bikebritain Says April 14, 2014

..it's time for the first Sportive of 2014.....

SRS Events Burgess Hill Springtime Sportive 

Like 2013, I opened my 2014 Sportive account participating in the Burgess Hill Springtime Classic ride. Quoted at 72 miles, I rode to the start/finish point from my new home in Haywards Heath, so total mileage was closer to 84 miles come the end of the day. It would be the first opportunity to take my new bike, the Holdsworth, out for a spin and the ride itself would present a good test for me, especially since the mileage in January and February had been so poor. Unlike last year, however, the weather was forecast to be un-seasonally warm, and on the day it kept to its side of the bargain. I arrived at Oakmeeds Community College nicely warmed up and ready to ride.

It was about 8.15 by the time I arrived and the place was buzzing. Already there was a queue of cyclists snaking around the car park perimeter ready to have their timing chip registered, a precluding task before the ride. I figured about 200 cyclists were line up. Registering was a quick and painless task as was the collection of my timing chip. I joined the queue. Unfortunately I was still here 20 minutes later, inching my way to the start point. Whilst the timing chip is good, insofar as the event provides both split times and a print out of your overall time at the end of the ride, I am not sure it validates the long time waiting to start. The wiggle method of mass timing seemed more efficient. By the time I re-joined Station Road, I had cooled off completely.

The start and the finish where around roads I am becoming more and more familiar with. We headed east out of Burgess Hill, through Ditchling Common and then North East in the general direction of Ashdown Forest. I made no attempt to stick with the group of riders I started out with. They had obviously been on a much stricter winter riding regime than I had and they were quickly putting distance between me whilst catching up with the riders ahead. As per usual I was in the hinterland, cycling on my own, despite 700 cyclists allegedly using the same route. I continued at my own pace, settling into life on the Holdsworth as well as enjoying the welcome sunshine. For once I was perfectly attired, shorts with a couple of layers on ‘up top’.  16 miles in, I was descending through Matthews Forest and recalled this road from last time, because it gets intersected with little warning. This road was Twyford Lane. Moments later the road dropped again and turned right where a ford awaited. Braking hard and trying to avoid the debris in the middle of the road I took the obstruction quite wide. By the time I realised there was a trench in the middle of it, it was too late. I semi-wheelied over it, only to thump the rear wheel hard into the side wall. It immediately punctured. Great. First proper ride and I manage to pick up a puncture. I set to work. Not 5 minutes later another 2 riders experienced exactly the same as me. We were all stood at the side of the road, fixing our respective wheels, shouting at others as they rode by to avoid the hazard. This added the best part of 15 minutes to my time, especially as the pump I had brought with me turned out to be utterly useless. To say I had a saggy rear wheel would be an understatement.

This interlude put me right off my rhythm. I was now mindful of my rear wheel and irritated that either I or my new bike could have come off worse. I continued on, and at the 20 mile mark I found myself at the foot of the first noted climb, Kidd’s Hill, aka The Wall.  Although it wasn’t until a few years ago I climbed this hill for the first time, I have since ridden up it quite a few times. It’s more of a slow grind than a genuine slog, so it was a case of sitting back and keeping my tempo going. Too early for anything heroic at this point. I rode steadily to the top and was predictably out of breathe and just tinkered along thereafter. The next climb to look out for was the renamed ‘Coll de Groombridge’. Sure this is steep to start with but get past that and it’s ok. The terrain in general as we rode past Royal Tunbridge Wells on the way to Fordcombe and Bough Beech was all very undulating. It was a case a keeping the pedals spinning up the hills and enjoying the descents. These were ‘familiar unfamiliar’ roads if you know what I mean; I’d ridden on them before but were not part of my usual cycling repertoire.

Hever Feed Station, positioned at the 40 mile mark provided me with an opportunity to (a) eat a couple of warm sausage rolls and (b) (unbelievably more importantly) put air into my back wheel. Even the mechanic commented it was bit soft. I doubt whether there was anything more than 40 psi in it. It felt considerably better when I saddled up again. By now the legs and lower back were aching. The last ‘half’ would most likely be gutty. And I had Cob Lane to come.

At this point, all roads seemed to lead to Cowden and Hartfield. However they were merely warm ups for what was to come. This ride had a couple of nasty stings in its tail, because after Cob Lane came the hills around Ardingly reservoir. I deliberately hadn’t bought my Garmin because I didn’t want to spend my ride assessing where I was on the route. However as the legs got more tired I became alittle ragged and wished I had brought it. I got chatting to a chap who recognised the Holdsworth off twitter - @southernbikeboxhire – but he was like a whippet up the hills and he dropped me, nicely, shortly afterwards.

