Event Review

REVIEW: The Haddenham Howler II 2014

by Andy Dawson

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REVIEW: The Haddenham Howler II 2014 


Date: 28th September 2014 
Distances: 50/80 miles 
Entry fee: £20 or £25 on day 
Start: Haddenham County Junior School 
Feedstops: one on short, 2 on long 
Catering: free tea and coffee before, barista coffee truck after 
Timed: yes - helmet strip with instant timing ticket for riders at the finish 
Signs: yes 
Roads:  mostly car free, well maintained 
Goody bag: no but voucher for free copy of Cyclist plus online training session from 3LC 

A light mist hung over the Chilterns last Sunday morning as I made my way back to Haddenham to have another go at the Howler, an 80/50 mile end of season lung buster.  Allez Sportives have put on some great events this year, and I was looking forward to another cracking route - they always seem able to find roads through the Chilterns that are unfamiliar to me. 

Very relaxed start at the School base with easy sign on and free tea and coffee available plus route maps and jagged profile graphs of the day's activity helped us prepare.  By start time the sun was already warm.  A disposable sticky strip timing chip for your helmet meant recording your effort was reliably taken care of, and after a brief safety message we were off in groups of 20. 

The start

Kop HIll

Haddenham is some distance from the Chilterns so you get the chance to warm up on flat lands whilst heading for the hills.  Everybody was in a relaxed mood.  That soon changed in Princess Riseborough where we made our way up a steep incline in the town and then turned left up Kop Hill. This climb gave the Tour of Britain a fright a few weeks ago when they went up it.  Very steep and prolonged, Kop Hill is basically the back end of the notorious Whiteleaf.  Previously, I'd only descended it super fast after toiling up Whiteleaf, but for the Howler I had plenty of time to understand why I had recorded 80kph during the last drop. Towards the top there were still chalk outlines on the road for "Wiggo". 

Now we were up on top of the Chilterns ridge and rode over via the top part of Pink Lane to drop just a bit before Wiggan's Lane.  This is a long, shallow gradient that gets pretty steep towards the end before coming out on Bledlow Ridge.  From there we dropped once again and came into Saunderton where we turned left into the innocent looking Small Dean Lane.  Local riders will know what is at the end of this - Small Dean, one of the toughest little climbs in the Chilterns.  Pretty much without warning the lane kicks up after a mile and goes skywards.  Overhanging trees mean you can't see the top and as usual there was a scattering of large gravel chunks to give us an additional challenge.  For me, climbing this one was an all-out effort; I was pulling so hard on my handlebars that it felt like arm strength might be the key factor in getting to the top. 

Small Dean

Feed station

We dropped down Nap Hill and headed off via Warrendene Road which was new to me - a gentle but constant gradient upwards.  This brought us to the food stop - plenty of real food, cake, malt loaf and bananas.  After this there was a fast descent through Oaken Grove, a sharp turn on the outskirts of Great Missenden and then another climb up Leather Lane.  By now legs were starting to complain so even easy hills were proving a challenge.  Further rolling climbs meant more ascent and more leg fatigue before we made it around to the fast Aston Hill drop.  Just remember to brake before the main road. 

We turned for Wendover, and after the town there were more rolling hills, ones you wouldn't really notice if you were fresh but were now causing pain.  The Howler really piles it on with very little flat riding; you are either descending like a missile or climbing, climbing, climbing.  Tiredness, no doubt, played a part in me missing the abrupt right turn off the main road, luckily the GPS unit warned me immediately and I got back on track.  After this I was glad just to bike it in with a fellow short route rider - the alternative name for this route was the "Ryder Cup route" as it allowed us to get back in time to watch the finale of the golf. 

Instant results


A nice touch was being handed my official time on a slip almost as soon as I crossed the line.  Always good to get confirmation of what you've just achieved.

Signs are just a bit small and not so easy to see, mostly they are well placed but when they aren't it can lead to problems: the group I was with before Pink Lane missed the turning, I was hearing of someone else doing extra miles after they missed a turn and I also failed to spot a turn.  Though I had a GPS route, that too had been a bit of a rigmarole to get as the Allez website doesn't seem to have a direct link to the official GPX/TCX download. 

Overall a relaxed and friendly sportive that is well organised.  Allez know the roads and design courses which have definite character to them - this one lived up to its name "Howler".  

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) 10 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 8 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) 10 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 8 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 90.0%

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