Essentials
Distances: 12km / 48 km / 97 km / 145 km
Participants: 700 (Still available on the day)
Start: Parish Pavilion, Station Road, Chobham GU24 8AZ
Cost: £12.50 (£15 on the day)
Transport: Parking on-site
Woking station 3km
Feedstops: Long (3),  Medium (2), Short (1)
Timed: Yes (Ankle tag system)
Signs: Clear Black Arrows on Pink background, all clearly marked at necessary junctions
Road
: On the whole great road surfaces, some short rougher sections
My Ride: http://bit.ly/fXasUJ

Summary

No big climbs but short ups and fast downs made for a fantastically fun rollercoaster of a ride through the very quiet wood-lined lanes and villages of Hampshire and Surrey. A good route, weather, road surface and inclusive atmosphere conspired to make this a really enjoyable little event.

The ride

I arrived in Chobham a bit later than I’d hoped after being held up by a delayed train. It was almost worth the comedy value of participating in an urban cyclo-cross challenge – a dozen cleated riders in a 500m platform alteration dash.

The weather was nearing perfect as I arrived on site with a stiffer than average breeze but otherwise clear, bright and not too hot. The headquarters offered Evans’ selection of bike parts to buy and clothing, bikes and navigation equipment to try. My co-rider for the day Jon, had already signed me in which was simply a matter of confirming our details in exchange for an ankle mounted timing chip. Despite a high turnout in a short space of time the organizers seemed to deal with it with aplomb with a sub ten minute queue at the desk and another slightly less as we took our place at the start.

The opening section was an Eastward loop starting with a very gradual, straight as a die climb up Stonehill Road before turning back towards the M3 and running parallel until we pulled off onto a road lined with bright yellow Broom. Spring was in evidence throughout the ride with daffodils and hawthorn coming to bloom and birds singing in the tree lined lanes.

The first feed-stop offered a selection of flapjack and chocolate pieces, cakes SiS and water with mechanical support on hand, only requiring a water re-fill we were quickly back on the move.

The roadside opened up onto freshly ploughed fields near Wanborough where we started the first real climb, up over the Hog’s Back, a famous ridge in these parts which among other things gives its name to the brewery. I’d recommend their TEA ale if you ever get the chance.

Not a challenging climb but one you could see stretching up ahead which somehow makes it feel a little harder to me.

Passing under the road we reached the beautiful village of Putenham and even smaller country lanes. This was where the real fun started for me as the road dropped away and we really hit some speed. Constant ups and downs though neither of much note made for great riding as rather than settling into a steady rhythmic grind every climb broke easily before giving way to a fast coast or sprint. Bombing along through woodland with birds singing and not a car in sight doesn’t get much better. The tarmac also seemed well above average compared to some of the pock marked roads I’ve been accustomed to this winter.

Over Putenham Common, flashing past Elstead’s village green, we soon hit the second drinks station at 56km before the route spilt. I took the left turn southward for the long loop passing through a who’s who of Hampshires picturesque villages Churt, Lindford, Oakhanger -which judging by the signs clearly had an axe to grind over an anaerobic digester (no me neither)- and probably my favourite Selbourne which I vowed to go back to when not at full pelt.

A very fast decent through Blacknest saw me down on the drops backside in the air loving every second. Back at the route junction I made a second visit to the feed stop before continuing on the medium route. A more major road here, long and straight and a gradual climb but still feeling quite well I was pushing good time.

The good feeling lasted until the return to the Hog’s Back where I got a little cramp and found myself reaching for the big guns, a caffeine gel, to stop me falling back. It quickly kicked in and I was back in the ride which briefly put me on familiar ground as it merged with one of my longer commute routes, running through Ash Vale. Turning off up to Mytchett then Bisley I was nearing the home straight and although tired still found something when I had to push up hills, a new and welcomed experience that far in,

Back at base the barbeque was on and the wide array of participants from families of fun riders to full lycra suited roadies were relaxing on the grass enjoying the sunshine. I met up with Jon and we joined them for a burger, feeling deeply satisfied with the ride, the promise of summer and many more similar days to come.

Learning

Participating in a full season of Sportives is a steep learning curve for me, at each event I hope to write a little about what I’ve picked up, or more likely still need to pick up. Perhaps I’ll help someone avoid the same mistakes or at least give a good opportunity to point and laugh.

  • Nutrition. I’ve been experimenting with a few different things over the last few rides and seemed to hit on a better formula for this one. It mostly involved stuffing my face beforehand. Coming from a background of doing more running and triathlon events this feels a bit strange as there is a limit with those how much you can cram in before feeling really ill and heavy. With cycling this seems to be much less of an issue and my breakfast consisted of a massive bowl of porridge, a family sized malt loaf and four bananas. I found I needed little in the ride and also got to properly gorge myself guilt free. Win/Win.

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, 2XU compression tights, Cyclosport Endura shorts and jersey, Gore Bike Wear Phantom II jacket, Gore Bike Wear Oxygen Gore-tex shell, Specialized Propero helmet, Gore bike wear Power mitts