Bedham climb shortly after the checkpoint at Wisborough Green proved to be the most challenging. A narrow road, strewn with gravel, the ascent continued up through the trees for what seemed like an eternity, with groups of riders that were tackling the climb together, split to pieces.
Providing at least some solace to tired legs were the breathtaking vistas afforded by the highpoints along the route. After tackling the infamously difficult Coombe Bottom, the riders were rewarded with a long, fast, sweeping descent back into the finish at Fetcham.
On such a fine day, it was somewhat surprising that 90 people failed to turn up, although the organisers are planning to increase the size of the field from 400 thanks to burgeoning demand for early-season sportives.
20 riders failed to finish the ride, yet there were very few incidents to report on the day, although the two riders who spent an hour in the pub seeking a rather different kind of refreshment offered by the official checkpoint shall remain nameless.
The Organiser – Dave Pinder
“This year’s event was the fourth SWRC ‘Early Spring Sportive’ after being upgraded from a reliability trial, and in response to the ever-growing enthusiasm for this type of event. Many riders expressed their appreciation of the organisation and route marking, and said how much they enjoyed the ride, even though they found it ‘ a bit hilly’. Indeed many had ridden our previous events and said they would return again. With the interest in sportives growing each year we hope to accommodate an even larger entry next year”.
Sportive Sound Bites
“It was great, I really, really enjoyed it. It was a good route and my first proper sportive since having an operation, so I’m pleased with my time because it was only a bit slower than last year”.
“My time was almost identical to my time last year, so I was quite pleased with that particularly as I wasn’t feeling too well. My legs really cramped up on the last climb, but it was a good route and a friendly atmosphere”.
“It was well signposted and there was a good standard of riding on display. I’m reasonably happy with my ride, but it was a very challenging route so I made sure I left a bit of fuel in the tank for Coombe Bottom”.
My Cyclo-Sportive – Andrew Canning
Setting out from the start in Fetcham, with two club-mates and the sun in the sky, all was well. Keen to press on, my companions set a brisk early tempo that saw us sailing past many of the riders ahead as the route wound through Leatherhead and Abinger.
It was then that I heard a group of riders approaching from behind; the prospect of joining them was all too tempting. I immediately began to regret my decision as we charged up Leith Hill in the big ring. Mindful of the fact that there was more than 80km of the ride remaining, I let them go ahead. A swift descent followed and I could see the group in the distance again; foolishly, I put my head down and chased hard to get back on.
Knowing I would not be able to maintain that sort of pace for the entire ride, I decided I was content to sit in the wheels and stay with the group until the checkpoint at Wisborough Green. A quick glance at my computer told me I’d covered the first 40km (into a strong headwind) in little over an hour and I decided to join a more leisurely group on the return leg.
That’s when disaster struck and my legs began to burn. As soon as the road titled upwards, I found myself going backwards as the riders I had overtaken earlier in the day passed in their droves. Stopping to help another club-mate repair a puncture provided the kiss of death to my already ailing thighs as well as the attention of a local, kind-hearted Wurzell Gummage-type character in Wellington boots, who proceeded to regale us with tales of his many punctures aboard his bike that can only be described as a ‘contraption’.
I raided a near-by petrol station for some sugar-fuelled sustenance and charged towards Coombe Bottom before its effects wore off. By the top of the viciously steep climb, my legs were felt as if they were on fire; buoyed by the fact that many others had to get off and walk, I flew down the long, fast descent to the finish for some well-deserved banana cake.