Evans Cycles King of the Downs
Images courtesy Phil O’Connor Sportive Photo Limited
Ben Hardisty writes…[with edit from Mike]
05:00 Alarm goes off, I roll over and snooze, a moment later I check the time again, oops its 5:25. Force down some porridge, rub some sun cream on, fill pockets with essentials.
06:10 Finally after the usual faffing about I’m on my way, its quite cool, but a lovely quiet sunny 9 mile ride from Lingfield to HQ at Crawley.
06:45 Signed on and ready for the agreed 7am start. Meet Mike, Stef and Austen, but Luke is in the now very long queue to sign on. Looking around there is some very expensive gear on show (a TT bike ?) and some unusual clothing combinations. White leggings anyone ?
07:30 Queued up for the start gate and Alex joins us, we’re off 5 minutes later under warming skies. Although all day it never gets too warm.
07:45 A brisk first few miles as we build up a head of steam behind someone in a hurry.
08:00 We move away from the flat stuff as it starts rolling around Newdigate and I start puffing. We cross the A24 at Beare Green and bump into the Old Ports 25 on the G25/45 course, a perfect morning for it I think.
08:10 Climb 1, 12 miles: We are on Leith Hill, on each corner on this climb I see riders way above me in the distance, this goes on forever ! What an awesome climb with stunning views of the Surrey Hills. Finally relief as we drop down again. [Mike] A Google Maps Streetview reccy of this hill didn’t show quite how steep this was and I’m soon in bottom gear. Cheeky!
08:40 Climb 2, 18 miles: Pitch Hill emerging into Winterfold forest, really gorgeous countryside now.
09:05 First Feed station at Albury Heath – eat one of everything, stuff pocket with jelly babies, refill drinks. Just about to set off but Luke has a flat.
09:35 Climb 3, 26 miles: Pass through beautiful village of Shere and now on the Coombe Bottom climb. I am dropped again.
09:50 Climb 4, 29 miles: Very quickly on to next climb up to Ranmore Common, energy sapping.
10:10 Pass by Alex and Luke who both appear to have mechanicals/punctures. Meet up with Mike, Stef and Austen who are waiting.
10:15 Climb 5, 36 miles: Stef and I go ahead and cycle up Box Hill, nice and easy tempo. Great views from the top. From here its a descent and flattish back to halfway feed station near HQ. [Mike] Very comfortable ride up Box Hill along with what seemed like a million other cyclists. Blast down Betchworth hill and on to the A25. At the bottom Alex, Luke and I discover Austin has gone AWOL. Wait around for a while and I then decide to try and catch up with Ben & Stef. Back at the HQ I discover Austin has already met up with them at the feed stop down the road. Meet up again and learn Austin had dropped his gas canister on the Betchworth descent.
11:25 Feed Station number 2 where we meet Austen and Mike. Again Stef and I leave this time with Mike while Austen waits for Luke and Alex. [Mike] Decided to ride with Ben & Stef and take things easier. The Tulleys and Legsheath climbs go OK.
12:00 Climb 6, 59 miles: Up the draggy side of Turners Hill past Tulleys Farm before bombing down underneath the Bluebell railway. Up again past Saint Hill and Deers Leap.
12:25 Climb 7, 66 miles: Legsheath Lane, no hill climb records being broken today as we make our way up into the Ashdown Forest.
12:45 Climb 8, 72 miles: Straight over Wych Cross and then up Kidds Hill. Some folk are walking near the top and there are many more miles and a couple of difficult climbs still to do. [Mike] Knowing the Wall it’s completed comfortably enough but certainly not at record pace.
14:15 Climb 9, 91 miles: Several lumpy bits before we arrive at Yorks Hill, home of the famous Catford CC Hill Climb, the steepest ascent of the day. Just for good measure Stef breaks a spoke on the way up. This climb gets steeper as you get closer to the top, more walkers, but we all make it up. Third feed station at the top, spoke removed by mechanic. [Mike] After Chiddingstone I’m in unknown hill territory but Ben says Yorks Hill is OK. Stopping to help Stef with his broken spoke I then discover on my first ever ride up Yorks Hill that it is basically a tarmac’ed cliff! Came very close to doing the walk of shame but manage to get to the top.
15:10 Climb 10, 100 miles: Onto Pilgrims Way and then White Lane, home of the Bec CC Hill Climb, another tester. Across the top and then descend towards Godstone. [Mike] Another Tester? That’s putting it mildly! Again I’m a virgin up this beast and my fellow photographer Paul Wright wasn’t a welcome sight at the top. I may have questioned his parentage at this point.
15:30 Climb 11, 106 miles: This little brute is Tilburstow Hill from the North but is thankfully short. From here we TT the 10 miles back to HQ. [Mike] Last time I rode up here was a winter club run with Steve D and Gary W, both known for their pie dodging and hill climbing prowess. Fortunately Luke’s taken it easy up here.
Ben & Stef get a second wind on the way through Horne and we crank it up in the closing miles. I shout there’s a Strava KOM up over the railway by the Greyhound pub and promptly watch Ben hoon it over the crest. Sand bagger or what!
[Ben] Yep !
16:10 Finish, 116 miles, 8,700ft climbing. Great weather and a testing but very picturesque route.
[Mike] Part company with the guys after a successful day out. Take full advantage of the tail wind home to sneak a little detour in via Balcombe and a couple of extra hills for the final bit of masochism.
What with riding to and from Crawley, I clock up 148 miles for the day, the most I’ve ever done in one day.
Strava track – http://app.strava.com/activities/57753887
The main climbs in order: Leith Hill – Pitch Hill – Coombe bottom – Ranmore Common – Box Hill – Turners Hill – Legsheath Lane – Kidds Hill – Yorks Hill – White Lane – Tilburstow Hill