Hell of the Ashdown
Ben Hardisty writes…
Back in late November I received my reminder email from Catford CC about this ride, and in a mad moment, while feeling fat & unfit, I applied for the event. As always its much easier to feel positive when applying for these tough events well in advance !
I had ridden this event 2 or 3 years ago in the snow and really suffered, so I knew what I was letting myself in for. The event organisers had since moved the event date to 4 weeks later to avoid any weather disruption, a fact totally lost on me when applying. It meant I couldn’t ride the club open event on the same day as I had shelled out some cash to ride the HOTA.
Anyway the morning duly arrived, with me having nervously checked the weather forecast umpteen dozen times. In the end I was rewarded with a very bright but cool morning, in fact as it turned out a very small window of fine weather, with rain arriving an hour or so after I completed my ride.
This event is a good test, not a long ride, but a series of different hills along the route asks your legs some serious questions.
After leaving the Biggin Hill HQ, first up it was Cudham test hill, a short sharp shock of a hill, allegedly 1 in 4, more like 1 in 5 I would say, but a painful little climb. After descending Hogtrough Hill and crossing the A25 at Brasted, it was up the gentle side of Toys Hill, a long drag of a couple of miles, a sapping climb. Then down through the rolling countryside of Four Elms, Hever, Marsh Green, then up through Dormansland, and down again past Basings Farm towards Cowden before turning right up to the A264 for one of my favourite back roads, Butcherfield Lane.
Through Hartfield and onto the Kidds Hill climb where having pushed hard in the first hour, I started to suffer a fair bit. The advantage of the compact chain set was now coming into play. A quick roll over a timing mat in the carpark at Gills Lap and then joining the Ashdown Hilly TT course down to Groombridge. My legs were grateful for this long descent.
At the bottom it was up again to the A264 and crossing almost immediately to Fordcombe and on towards Chiddingstone. From there it was on to Bayleys hill via a route I hadn’t been on before going past several working farms. The previous days rain made this a dirty wet affair not helped by a plethora of pot holes. Another energy sapping climb up Bayleys Hill before turning left to go across the top along the ‘rolling’ road to Ide Hill Village for the next timing mat and food stop. A quick banana and slurp of energy drink, by now not tasting so good, and it was on again down the other side to Sundridge, across the A25 and on to Star Hill.
I was really expecting to toil up this final climb, but amazingly my legs still had something in them and I gratefully made the top without any real difficulty before tackling the 10 miles or so to the finish. Now was the time to put everything into the final stretch and I did my best not to leave anything ‘out on the road’. There was one minor blemish where a missing sign had me and a lot of other riders going back down Hogtrough Hill – aargh – but all good for the soul !
A very well organised event, great marshalling. I only have one complaint …lets have some real food at the feed stations.