The Sandown Cyclone Sportive REVIEW
by Caven O'Hara
Distances: 35.5, 66, 81 miles
Start: Sandown Racecourse
Transport: Esher train station 1.3 miles
Feedstops: 1, 2, 3
Signs: White arrows on red backgrounds, including warning messages
Roads: A stunner offering a scenic tour of the Surrey Hills and the Sussex Weald with a couple of tough climbs towards the end.
The Sandown Cyclone Sportive thankfully lacked the spiralling hurricane winds, but what it did offer was a belter of route. The course put together by organiser Martin Barden and his team was a rich tapestry of great roads threading through the Surrey Hills with a fine weave of the Sussex Weald. The essence of the ride, a gentle warm-up before the taking on of the Surrey Hills, followed by a spin through some rolling terrain before tackling the spiky North Downs once more and a longer than expected run-in. What was not to like?
The other difference on offer was the event was being run in conjunction with the Road Cycling Show promoted by IPC, publishers of the tome of road cycling reporting, Cycling Weekly and several other respected cycling magazines. The venue selected was also grander than most and used to hosting very different sporting events, Sandown Racecourse.
Different advertising banners to their usual events
The list of winners painted on the roll of honour board featured some household names, Dessert Orchid and Moscow Flyer. Whilst cyclists may not go in for such extravagant titles, there were a few who certainly wanted to set a good pace. The paddock would normally see four legged creatures parading before their race, there was certainly plenty of steeds paraded before the start but not a ‘GG’ in sight! Well Garmin and Gatorade were there otherwise pretty much every significant bike brand was represented.
Not your usual start venue
As with all of UKCyclingevents, registration was a breeze with the added bonus of a Gatorade goodie bag. Normally these are handed out post ride but you’ll never hear anyone complaining, perhaps with the exception of those who rode to the start. Timing chip attached to the helmet and having signed on the dotted line there was still time for a free coffee. Then it was back to the bike to attach the ride number and prepare for the off.
Thankfully there were no Grand National-esque problems with the starting rope! Martin gave his pre-ride brief and it was time to clip in and head out into Esher. The weather was very pleasant, warm sunshine and dry. Having had to scrape frost off the car when I left home at 6am I was concerned as to what I would encounter. Despite starting my ride less than an hour and a half later I had to jettison a layer, as I was feeling unseasonably warm.
Under starters orders
Riders were set off in waves, as soon as several were ready. Martin did his brief and let you go. The ride blurb had promised a gentle warm-up before the first climb of the day, Coombe Bottom that takes you over the Surrey Hills and deposits you in Shere. This was spot on and although the legs protested it was very doable this early on.
Rolling Surrey countryside on the descent off Coombe Bottom
There was little respite as once you passed through the village of Shere, you then hit the climb up towards Cranleigh. Skirting round the self-proclaimed largest village in England you then head out into the Low Weald of Sussex. The roads had been peaceful and the trend continued which given some of the descents was great. Care still had to be taken though, given the amount of surface water on some.
As we approached the former airfield at Dunsfold, now renown for the BBC series ‘Top Gear’ there was a parting of the ways just after the first feed station. As I have come to expect from UKCyclingevents, the feed station should be renamed ‘feast station’ in comparison to some events. Sweet, savoury and sandwiches are offered in abundance, the volunteers who man them are always cheerful and encouraging. Those riding the Epic headed south towards Chiddingfold whilst I chose the less severe option of undertaking the Standard. I’ve been off the bike for a while and I’m sticking to that excuse!
The roads were full of riders on bikes and horses and the four-legged theme continued as the route turned east towards Horsham. We ploughed past Hurtwood Park Polo club before the route headed north and the home leg. Despite having passed the halfway point there was still a large amount of climbing left in this sportive!
This view could brighten any ride.
Before the ascending began the last feed stop hove into view. This time with plenty of liquid on board, I declined to stop and instead put my head down and rode towards the first of three stings in the tail of this ride.
The riders keep rolling
The Surrey Hills have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to dishing out the hurt! This time it was the choice of Leith Hill, Surrey’s highest point followed by White Down shorter than Leith but more brutal as the 18% gradient signpost gleefully informed riders of what they were approaching. It’s narrow and has a few twists that don’t reveal the full extent of what you are taking on until you go round the bend, not mentally.
Over the top, and it was time to catch your breath. I had checked the route info the night before and read with interest there was still a final climb to come – Polesdean Lacey. This was not one I had tackled previously or heard of come to that. I have now. You hit the bottom and your eyes are drawn to the warning, 20% gradient. Then Martin had kindly put up a sign telling riders to ‘go for it’. Easy for them to say, but knowing this was the last proper climb you can give it your all.
This is going to hurt - and it's not even the worst one!
With the climbing taken care of, it seemed a longer run in than I was expecting given that we had not crossed back over the M25. Eventually we did and we enjoyed a fast run back to the racecourse to receive another goodie bag and a rather significant medal, “well cool” aptly put by my daughter.
Many of the riders I spoke to afterwards enjoyed the very scenic route, puffed over the climbs but all were in agreement – this was another feather in the cap for UKCyclingevents.
Sandown Cyclone Sportive
- 22/04/2012 - Sandown
Rating: 98.1% based on 4 reviews - See Previous Ratings
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