The East Sussex reliability trial was first introduced in 1985 as a test of cycling skills and fitness. It is a competition between local clubs, to see how many can complete a set 50-mile course within the time allocated. Riders can choose from 3 different completion times, 3hrs, 3.5hrs or 4hrs. In order to gain a point for your club, you must return to the starting point no earlier than 10mins before your chosen time and not a minute later.
This year EGCC entered a 4-rider team to take on the course, all looking to beat the 4hr time, with strong competition from other clubs including Oxted CC, Eastbourne Rovers and Brighton Mitre.
The team arrived at Hapstead Hall in Ardingly to sign on for our 8:45 start. We were greeted by the familiar faces of Jools Scutter and Paul Winkley, who provided us with our control cards. The control cards had two questions on, that needed to be answered with information found on route, thus proving that we had completed the full distance.
Having signed on, we headed to the start line ready to set off. Our route took us initially west, past Ardingly reservoir towards Balcombe. Heading south past Staplefield, I suffered a puncture. Working together we got it fixed in around 10mins, but this already placed a small amount of pressure on the team’s time limit.
Heading south to Hurstpierpoint, through Hassocks and Ditchling, the team easily made up for the early set back, completing 29 miles in the first 2 hours. Well on course to finish in time. We had also found the answer to the first of our control questions at the southernmost tip of the route.
Now heading north on the home stretch, we were able to ease back a little, knowing that there was some tricky climbs to overcome, before returning to Ardingly. In West Hoathly, the northmost tip of the circuit, we found the answer to the second of our control questions. Now all that stood between us, and the finish was the fearsome climb up Cob Lane.
On the descent to the bottom of the Cob Lane climb, bad luck struck again. Less than 2km from the finish line I suffered a second puncture. In the confusion caused by being surrounded by a lot a riders the message sadly did not get through to the rest of the team who waited for as long as they could at the top of Cob Lane.
Nick, Matt and Sean all made it within the 4hr time limit. Despite trying my best to get back up and running as soon as possible, it was not quite enough. I finished in a hugely frustrating 4hrs 1m, just outside the time limit.
Thankfully, to make up for some of my disappointment, the organisers had provided much appreciated drinks and home-made cakes, to replenish our energy and lift our spirits whilst discussing the ride with the other competitors.
The ESCA reliability trial took us on some of the best roads Sussex has to offer and the challenge of completing it within a time frame, brought a competitive edge, to add to the fun. It is a step up in difficulty to an average club Saturday ride, but a step that is well within the reach of most club riders. Having completed my first reliability trial, I will certainly be back for more. Hopefully with a little more luck next time.