Event Review

Cycling Weekly South Downs REVIEW

by Caven O'Hara

Distances: 33, 57 & 74 miles
Participants: Need to confirm
Start: Plumpton Racecourse, Plumpton, East Sussex
Transport: Plumpton Station less than 0.5 miles
Feedstops: 1, 2
Timed: Yes
Signs: white arrows on an orange background
Road: A terrific route that meandered through the Sussex lanes with a few climbs thrown in to keep riders on their toes. A fast start with a lumpy middle and chance to pick up time towards the run in to the racecourse.

The Ride:

There were a couple of oddities before I'd even got to the start of the Cycling Weekly South Downs Spring Sportive. It was on a Saturday and I was riding to the start. To be honest I don't mind either but it did make the pre-ride faff a little more complicated. Breakfast downed and then it was decision time, long sleeve base layer or arm warmers? Given the dull, grey outlook and a forecast that didn't look a whole lot brighter I went with the former.

looking east to the south downs
Looking East To the South Downs

With everything stuffed into jersey pockets, bottles prepared it was soon time to head off and meet my riding companion for the day, Lee. There was very little wind but there was a definite chill in the air. After a few clicks, extremities began to thaw and by the time we arrived at Plumpton racecourse everything was in good working order. There is something particularly grand about arriving at such a large venue knowing that it is setup purely for a cycling event, at least on this day it was.

Plumpton Racecourse

Plumpton held its first horse racing meeting in 1884 so has seen many fine steeds over the years. The Cycling Weekly South Downs Spring sportive would have been no exception as riders and their bikes gathered around the paddock. Sign in was a doddle, plenty of volunteers on hand to make the process flow, even the 'on the day' sign on was staffed by cheerful and friendly faces. The pre-ride administration taken care of, we declined the Gatorade freebies as we well laden already and opted for a coffee from the well-stocked snack bar that had been setup.

Signing On

Given the nod that riders were allowed to start, we made our way across the track and after the safety brief we were out on course. Just before joining the road there was a sand track to negotiate that crossed the racecourse. Not a normal challenge but did cause some riders a few difficulties.

Riders Get Ready

Plumpton, nestled as it is at the foot of the South Downs offers a stunning backdrop. The grey cloud obscured the full glory of the view but the opening kilometres were flat and fast which kept heads down anyway.

There are some very good roads, lanes in the area and the guys at UKCyclingevents had linked together the best of them. Villages such as Barcombe, Laughton, Golden Cross sped past. With over 50Km on the clock within two hours it was certainly a fast flowing start and to cap it all off the sun came out.

to the hills
Heading for the hills

We had been heading north for a while and beginning to get a little concerned the as to where the day's first feed station would appear on the route. We had covered almost half the distance of the epic challenge, the longest of the three on offer. The terrain was now getting lumpier. We'd had a shade over 400m of elevation in the opening half it meant we still had another 800m to go. Before we got too concerned over this we arrived at the first feed stop. With bottles now empty it was well timed and well stocked. Sandwiches, fig rolls and jelly beans were on offer as was a liquid offering from Gatorade.

first feed stop
First Feed Stop

Topped up and refreshed we rolled back out. The ride blurb had stated the climbing would begin in earnest after the feed stop. There had been more rolling countryside over the last ten Km before that had arrived and it was certainly picking up now. As we rolled through Hadlow Down and on towards the day's highest point, Castle Hill we doubled our elevation gain in less than 20Km! We're not talking the Col du Galibier but the legs were a little stiff after such a fast start.

castke hill
Castle Hill House

castle hill climb
At the top of the climb

After passing Castle Hill House, a rather grand property at the top of sharp left-hander as we strove to get to the top. Beyond Castle Hill we soon reached the northern most point of the day's journey with the temperature still rising we turned south. There was still the occasional rise but the general level was flatter and faster. During the day there were a couple of busy junctions to negotiate. On the plus side, at every one there was a friendly marshal who offered safety advice and a smile - can't ask for more than that.

The second feed stop

The second feed stop was on the outskirts of Isfield - home of the Lavender Line, a steam railway line that was re-opened in 1983. With a little steam left ourselves, we only had 20Km left to ride so a quick bottle and bite to eat and it was back out into the sunshine. On familiar roads you have a sense of direction and purpose and it was nice to tick of the remaining mileage. Back to the racecourse to be greeted by the team welcoming all the riders home, with smiles, medals and goodie bags is not a bad way to end a ride.

lavender line
The Lavender Line

In keeping with the day, there was the chance to sign up for a massage as several riders did or partake of the cakes, hot and cold drinks or snacks. The ride home wasn't as tough as I feared. It did mean we passed plenty of riders heading to the finish and the biggest compliment is most of them had smiles on their faces.

Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 7 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 9 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 9 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 9 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 9 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 9 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 9 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 9 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 9 out of 10
Overall Rating 87.8%

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