Wet and wild in the Chilterns.
We had been looking to do a ride outside of our normal radius for a time now. As discussed in our last blog we haven't really travelled too far from our regular riding routes for a while so we downloaded the route of the Chilterns classic to our garmins, checked it out and got ready to find a spare day to go out and take some pictures, ride the route, chat about the climbs and the villages we would go through and such like. Dawn a chat at our local evening crit that went something along the lines of: I fancy a long ride... I'm doing this... Oh I was gonna do that this weekend... Alright lets do that... Cool see you there!
An early start for Team TOWIE and everyone else!
We didn't know there was an organised Sportive on that same route the following week and freind of Blackmore and local hero Steve was entered so we entered too and cracked on!
Now regular sportives aren't necessarily our style. However they certainly serve a purpose. This is certainly the furthest we have travelled for a 'minor' Sportive (considering the Maratona, Ride London and such as major Sportives I guess) and have really just used local events as opportunities to do big rides in decent company and on different routes. Either way, off we went!
This one was organised by Wiggle and part of the Super Series, a series of events that are run by UK cycling events on their behalf around the country that take in some of the best parts of the England and Wales. In this case its the Chilterns but they go on in the New Forest, The Mendips, Yorkshire etc etc. You get the picture. They are very popular and for good reason too. They are well supported, well resourced and you get a medal. There is little not to like!
Team TOWIE met bright and early an hour and half around the M25 in a field that had a growing population of cyclists and a growing queue in the portaloo. Fortunately we got there early enough that the impending storm of a three coffee morning wasn't felt too wildly and began our preparation forthwith. Despite some inevitable faffing we still managed to get off in the second wave and left the tiny village of Mill End nr Henley on Thames to explore the Chilterns.
Team TOWIE (Nick@rideblackmore, Marek from Momentum Cycles, Brentwood & Steve Murrell, Glendene CC)
The Chilterns Classic was to take in just over 100 miles and 5,500ft of climbing. A good day out in anyone's book (shorter routes were available) but with 4 evenly spaced and well stocked feed stations we didn't have to stuff our pockets totally full for our day out and that indeed is one of the beauties of these events. The route took in some super roads and some good climbs that book-ended it. Hambleden Hill got us started (1.5 miles @ 4%) with Marlow Road and Dolesden Lane holding similar statistics within the first 20 miles. Our pace was deliberately high and the touristy picture taking was off the cards for now. A feed stop was entered into accidentally as well as a wrong turn or two and then the clouds grew greyer and darker.
The middle section of the ride was pretty and pretty flat barring the odd bump until around 90 miles. However at around 40 miles the clouds got really dark and then began to make really loud noises! By this time our team of three had swelled to five and in classic sportive camaraderie we had started sharing the work and were chopping along nicely. Then it absolutely smashed it down! To our right lightning crashed and hail began to fire in sideways on a gale force wind which came from almost nowhere! We were already a little wet from an earlier shower but now we were all soaked through from the rain and the spray. For a time it was the worst conditions I had ever cycled in.
A bit of sunshine after the storm!
So by now fancy photos were out of the question and in all fairness we were going quite nicely so these interruptions would have been untimely. At this point during the first drying out period your scribes bike began to make some rattling noises and it was only at the third feed stop that I was able to secure my offending saddle. In securing this with numb hands the last 25 miles were completed with a northerly pointed saddle trying to make its way into parts unknown and meant for a particularly uncomfortable stint! However the fact that there was food meant that we got warmer a little quicker.
The route and profile, click on the picture for the link to the strava file.
The final two climbs were quite tough. Watlington was just over 2 miles at a 4% ave and Balhams Lane was the same gradient but half the distance. That was enough at mile 90 but made for great training. The final descent down Vineyards Lane was maybe a step to far. Scribe, with still cold hands and with an urge to reach the finish led the charge down a narrow gravelly road, not too windy but not straight. Our trio got to the end and Steve remarked that it was a little hairy. It was only when we got back that we saw we had logged 3 top 15 results in a strava segment of 2,500, potentially not wise and not recommended.
We got in safely in the dry though, still together and with a decent overall time of just shy of 5 1/2 hours. A great way of exploring a different part of the country even if a lot of the ride was spent squinting through the spray and rain! (hence the lack of commentary about the surroundings...
The ride itself did take in some super scenery that was at times a little wasted on us because of the conditions. We would certainly revisit it again and recommend you to do the same, just check the forecast...