bikebritain News November 8, 2013

wiggle's South Downs Sportive

Truth be told, I wasn't feeling hugely motivated when the alarm went off at 06.00 a few Sundays ago. Having ridden a couple of 100 mile rides one weekend after the other, I felt nonplussed about the South Downs sportive (standard ride, 70 miles). I looked out the window and the sky looked heavy with weather. I sensed I was talking myself out of riding. Time to get up! 

I know we've all been in torrential rain, but honestly, driving down the A27 to Chichester I thought someone had just turned a facet on overhead. I could barely see ahead, slowing to a crawl. In fact we weren't driving, we were sailing! It was the type of shower you don't ever dry off from if you are cycling. You would be utterly soaked, end of story. It was the type of rain that penetrates any 'waterproofing', no matter how 'Assos'. I was even less enthusiastic now. 

The lycra clad queue to start snaked around the Chichester College. Most people looked prepared. Needless to say when I finally inched my way to the front of the 'grid', (and it took a while), and heard that the official advice was to take the short ride because of forecast bad weather, that was all the excuse I needed. The usual drill occurred, respect the laws of the road, follow the signs and tell them if you switch routes. With that, we were off.

'Grey' does not accurately describe the colour of the leaden skies that threatened above. It was in total contrast to the wiggle New Forest sportive held a few weeks before. Today, staying dry should be considered a great result. I quickly settled, riding out of Chichester and through the villages nearby. Unlike most wiggle routes, the split for the short and standard ride came up quite quickly - about 6 miles or so in. This was my final chance not to take the easy ride out; I joined the short route. From what I could see the majority of people were still attempting at least the Standard route. It had yet to start raining.

I quickly caught up with a few people I knew who were making varied progress up the first 'proper' hill on the course. After performing some on-the-road maintenance (to resolve a clicking pedal) and having a general chat about steep roads I headed off. There was plenty of tree debris on the road and I had made the right decision to switch my rear tyre for a part worn spare in preparation. Although they didn't match (!) this was more about avoiding punctures than looking pretty. It would also be the last ride of the year on the ZIPPs too.

By the time I reached the first and only rest stop on the short course, I had already covered some familiar ground. I calculated the route should take less than 3 hours so I continued on and turned right. No physical need to stop for a ride of that duration. Butser Hill was to soon follow. I remembered this hill from last time, not in detail, but enough to be cautious of it. I thought it was quite long. For the record, it's still quite long. It begins by a steady climb that goes off to the left, then sweeps right. The trees that line both sides of the road thin out and you can clearly see the rest of the hill before you. There's another right hand bend and the road then follows the profile of the hill to the summit. Someone small and light (all the things I am not) rode by me as if I was standing still but I've had plenty of practice ignoring these people - in a nice way. I continued, of course, slowly, upwards. I reached the bend and the road again got steeper. I was out of the saddle now, stretching my legs. I could see a few riders who'd given up and were pushing their bikes up the remainder of the hill. Frankly speaking I wasn't going much faster! This was obviously a good vantage point for the folks at @sportivephoto and I did my best to look competent as I rode of over the brow. That had been hard work.

The hardest part of the ride had been successfully completed. The rest of the route was made up of either the flat or downhill. The 10km marker soon went by, and to my surprise I managed to complete the course mainly in the dry. I finished in just under 2 hrs 45 minutes.

Event organisation, as ever, was excellent, with plenty of toilets available at the start/finish point which isn't always the case. Chichester College is a large venue so signing in was straight forward, although car parking spaces were at a premium.
 On reflection, I should have stuck to my original plan and ridden standard route. Ironically, despite the weather at the start of the day, the forecasted monsoon failed to materialise, and as a consequence I felt a bit cheated. I was happy enough to have completed it, but it was unfortunate that this ride (which I rode in October 2010, see, came after the New Forest event which was my 'ride of the year' (see From a course perspective, I think the South Downs sportive suffered from using either the same or similar roads as other organised cycling events I'd participated in during 2013. As a consequence, I will be more selective next year with the 'local' events I ride in. That said, it had been fun, and because of its duration it felt a little like a 'best of' ride where some of favourite ascents and descents had been brought together in a Sunday morning cycle. No more sportives are planned for this year, but I do have a December tour of Mallorca to look forward to......

bikebritain's Sportive Scoring System : South Downs Sportive




Website Information


Event Venue (Car Parking, Toilets)


Sign on Process


Event Road Signage


Route Quality (Difficulty, interest, choices)


Food Quality at Rest Stops


Ride Support (Mechanics, Sag Wagon, Outriders)


Event Product Testing




Timing post event (accuracy)


Participant Friendliness







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