The View From Here - a blog

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  • +Greg_Kabulski try the Hemel one. It's easy to get to by train and the actual event is defunct. The Chinnor climb and descent through Wendover Woods are fab. The valley near Bledlow Ridge is special. Rest stop at the Hell Fire Caves in West Wycombe.

  • 28/02/2024 – Welcome to hell

    In 1993, when Manchester United played the away leg of their Champions League fixture with Turkish champions Galatasaray, they were greeted both at Istanbul airport and the Ali Sami Yen stadium with signs proclaiming “Welcome to Hell.” Hell it was. The Red Devils couldn’t assert themselves in the heated atmosphere, Eric Cantona was sent off and they lost the tie.

    Cantona has the proverbial "early bath" in Istanbul

    I found my own special place in hell – as Eddie Izzard would put it – at the Hell of the Ashdown sportive. This event has eluded me over the years, so I thought I’d check out HOTA, as it is known, and see what kind of a welcome it held.

    Feeling welcome

    As it turns out, it was a great welcome. Warm in fact. The turnout was impressive – something like 1,200 – who enjoyed a really well run event. HOTA started life as an inter club reliability ride and has developed into a seriously good challenge ride – 62 miles and 6,000 ft of elevation gain. Close to the golden ratio of 1,000 ft per 10 miles.

    When the HQ is a craft beer brewery in Westerley, you are certainly incentivised to get round the course. And you need every incentive. When I set off it was barely 1C and didn’t rise above 5C. It was foggy for the first 2 hrs, which lent an extra sense of mystery and menace to the forest. The route starts as it means to go on, hitting Toys Hill before you reach the 2-mile point. Ouch.

    The sun did poke through eventually, but only a little

    The climbs keep coming. We are provided with an ominous top tube sticker that flags the main ones, plus the two feed stops. These are very well appointed. The first is at a rustic forest recreation area and the second a village had. The sausage rolls and cake kept me going. Real food always helps my tummy. I can take only so many gels and energy bars before another kind of hell hits down below.

    Woodpiles and piles of snacks at the first rest stop

    I’ve been coming back from a period of illness and bereavement, so I am a long way from race fit. My plan is to ride this like a training ride and build up my endurance before looking to kicking out a bit more. Maybe I’ll do that in a few weeks, but not yet. To emphasise the point, it feels like everyone else riding is incredibly strong. I do have to consciously work to forget about being constantly passed and just ride my pace. I must have been passed by 1,000 of those riding on the climbs. I believe I overtook just one rider on a black Sonder gravel bike.

    Speaking of bikes, despite the rough and filthy nature of the roads, the vast majority of riders are on their Sunday best summer bikes. Very few winter trainers or mudguards are in evidence. There a healthy smattering of gravel bikes doing service. They all went passed me. There was group of four Kent Velo Girls in pink stripy kit riding in a tight group f four that seemed to be going my pace. I rode with or near them a few times, but not long. I was pretty much on my own most of the time.

    The Kent Velo Girls at one of the two fords on the course

    All the climbs, long or short, are steep. The steepest grade is 11%, but most seem to be 6-11% and they keep coming. It really is a great test of resilience. You are rewarded for or resilience with a splendid welcome at the HQ. Your given one of the locally brewed beers and rather excellent-looking burgers and fries are available. There’s a few stall with bikes kits and other cycling paraphernalia that adds some more interest.

    I had driven down with +RichardM, who borrowed my driving gloves. He cunningly left his on the roof of the car. Anyway, he’s ridden a blinder, just over 4hrs and had come 140th overall, 24th in his age group. I am actually impressed. He’s had a long wait for me and looks half frozen, as I am 1hr 39mins slower than both him and my gloves. Even my gloves were faster than me, I reflect, but I’m not bothered by that. It was a thoroughly entertaining day out, well worth the effort to get out there, if you fancy it next year.

  • Nice blog, +Shannonball. I have just about warmed up.

    As for the gloves, if only there was a category for riders wearing tweed...

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The View From Here - a blog

Posted by Avatar for Shannonball @Shannonball