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Southern Spring Classic REVIEW

by Howard Johnson


Distances: 48 miles or 73 miles  
Participants: 510 (Entry on the day)
Start: Hollycombe Working Steam Museum, Iron Hill, Liphook, Hampshire, GU30 7LP
Feed-stops: 2 
Catering: Hot and cold food available at the finish
Timed: Yes (Disposable timing attached to helmet)
Signs: White arrows on a red background, marshalled at key points and hazards.
Roads:  Generally very good, Some rough surfaces at the start, a few bits of gravel but nothing to be concerned about.
Swag: Free pre and post ride massage.
Free photos of the day courtesy of Sportive Photo
Routes:  73 miles and 48 miles

Yours Truly (Image courtesy of Sportive Photo)

It's been a long cold winter. My last event was on 25th September 2011 and I have not been near the bike, for a number of reasons since the New Year, hence the pre-season mileage is not there, nor is the stamina, but the urge to ride is strong.

Scraping ice from the car windscreen at 5am was not how I thought my season would start, but it made it clear for me what I would be wearing on the day, shorts and short sleeve top will be over tights and thermal top for this ride.

Cold Start

After riding a fair few of the UK Cycling Events in the past, there is no surprise anymore in what to expect on arrival, which is reassuring. Parking and registration was a breeze, and the free coffee certainly brought my hibernation to an end. Routes were available as a Garmin download, and they were very easy to copy into my 705.

All there was left to do was unpack the bike and prepare for what I knew would be a longer day out than usual.


Starting in groups of about 20 the first 5 miles or so were a dream. All downhill. The roads for the first few miles were full of pot holes, and the organisers had been out with paint highlighting the worst ones, but once these were negotiated, the standard of the roads were very good, and generally traffic free.

Quiet Lanes

The clockwise route from Liphook took you through to Miland and the start of some sneaky climbs. The event was co-sponsored by Sportive Photo and Phil O'Connor had a team of photographers out on route, and two are my very dear friends Lizzie and Paul Wright. So I had the perfect excuse to stop and chat and catch my breath while watching fellow riders curse and struggle up some of the steeper corners. 

Useful Advice

The descent from Liss Forest into Greatham blew all the cobwebs away and rolling along through Blackmoor and Oakhangar was bliss. Was it just me or were the birds giving "big licks" with the singing? It must be Spring.

The roads towards the feed at Millbridge had a few surprises and more than once did the Garmin register 15% to 20% inclines, which soon had me diving for my "get out of jail" granny ring.

Feed Stop

The feed stop at Millbridge was generously stocked with all that you needed, energy drinks from Maxi Fuel, flapjacks, bananas, energy gels, fig rolls and cake.
Suitably topped up it was time to brace oneself for the climb alongside the A3, after rolling through Tilford, Rushmoor and Thursley.  This was a horrid little beast, the road rolling out of sight, and just when you thought you were at the top, it kicks up again. The rewards were the fantastic views from the top and a gentle meander back down towards Liphook for the final energy sapping climb back to the finish.

Last Hill

It may have been a long day out, on the short route, but I had time to reflect that one year ago to the day, I was lying in a hospital bed after my heart scare. And texting family and friends, on Aprils Fools Day that I was in hospital, didn't get the reaction I expected. All in all, a year onwards, I am lucky I can still ride the bike and enjoy the countryside, not as quick as most people, but then sportives are not a race. If you want to race, get a licence.

At the finish I met up with Ann Jeffery and Ruth Wood, both ladies are leisure cyclists that get out as regular as they can, Ann is from Kent and Ruth from Dorking. They were both impressed with the signage and the route, and Ruth desperately wants the recipe for the flapjack! The cousins will be back out on the sportive trail riding the Wiggle Ups and Downs later this month, and they are also planning some rides in Kent later in the year.

Ruth and Ann

Keith Sandiford

Someone a long way from home was Keith Sandiford from Huddersfield. Keith was on a Triathlon training day on the Saturday with work colleagues, and decided to sneak a sportive into his time away. Keith has already entered the Brian Robinson Challenge and the Wild Edric later this year, and he praised the route chosen with the vast majority of the ride on smooth roads. Oh we know triathletes don't like bumpy roads!!!

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