bikebritain News November 22, 2011

wiggle Super Series Event: The Devils Punchbowl

It was already November and it occurred to me that other than the ride in Oregon, I had not participated in any organised cycle events. Clearly an unacceptable situation, I decided I would participate in one of the wiggle Super Series rides organised by ukcyclingevents.co.uk. It was, in fact, the penultimate one of the year, named 'The Devils Punchbowl'. Unfortunately due to work commitments' this fell on the day after I returned from America. Based on the flight and time difference alone, my performance expectations, frankly, were low. I was not even sure I would attend.

I had, however, roped Swazy into the ride so I had some reserve motivation to drag myself out of bed that Sunday morning. For once I was ready when he arrived to collect me. The event had a start/finish in Liphook, 40 miles from home. Although not far away, neither of us were familiar with the territory....perhaps something to aim for next year. An hour later we were re-assembling our bikes in the brisk November air. Although cloudy, it looked like we would be safe from rain. 

Predictably, we had signed up to ride the Epic route; 76 miles. It later transpired the 'Punchbowl' is the nickname given the general undulations found on the West Sussex and East Hampshire border. We set off just after 08.30 in a group of about a dozen and we were soon weaving our way through the back-roads. This was the first really proper ride had taken the Specialized plus Zipp’s on so I was quite excited. The bike was handling beautifully and other than a little road debris conditions were favourable. The first stage went quickly and before long we were at the first food stop. 

We had already decided we would take food and water on board and get going quicker than usual (and let’s face it that would not be difficult). Besides, it was about time we managed a wiggle defined 'Silver' finish! Refuelled and ready to ride, we headed off again. The undulations of the first section had warmed us up nicely and I was feeling surprisingly good. Legs were a little jaded but nothing unexpected. Besides there was blue sky ahead and we were having a laugh or two. A perfect Sunday jaunt. 

Actually we blitzed the second section. This part of course was fairly flat and we maintained a decent pace through the foothills of West Sussex. There were not many cyclists who had overtaken us and the bikes were performing well. The Zipp's continued to enthral me, the speed pick up making every descent an exciting (and potentially dangerous) one. I recall one tight right handed that really didn't seem that tight until you got there...squeaky bottom time. We cycled on. The Standard/Epic route split was close by.

We paid for our exuberance on the final leg. We entered the final section through 50 miles and I thought to myself then maybe we should call it a day here. Quit whilst we were ahead. Needless to say we carried on. Shortly afterwards we had another brief pit stop, the only notably and marginally humorous note being one chap who rode up the feed station, failed to unclip, and consequently toppled over. I mean, we've all done it, it's a rite-of-passage for roadies, just maybe not in front of 20 sniggering strangers. (For the record my first public 'unclipping' failure occurred in Mallorca, though I was fortunate only to do it in front of Malcolm. I did, nevertheless, end up in a ditch at the side of the road. Sub-optimal.)

We continued. The last section was as pretty as the previous legs but by now I was happy to be heading in the general direction of home. We had approached Liphook up a fairly steep and protracted hill and I was keeping my fingers crossed that it was not waiting in the wings for us. Thankfully, it was not. There was still a reasonable climb and by now the limbs had had enough. It could have been much tougher and that's what I told myself as I toiled my way to the top and our final resting place. By now I was a little ahead of Frank, but not by much and I hung around the finish taking some video for the latest 'handmade' film. I had performed above expectations, and I'm attributing that down to being excited about being back on the bike after a crazy week at work. 

The ride was signed as well as any other wiggle ride and having committed myself some weeks before I also received a High 5 race pack as well as a couple copies of Cycling Active. For £22, pretty good value. I intend to participate in an 'Evans' 'Ride-It' event later this month and it will be interesting to see how it compares to the wiggle branded rides.

For the bikebritain film of the Punchbowl ride, click here: - http://www.bikebritain.org/video.php?id=67

Final Time - 4.44.36, 70 miles - a 'Silver' standard finish.

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