And so to Cob Lane.

Last year I made a brief film about climbing Cob Lane which can be found here - http://www.bikebritain.org/video.php?id=83

It is a hill that is worthy of a climb just by itself, let alone as part of a longer ride. Approaching Cob Lane was close to dangerous. Riding out of West Hoathly the lane began in good shape. However as the lane pitched hard to the right and steeply downhill, the volume of detritus on the road became significant – as did the pot holes. Unlike me, I slowed right down. The road was also wet in places as the surface water was still pouring off the saturated land. Towards the bottom the road bent hard left. There was a few seconds respite before the climb kicked in immediately. Unfortunately I met a car coming up and lost any momentum I might have carried down the hill. I was almost instantly out of the saddle, in the largest ring. There was little point pretending otherwise. I could see a couple of riders who had given up to gravity and were walking up. I was determined not to be one of them. It would, however, be hard. I ground out each peddle stroke, gaining ground on the summit. A band of older walkers shouted ‘encouragement’ at us as we rode up. I didn’t even bother to reply. There was a photographer perched at the final bend. Cob Lane was hurting now. “Not far to go now” she called out. I just briefly nodded my head. I knew the finish was round the corner – it just took a while to get there. Climbing these hills on the Holdsworth was tough going. Oregon rethink?

This though, was not the end of the hills. A right then left quickly afterwards resulted in lovely descent past Ardingly reservoir. But I wasn’t fooled. Another testing hill lay in wait. This was really nasty. Not as sharp as Cob lane, but it was the last thing my tired legs wanted to see. This was simply a case of grind the hill out. I was out of the saddle, blowing, gritting my teeth – a real picture. Luckily there were no photographers around. Eventually it ended.

The final hill of note was found towards the bottom of Deaks Lane which joins the Staplefield to Ansty. Most of this road was downhill but it too had a nasty short, sharp climb towards the end. The legs groaned as they heaved me over this one final hill. At last – that was it. The run down to Burgess Hill was bone crunching. I made a note to file that I would never ride on the B2036 again. The surface is awful. Every joint in the road ripped through the frame and my weary bones. It was not enjoyable. Eventually, Burgess Hill, and the end was in sight. I was very happy to hand in my chip timer, and, brandishing my split times, I got straight on the bike and headed home, back towards Haywards Heath.

The bikebritain scores for the SRS Events ride are below. It will be interesting to compare them to the wiggle New Forest event being held on the weekend of the 12th/13th April since I shall be riding both the 84 and 62 mile routes on Saturday and Sunday respectively. For now though, this is how I think the event stacked up:-

Category

SRS Events Burgess Hill Springtime Sportive

Website info

8

Event venue (Car Parking, Toilets)

9

Sign in process

9

Event road signage (Directions and Warnings)

5

Route quality (Difficulty, Interest, Choices)

8

Food quality at rest

9

Ride Support (Mechanic Availability, Sag Waggon, Outriders)

8

Event product Testing

0[i]

Freebies

8[ii]

Timing Post Event (accuracy)

10

Participant Friendliness

9

Ride-It-Again-Ability

7

Overall Value for Money

7

Total

74.6%

Putting the option of event product testing to one side, where this sportive scored poorly was signage, particularly road warnings. The multiple experiences at/in the ford that runs across Twyford Lane, the descent into Cob Lane and the quality of the road at Deaks Lane near Haywards Heath all spring immediately to mind. These roads required extreme caution to safely ride along and with the amount of detritus left by the winter, I think an alternative route might have been more prudent.

Overall, I did not enjoy this event as much as I have done in the past. Perhaps that’s because my preparation had not been as good as years gone by. The timing of the sportive is good as it provides a stiff test early on in the year. However the route and the road quality will make me consider whether it’s an experience I wish to repeat.   

Words, Thumbnail and Slider Image – bikebritain ltd


[i] Although you could purchase basic consumable items from a mobile shop that had erected, I didn’t notice any opportunity to test products per the wiggle rides.

[ii] A Continental Inner tube was provided which was helpful since I used it 16 miles into the ride! I did not notice whether any goodie bags were provided at the end, but a spare inner is always going to be useful.

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