Essentials

Distances:       133 km / 111 km / 60 km
Participants:    390 (Entries available on the day)
Start:               Duncton Pavilion,
Cost:                £17 / £15 / £14
Transport:        Parking on-site
Pulborough Station 10km
Feedstops:      2 / 2 / 1
Timed:             Yes (Quick release attached tag system)
Signs:              Black Arrows on an Orange background for direction, Black Arrows on a Yellow background for information
Road:              A little on the rough side and for some reason loads of loose gravel in these parts even on the older sections of road
My Ride:         http://bit.ly/m3g7Mu

Summary

A really nice ride through some of the prettiest parts of the South Downs, taking in some good climbs without being a constant assault on the legs. The organisation was slick with timing available immediately. It was a shame that some signs were removed on the route, a problem beyond the organiser’s control.

The ride

The event was based at Duncton Pavilion, the village cricket club, around a 10km pedal from Pulborough station which I did with quite a crowd all heading out of London for the day.

At registration we were issued with numbers for the handlebars, helmet and seat post and a timing tag that attached to the quick release skewer. After setting these up I went straight to the line for a pre-ride briefing before we were released in small groups.

The ride began on lanes through hedge lined open fields typical of this area of the South Downs.  We were all wishing the hedges were a little higher as although it was an otherwise beautiful day the wind was really strong, making a lot of the riding hard work especially when riding solo as I was today.

The whole opening section followed the course of the Downs just keeping them over to the left of view and a number of times turning towards them only to veer away, so the threat of a climb was constantly hanging over your head. We entered a more tree lined section and there appeared to be a bird hide  set on stilts to the side of the road, I didn’t have long to work out what it was as we quickly dropped down a short descent through a tunnel of trees. Perhaps in homage to the Giro at around 25km we joined our own Strade Bianche, a real dusty track which took a lot of concentration to keep from coming off.

It wasn’t until East Meon where the hills really began, starting with a long climb  up a ridge along the side of the downs gradually picking up height with a fantastic view from the top and also the site of the first feed stop. Although not that heavily stocked there were the essential water, SiS, fruit and cakes. More spectacular views followed after the feed followed by a rapid descent and in the bottom there was a little respite from the wind.

At around 70km the signs seemed to peter out, it seems some must have been removed because on a long stretch of road a number of confused looking riders were coming back the other way. I decided to carry on but on meeting a major junction it was clear we were probably completely off the route. I stopped and talked to a guy with a GPS unit and we were soon a group of around twenty riders in the same situation. Fortunately two riders, one of them local to the course, passed through and he thought he knew where we could pick the route up again. I had to push quite hard up hill to catch up with them and follow on their wheel.

I ended up joining them for quite a long stretch even after we re-joined the route and we took turns pushing a train at a pretty high pace. It was still blowing a gale and it was always a bit ominous taking the front as to whether I was just going to fall apart after twenty yards but I managed to keep it together until we reached the next serious climb near Singleton. I was beginning to tire and couldn’t hold their wheel so let them get on.

The climb felt long but awarded great views of the downs from the top and a sharp descent. Another hill quickly followed with the final feed stop at the top. I was a little disappointed to be told we had another 20 miles as because of the diversion my clock was reading we should have been only 13km from home

A sharp descent and another climb followed then a drop down through some very pretty villages. Although off the downs the closing section of the ride was still quite heavy, undulating constantly and took in a section of freshly gritted road which was very hard going on tired legs, making sure I was thoroughly exhausted by the time I crossed the line.

Back at the ride headquarters the results were available immediately which was a really good feature. I filled up on some of the food available at a reasonable price and made my way back home.

Kit

Jamis Xenith Pro with Continental GrandPrix 4 seasons tyres

Topeak Aero Wedge pack, Topeak TriBag, Camelbak Podium waterbottles

Blackburn Air Stick III pump, Cateye Strada double wireless, Topeak Mini18+, Bontrager Air Rush regulator

Specialized BG Comp Road shoes, Cyclosport Endura shorts and jersey, Gore Bike Wear Oxygen Gore-tex shell, Specialized Propero helmet, Gore bike wear Power mitts