bikebritain Says May 5, 2014

wiggle New Forest Sportive Days 1 & 2

So, the day before I had ridden from Haywards Heath to base camp (Rose and Crown public house, Brockenhurst). Now it was time for the real event(s).

Day One – ‘Standard’ (The Short Run) – 101 km

After a surprisingly poor nights sleep, my head filled with an assessment of the day ahead. It went something like this:-

Things in my favour.

1. There are not many stand out hills to climb in the New Forest.
2. The weather was looking great; sunshine forecast on both Saturday and Sunday.
3. The bike was in good shape (well, better than its rider). 
4. I had plenty of chamois cream with me.

Things not in my favour.

1. The 97 miles I rode the previous day.
2. I had not had enough sleep.
3. My calf in particular was hurting (sprained/pulled from running a few days before). 

I didn't feel motivated at all. I was actually scheduled for the epic route (138 km) but even without sitting on the bike, this looked doubtful. Emma had joined me for the weekend and she was equally nervous of the distance. At 138 km it would be one if the longest rides she'd ridden and this would be off the back of only about 30 miles on her new Dama Bianchi. It was looking like the shorter (standard) route would be a better bet for both of us today. 

Unfortunately the van was having some mechanical challenges (new clutch required), so we travelled to the start at Matchams (a banger racing venue) near Ringwood, in Emma's mini. I can confirm you are able to fit two road bikes in the back of a mini - but it is not comfortable - for the passengers or bikes. Arriving at the venue we spent an obligatory amount of faffing time assembling the bikes, queuing for the toilet and registering for the ride. 45 minutes later we were lined up at the start, ready, in some fashion. Having eaten I felt a better but Emma remained pensive. Our tactics were straight forward; I would stay with her until the first feed stop or where the circuit split, whichever came first. (If I'd have looked at the map it would have shown the split came after the feed-stop which was located 58 km into the ride, ironically at Brockenhurst). 

Exiting Matchams, we turned immediately right and headed down the narrow tree lined road which ran parallel with the A31. I rode ahead maintaining a steady and untroubled pace through the countryside. Some of the roads looked familiar from last time. There was no sign of tacks on the road indicating local protest of any kind. I hoped the weekend would pass without incident. We rode lie this for 40 km or so, enjoying the scenery as we trundled by. We were overtaken by numerous groups. I was not used to that. We continued at our own speed, only our own speed was getting slower. A lack of food was taking its toll on Emma. Not one for complaining, even she said she was getting hungry at the 45 km mark. We crossed an open expanse of the New Forest with the wind marginally against us. I suggested to Emma that she sit right behind my rear wheel but she struggled to stay there. In the end we went at her pace. The purpose was just to keep the pedals turning. We rode through some tiny villages on our way to Brockenhurst. We saw a few ponies and donkeys ambling about, not in the slightest bit interested in the cyclists riding past staring at them.

2 1/2 hours after we started, after a left/right through one part of Brockenhurst, we arrived at the hotel that was acting as our food stop. In fact it was the only food stop on the shorter route. It was heaving. At least 200, maybe more cyclists were crammed into the front driveway/entrance of the hotel. It was manic. A number of men were in the bushes opposite answering their call of nature. Emma needed food and immediately joined the queue. A banana, jelly beans and flapjack she was feeling more herself. I was the same. I'd doubled up on the flapjack and guzzled a few too many jelly beans. I would head off on my own now. I was comfortable knowing that now she'd eaten, Emma would be fine. She would finish the route at her own speed, but she would finish for sure. That's how she is. 

I rode off and was immediately stopped by a reversing police car intent on listening to the complaints about the 'cyclist overtaking cars up ahead'. If cars where stuck behind a slow(er) cyclist, it was no surprise to me that they were being overtaken. The police car drove off and I started the second phase of my ride. I crossed the heath and began to gently climb, then climb more steadily, then sufficiently to make me get out of the saddle and exert some proper effort. It did not last for long. I popped over the top and continued on. The split came at the 71 km mark. The extended route turned right, the shorter route went straight on. Today it was an easy decision to make. I would continue straight ahead. 

My pace had picked up considerably and I was now averaging between 28-31 km. I was making good time and felt stronger…...but not good enough to go the extra distance. My calf was hurting, but less so than yesterday, which was also promising. I rattled through a number of small villages. I had no idea where I was going, I was just following the spray pointed instructions on the road. At one point I was told to slow down by a flag waving Marshall saying there was a hole ahead. He was not messing about - it was huge! However, the signage and presence of marshals around this and the rest of the route was superb. On the whole I didn't see much poor cycling etiquette occurring. AA motorcycle out-riders had also been enlisted as mobile marshals at key junctions. From a public safety perspective, ukcyclingevents absolutely had this ride organised to perfection. 

After about an hour and maybe with 30 minutes to go I started overtaking and being overtaken again by a couple of the same riders. One of these riders was a woman from Manchester who was here supporting her sister who worked for Ridley. I rode behind her for a while but then decided to take the pace up. Unfortunately the saddle stem on the Holdsworth had been slipping for some time and it now reached the point where I had to stop. My cycle stroke was being completely compromised. Naturally, she continued. I quickly adjusted the height to 'better than it was' and rode off once more. I had my ‘mark’. I continued for maybe 5-7 minutes and then I saw her. I had caught up and overtook her, but she stuck to my rear wheel. I decided I would ride home, with her tagging along. I pushed on and I soon recognised the road we had ridden out on. Not far to go.

