Let's ride wiggle's 'The Long One'
This ride came out of the blue, so to speak. Frank emailed me a week or so before it was due to be held, said he was doing it and whether I'd fancy coming along. I did and I had a spare Saturday. I was in! Joined by Matt on the 'Standard' distance, the 'Epic' ride - 200 km - would have to wait another day. By the time we rolled into the car park, early on Saturday morning at Fontwell racecourse, it was clear this was going to be a popular event. The sun was shining, (unusual for June) and it looked like about 1000 cyclists were present. Indeed, some had already begun their saddle time, being released in blocks of 20 or so onto the roads of West Sussex.
Having passed the early morning alphabet rcognition test at the sign in, we faffed around for a while and mainly laughed at Matt's preparations, taunting him with the threat of the 'Big Hills' ahead. This would be the furthest he had ridden. More importantly, I was already one suausage roll up. We clipped and clopped our way to the start line, were instructed on how to interpret basic road signs and then wobbled our way off. Our line of 20 of so riders quickly strung out and we found ourselves near the back. Having ridden a couple of 'wiggle' rides before, I've come to expect good signage. 'The Long One' was no exception. We soon found ourselves underneath the A27, heading inland and away from the traffic.
The route was almost entirely on country roads which made for a pleasant ride. After about 30 minutes we looped round and started on one of the first 'proper climbs' round the back of the racecourse. The hill was steep, but steady and I found a decent rhythm. I am nothing special when it comes to hill climbing, but I am suprised how quickly fellow cyclists drop off the pace when it comes to just a little gradient. I'd broken away from Matt and Frank and decided I'd just have a go at the hill before me. I was feeling ok, but it was early days. I was in the saddle, pumping my legs. The view was getting better and better; it was a glorious morning. Reaching the top we turned right and headed north. I coasted along, enjoyed the lengthy descent in a tuck and waited for the guys to catch me.
We continued, drifting between other groups of cyclists. There was hardly any traffic on the road. We got caught in a (non) pace line where it seemed the objective was to go as slow as possible in a line. Frank and I dealt with that and accelerated up the next appropriate gradient. Glancing round, we were on our own......and we'd lost Matt. We eased up and sure enough Matt caught us up, just prior to the first food stop. The lure of jaffa cakes and jelly beans was simply irresistible. We all ate far too much, and after being generally abusive to each other about each other’s cycling incompetence we rode on, feeling slightly bilious. Luckily, that is 'luckily', what turned out to be the toughest climb was literally round the corner. On reflection, I think I have actually ridden up this hill before. It went on for some time and continued to gain in gradient. By the end, I was on the verge of getting out of the saddle. Regardless, I was breathing hard and my glasses were steaming up. I had been working.
We were winding our way through the back roads of Hampshire and heading towards the farthest point, Petersfield and the A3. We were cruising, chatting and laughing, mostly at ourselves. We were enjoying the descents and making steady progress up the hills. Despite living in the vicinity, I had never seen some of these picture postcard villages. Thatched cottages and small village shops looked archetypically English. At about the 70km we stopped at the second food stop. Some obligatory video and Matt-baiting ensued, but we were soon riding again. We found yet another hill round the corner. Legs groaned a little but we all soon found our pace. Up until this point we had been riding with other cyclists but the field had thinned out by now, (other than the guy in Castelli gear that kept over taking us). I figured that the final feed station would be quite close by, located more for the benefit of those riding the epic route than the rest of us. We were continued as a three with Matt periodically dropping off as his legs phased in and out. It had been quite windy when we had been getting ready at Fontwell, but cycling inland, the breeze had dropped off considerably.
We made a brief stop at the final station, but I had had enough Jaffa cakes and flapjack for one day. Matt and Frank fuelled up and we were off with about 32 km left to go. Matt's yo-yoing was beginning to take it's toll and he was finding it tough to sustain the pace. That said, it had been a good effort so far. We rode around the outskitts of Chichester and started the climb on the Downs side of Goodwood. It proved to be more of a challenge than I'd expected. It just seemed endless. It was probably only around 3-4% but the gradient was continuous and the legs were feeling a little heavy. No great surprise.
The end of the ride caught me by surprise, despite the distance (according to my Garmin) being absolutely spot on. I knew we were retracing our initial steps on the return leg, but all of a sudden we were at the road running parallel to the racecourse. Hanging around at the junction cost us a wiggle 'Silver' time classification. It was, after all, a timed cycle ride and not a race. Collecting our goodie bag (complete with a May edition of Cycling Plus) and obligatory Super Series medal we hung about wondering how long Matt would take to finish. The answer was not long. Given that he had ridden 130 km, he looked in reasonable shape. It's not going to take him long to get as proficient as we are........but that might not be saying that much!
'The Long One' was one my favourite Sportive rides to date. We enjoyed perfect cycling conditions, complimenting a challenging blend of hills and mileage. The food stops were very well stocked and there was a strong marshalling/safety presence on potentially dangerous junctions. Very well coordinated, UKcyclingevents have gotten sportive organisation down to a tee. The facilities at Fontwell were good with opportunities to hire a Garmin, wash your bike and buy any consumables required or forgotten. I also noticed that you could buy inners at the food stops which I thought was a good idea. For sure I would ride this route again - and perhaps attempt the Epic route. My riding in Mallorca a month ago had stood me in good stead to the point where I was certain I had at least 100 miles in the tank. Might be time to squeeze another wiggle ride later in the month........
Start/Finish Fontwell Park Racecourse
Standard course - 130 km
1641 meters ascent,
Average speed 25.32 km
Fastest speed 82.76 km
Total ride time - 5:09:19
Words, Thumbnail and Slider Image - bikebritain ltd