Distances: 150 km / 100 km
Participants: 120 / 140 (Entries available on the day)
Start: National Trust Gateway Centre, Dunstable Downs, LU6 2GY
Cost: £25 (£30 on the day)
Transport: Parking on site (£1.50)Luton and Leagrave Stations within 10km
Feedstops: 2 / 1
Timed: Yes (Knecklace dibber system)
Signs: Clear Yellow arrows on a black background. Clear warnings for major hazards.
Road: A lot of poor road surfaces with potholes, loose gravel and mud.
My Ride: http://www.strava.com/rides/cyclefit-tour-of-768569
The scenery of this ride was immaculate, criss-crossing many of the quieter roads in the Chilterns area. Though not a ride of long endurance climbs it was none the less a real challenge as the profile was a buzz-saw of constant smaller ups and downs with some steep kicks thrown in the mix, including the well known Whiteleaf. The gourmet feed-stops provided by Look Mum No Hands! had a fantastic food and drink selection, a great idea for Sportives and a solid contender for feeds of the year for me. A few of the smaller road choices on the route were dubious however, thinning to little more than farm tracks with very poor surfacing which took away from the quality of an otherwise very enjoyable ride.
The scenery for the Fathers Day tour of the Chilterns was breath-taking from the off as the headquarters venue was the Dunstable Downs National Trust Gateway Centre positioned on a ridge with amazing views for miles over the plains below. It looked immaculate on a clear but blustery day.
Registration was set up within the centre building which if you had pre-applied involved signing your name and collecting the timing tag. The start times of any time before 10am was unusually relaxed and a real boon for someone like me who has to reach these remote venues by train.
The added advantage of a start venue with such great views is the opening section of the ride was a fast downhill. For the first 7km I barely pushed the pedals, I should have made the most of this as it certainly wasn’t a sign of things to come and at Little Gaddesden the ride turned upwards for the first time and then didn’t really let up for the remainder. Another climb through Berkhamsted, then following a loop round to Hawridge through to the brilliantly titled Dancers End where we climbed up through some picturesque woodland.
Dunsmore Hill (0.8km, 7.6%) was a cheeky little kick that put me out of the saddle, closely followed by another even steeper assault which I only realised after reaching the top was Whiteleaf (0.9km, 10%) a climb I’d heard mentioned many times before and didn’t disappoint.
Near Loosley Row we were directed off the route to meet the first feed stop. The feeds had been catered for by the crew of Look Mum No Hands!, a great East London cycle café, and what a fantastic selection they had put on. A wide range of gourmet sandwiches, fresh espresso coffee, homemade flapjack and my personal favourite the fresh fruit smoothies. This was alongside the usual gels, water and sports drink. The only drawback being it was so tempting to linger and tuck in to the food when I should have been riding. Looking at my clocked time I spent more time standing still on this ride than any I’ve done this year, but it certainly felt like time well spent.
The feed also marked the route split and back on the road, I started the additional loop to make the 150km. Having started quite late this section seemed quite bereft of riders and I was a little concerned I’d gone off the wrong way but turned out I was OK.
At Kingston Blount we met the longest climb of the day, Kingston Hill (2.3km, 5.5%) before turning back east. Some of the roads here got a little too “rural” in my opinion and unfortunately this was the case on a few sections of the ride. Some of the lanes were really unsuitable for road bikes, rutted to the point of having turf down the centre in some instances. I’m all for a challenge but this shouldn’t be one you have to face in a Sportive and made some of the ride feel quite scrappy rather than having a smooth flow to it. I was pretty lucky but I also saw an inordinate amount of puncture repairs going on along the way.
The climb up Smalldean Lane (1.9km, 4.1%) put us back at the previous feed for another face full of top notch scran before pushing on to the remaining route. Back on the 100km there were a few more riders to spur me on as the great views continued.
The ride gave no let-up to the very last as we climbed Bison Hill (1km, 8.2%) quickly followed by Whipsnade Hill (1.6km, 3%) where I was passed by two riders still looking disturbingly fresh and we were delivered back to the ride start.
Jamis Xenith Pro with Continental GrandPrix 4 seasons tyres
Garmin Edge 500
Topeak Aero Wedge pack, Topeak TriBag, Camelbak Podium waterbottles
Blackburn Air Stick III pump, 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