We were overtaking everyone we caught up with some ease. Turning right, we headed up towards Matchams. A burst of power and we overtook the next bunch of riders. We were absolutely flying. The road to and from Matchams was gently undulating. On the one slight incline (running south to north) I put my toe down knowing the hill was minor. However, it was sufficient just to burn off my Manchester co-rider which was a shame. I continued on, happy to finish strongly. The legs didn't want to do much more today.

I hung about waiting for Emma at the finish and was approached by the woman from Manchester laughed about the last hill. It transpired she'd completed the epic ride, averaging 27 km. I thought that was pretty decent. I had only done the short one! Emma finished, with a look of relief on her face. "That was hard" she exclaimed as she collected her finisher medal and T-Shirt. Indeed. After tea and a pasty (the food of champions) we made our way back to Brockenhurst, ready to do it all again the following day.

Day Two – ‘Epic’ (The Long One) – 138 km

Having cooked my own steak on Saturday night and later on enjoyed a much better sleep, as a consequence I was feeling quite lively on Sunday morning. I would ride the long route today I thought to myself. It was the same set up as the day before, although we had already signed in, so once the bikes were assembled we were ready to go. By 07.45 we were on the road. The plan today was slightly different since we would ride at our own pace. Emma started slightly before me and it took 10 minutes or so to overhaul her. 

I was riding in a pace line that seemed to go ok for a short time then slow right down and dither about. So in actual fact it was a ’non’ pace line. Time to go. I took the pace up and dumped it. One guy came with me and he headed off. I wanted to ride at a consistent rate today, and was keeping an eye on my split times. 32 km every 70 minutes. That's the target. I went through the first hour at 30 km and through 70 minutes at 35 km. This was an unsustainable pace. Plus my calf was hurting much more today. I was aware of it during every peddle stroke. I reached the food stop in 2 hrs dead bar a couple of seconds, comfortably on course for my 160 km split times. 

When it came to the split in the road, turning right felt good. However, I knew I'd have to manage my pace more carefully during the second half of the ride. I rode for several kilometres across the heath, re-joining the country lanes thereafter. A couple of police cars were keeping an eye on us as we went. The second food stop came just before my 3 hr 30 split at about 94 km. I halted briefly, had a stretch and a few jelly babies and that was it. During the next sector my pace dropped off, losing 2 km against my standard splits. I felt fatigued and my right calf muscles were throbbing. I needed to refocus and get back 'in the zone'.

The saddle stem was slipping again and it was really bugging me. Every 15 km or so I would have to stop and tightened it up. I didn't want to over tighten it for fear of cracking the carbon stem, however, as things were, I had that continual 'sinking feeling'. I kept an eye on where I was on regarding stem position and rode on. I had my sights set on home once more. I had made a mental calculation that I should finish between 4 hrs 50 minutes and 54 minutes. I wanted to finish within this range, but this would require some serious application. I hammered the last 20 km. I don't think one pace line or cyclist overtook me. I thundered up the country lanes, being careful but also fast. I was averaging 30 km for this sector. I wondered whether I would catch up with Emma on the short circuit but I didn't see her. To my surprise, it transpired she was behind me. 

Same as before, I attacked the final run up to Matchams. This time there was much more traffic on the road, so my progress was somewhat thwarted. I finished with an unofficial ride time of, 4 hours 54 minutes and was suitably pleased with that. I waited for Emma to finish and took a couple of photos of her crossing the line. They are posted on the bikebritain fan page if you wish to look. A couple of 'champion' pasties were eaten by a couple of vultures. It had been a superb weekend of cycling. I could hardly walk because of my calf, but I was satisfied with my performance. Emma had done a great job too, riding 210 km in two days. The bikebritain scores for this Sportive are below:-


Wiggle New Forest Sportive (combined scores Saturday & Sunday)

Website info


Event Venue (Car Parking, Toilets)


Sign in process


Event road signage (Directions and Warnings)


Route quality (Difficulty, Interest, Choices)


Food quality at rest


Ride Support (Mechanic Availability, Sag Waggon, Outriders)


Event product Testing




Timing Post Event (accuracy)


Participant Friendliness




Overall Value for Money




As you can see, this is both a very well organised event and one that benefits being set in a terrific location. I also think that providing a T-shirt and finisher medal instead of the 'bag of bits' that were previously given away is a better idea. There's a much greater possibility of me wearing a T shirt than using most of the contents of the old goodie bags. Good work wiggle and ukcyclingevents. Another GREAT ride in the New Forest. 

The bikebritain film of the weekend ride can be found here –

An account of my ride down to Brockenhurst on Friday 11th April can be found here -

Words, Thumbnail and Slider images - bikebritain Ltd



Much debate occurred on twitter over that weekend over the rights and wrongs of the ride being held in the New Forest. As I mentioned, I did not see any evidence of tacks in the road, but apparently 15-20 riders did get punctures due to malicious intent. The behaviour of some participants at the main food stop was also brought into question, specifically using the forest opposite as a place to publically urinate. This did not help the negative publicity of the event, however it could be argued that the food stop was not the right size for the volume of cyclists using it at once. Personally it did not surprise me this was occurring since it happens at nearly every ride I’ve been on. Is it right? Probably not, but having more toilets available would help. For sure this event suffers from a subset of local people who simply do not want 1500 cyclist a day riding through their village – simple as that. I respect that point of view, but it saddens me. It is a beautiful part of the world, the event is held on public roads, why not embrace the event and relax alittle. Plus there’s a significant financial benefit to the cyclists being there. For example, I estimate we easily spent £400 that weekend, locally, taking into account of 2 nights accommodation, food, entrance fee’s, snack shopping, fuel and so on. All this aside, it’s still a great event – it is just a shame that the visiting cyclists cannot ride together a bit better with the locals.    

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