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Event Review

REVIEW: Wiggle Woodcote Wildwood CX Sportive

by Andy Dawson

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REVIEW: Wiggle Woodcote Wildwood CX Sportive 

Date: 25 January 2015 
Distances: 80/60/40km 
Entry fee: £24 for 80/60km, £20 for 40km 
Start: Langtree School, Woodcote, Oxfordshire 
Feedstops: 2 on 80/60km, drink stop on 40km 
Catering: hot food at HQ 
Timed: yes, ankle strap 
Signs: yes, loads 
Roads:  back lanes, no-through-roads, bridleways, forest tracks, mudbaths, etc 
Goody bag: no

The Cycle Events Organisation have been running cross-country sportives for a few years now. I went along to their first one of the New Year at Woodcote, Oxfordshire, on the western edge of the Chilterns. 

For 2015 the CX series has sponsorship from Wiggle. After parking on the road in the small village of Woodcote I made my way to the event HQ at the local school. It was an easy sign on and attaching of ankle-strap timing chip and then the usual briefing before getting us underway. 

WW1

The sportive was exclusively cross-country so all the bikes were off-road ready, lots of mountain bikes plus drop-bar crossers. The briefing about how the mountain bikers would go fast on the "technical" descents and the crossers would make it up on the road sections would turn out to be correct.

The first part of the route was on very quiet back roads, but after just 8km we diverted down a little track between hedges. Immediately very muddy and rutted, it soon hardened up and became just very bumpy. Further bits through rough farm roads and mud roads got us fully aware of what was in store. It was a cold morning, with some ice on the road sections including one treacherous descent which had already claimed one victim who was sitting with friends at the side of the road. Punctures were also striking at 1km intervals.

Another early section presented a bumpy descent through a wood with trees and branches to avoid plus mid-sized boulders to knock the bike from under you. To a road cyclist like me the descent comprised a series of mini-accidents with me making "Oooff" and "Arrrrgh" sounds all the way down. The mountain bikes just bounced past imperviously. Luckily, we got to a road section and I was able to overtake the big-tyred on my crosser. More off-road sections were less radical than this early one and I could even make controlled descents and blasts through wet, mudbath tracks.  

WW2

On road there were three or four reasonable hills, often quite long but nothing too steep.  There were also a number of off-road climbs which were mostly dry and offered enough traction, with the exception of one particularly rutted bank that defeated everyone I was riding with. 

Generally the off-road bits were firm enough to give good riding conditions. Towards the end there were some very wet descents but the mud was so thick that it actually slowed you down as you fell otherwise uncontrollably down the paths. Final sections were flat with a kind of 6 inch deep wet mud-custard layer lapping around the wheels.

Two food stops on the 80km route were fine, with friendly people and simple fare including Wiggle own brand gels and bars.  Also plenty of spares and track pumps for those needing help with their bikes. 

WW3

At the end there was free hot tea and I spotted bowls of chilli-beef so I got one of them - great to have hot food on a cold day.  There was also one high-pressure hose to clean bike with which logistically wasn't enough - everyone was muddied up and there was a long queue for this facility.  Perhaps a bank of 5 hoses would have been more like it though the resultant tidal wave of mud-water might have engulfed the village, I guess.

Signage was excellent: every time I looked up there seemed to be an arrow showing me where to go, and then fluorescent ribbons after the turn to confirm I was still on track.  The Cycle Events Organisation have a long history of mountain bike events stretching way back to 1990, and the Wildwood CX showed their expertise in picking an excellent route.  Even the on-road sections used very quiet farm lanes and no-through-roads (leading to bridleways) so I barely saw a car the whole way around. 

Timing was also above the norm, with mid-way check point, Gold, Silver, Bronze standards and all published on the excellent website by Monday night.


Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 9 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 9 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 10 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) 10 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 10 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 9 out of 10
Overall Rating 93.3%




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1 Comment

TomTurcan
29th January 2015 2:19pm Crocked wrote:

Glad you had a good experience Andy. Mine was somewhat different, I slipped on an area of black ice after 9 miles and, even though it was all very low speed, ended up in hospital with two months in crutches to look forward to. Accidents do happen, but perhaps people should know (in contrast to other Wiggle sportives) the Wildwood organiser doesn't attempt to place signs or marshals ahead of major hazards, saying this might imply that where hazards aren't pre-notified they don't exist. Apparently I was the only serious injury of the day (which the organiser believes is evidence that the course was safe to run the event) but it didn't merit a call to check if I was OK. When it happened I was fortunately riding with friends who called the ambulance (they couldn't get through on the emergency number provided by the organiser) and alerted overtaking riders to the ice. My conclusion is, whatever an organiser says about safety, and however many other people are riding up the road, or how much you pay for entry, it's best to approach any ride as though you are doing it alone. I'm sure I would have loved this event had it not happened!


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