Etape du Haywards Heath REVIEW
by Caven O'Hara
Distances: 11.5, 19, 41 & 75 miles
Start: The Broadway, Haywards Heath
Transport: Haywards Heath train station 0.5 miles
Feedstops: 2 and a water stop
Signs: Orange arrows on yellow backgrounds
Road: A glorious route featuring enough climbing early doors to test the legs compensated by a nice fast finish.
Swag: Goodie bag with gels, bar and bottle of water
There were plenty of riders braving the early and chilly start
The inaugural Greater Haywards Heath Bike Ride held in 2011 featured 3 options for riders to tackle. This year’s edition brought a fourth variant for riders to consider, the tougher 75mile Etape du Heath for those who fancied a bigger challenge, to add to the existing fun ride, the Cavalier and the Highwayman.
The town closed the Broadway so it could host the start/finish which added to the occasion. When you get a gantry to ride out from and finish under it adds to the kudos and gives all the riders a lift. The start was well managed, with plenty of willing volunteers for what is principally a charity event.
Riders await the off
With registration completed and time chip collected there was time for a quick coffee before mounting up and heading off. The sun was out but there was a definite chill in the air. The early part of the route, out through Haywards Heath and neighbouring Lindfield did little to warm the extremities. We didn’t have to wait long before the climbing kicked, generating warmth! The gradual ascending continued to Wych Cross, which for anyone who knows the area means two things – a long descent from the traffic lights finishing at the bottom of Kidds Hill or the Wall.
Grateful riders reaching the top of Kidds Hill
A mile long and averaging a double figure percentage incline it was a good early test for the legs. With the route proving to be front loaded in terms of climbing it was the first of several challenges. The reward for cresting Kidds Hill is the descent back down to Chuck Hatch before the day’s first feed stop in Forest Row.
One of the Feed Stops
A quick bite and it was back on the road to begin the climb into Ashdown Forest. With the clear skies it was a beautiful pedal into the forest and enough to take your mind off the work. Once into the woods it was a swift descent down to a depleted looking Weir Wood reservoir before a short sharp climb up St Hill and the outskirts of East Grinstead.
A depleted Ardingly Reservoir
More climbing soon followed up Vowel Lane before reaching West Hoathly and the last concerted period of ascending, Cobb Lane and the climb around Ardingly reservoir. Cobb Lane is a short and considerably sharp climb to the South of England showground. To break up the two climbs there was a water station in the village. Time to refuel and watch some of the truly classic cars swing past as part of a rally. Some looked as though they had less suspension than us roadies!
The water station at Ardingly was gratefully received after Cobb Lane
After climbing out of the back of Balcombe at the far end of the reservoir it was on through some very picturesque scenery. Trundling along past villages deep in the Sussex countryside I identified several pubs that would be ideal places for a drink and a spot of lunch, alas not today. Our journey soon brought us onto flatter terrain and the final food station in Southwater. The advantage of having a feed station in a hall allows the organisers to provide hot drinks, toilets and in this instance a cheese and tomato roll and crisps. After many miles the stomach often appreciates a bit more than energy products at this point in a ride.
With 50 miles on the clock there was still a reasonable chunk to complete but route organiser Rupert Rivett assured me the remaining 27 miles formed the fast section of the Etape du Heath. He was certainly right, using a mix of roads we were treated to a flowing route, crossing main roads and avoiding busier areas. Despite the distance left to cover the miles were soon accounted for and before too long the final pedal strokes up Perrymount Road to the finish gantry proved a welcome sight.
One of many glorious views
Across the line the timing chips were recorded and the numbers and chips were soon exchanged for a goodie bag. The advantage of ending the ride on the Broadway meant there were ample choices for a post ride beverage or snack.
This event is still in its infancy but given the numbers, the positive rider comments on the route and the addition of the longer option this makes for a cracking combination.
Etape du Haywards Heath
- 01/04/2012 - Haywards Heath
Rating: 90.6% based on 2 reviews - See Previous Ratings
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