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The Forest of Dean Classic REVIEW

by Howard Johnson

Essentials:

Distances: 90 miles 
Participants: 550 (Entry on the day)
Start: Monmouth Show Ground, Redbrook Road, Monmouth. NP25 4LG
Feed-stops:   2 
Catering: Hot and cold food available at the finish
Timed:  Yes (Timing chip attached to rider number)
Signs: Black arrows on a bright green background, extra signs at hazards. 
Roads:  Generally very good, some rough surfaces with a few bits of gravel. 
Swag: Free pre and post ride massage, goody bag at finish
Photos of the day taken by George Burgess
Support: Shimano motorbike on course
Routes:  90 miles : http://www.wheelsinwheels.com/FOD/85mile_forest_of_dean_spring_classic_cycling_sportive.html


Profile of Forest of Dean Spring Classic

It has been a few years now since I cut my teeth on this event in 2008, so it was time to return to see the changes at the new venue - the course I knew already after riding it twice in the past. With facilities now available to accept 2000 riders, I was amazed that only 550 arrived for the day. This event has always been on or near the May Bank holiday, and after checking a few websites there were only 4 other events on the same day. Is the recession hitting the sportives, discuss?


Registration

The venue used to be in Monmouth itself, and the issue was car parking, however the start venue has now changed to the Monmouth Showground, just on the edge of town, with ample free parking and a large tented Registration/Display area.


Shimano bike

Registration was simple with the transponder attached to the back of the rider number, and a new feature I liked was the starting racks. Instead of queuing with your bike, you simple place your bike in a rack relevant to the start time you wish to use.


Starting racks

If you like hills, and I mean lots of hills, this event is for you. If like me, you need to train more on hills, this event is for you, it will hurt, and every road will appear to be going in only one direction, up.


The Forest of Dean

There are 18 challenges to encounter on the 91 mile loop, each one named, and counting down to the final climb at Symonds Yat.

With a short rollout of about 1 mile its straight to the business of the day, the first climb is Lydart, just over 3 miles with some 17% gradients, just what you need to get the lungs working on a chilly Sunday morning.


Beautiful scenery

The climbs are ticked off with some concentrated descending on quiet country lanes, and the legs soon warm to the challenge of getting to the next obstacle that must be conquered. With Parkhouse out of the way it's a steep drop to the Wye Valley and the climb of Stowe. 


Quiet roads

32 miles in and it's the first feed station at Sling. There were enough supplies of fruitcake, bananas, Clif bars and Gels and energy drinks. No time to waste however, the pressure is on to get around and as the sun came out, it was a refreshing change from all the rain we have recently endured. 

Heading south towards Lydney, it's a sudden sharp left and back up towards Yorkley, and then the Soudby A and Soudby B climbs in quick succession.


Riders on the course

One of the good features of this event, is that wherever you are on the course, you are only 20 miles from the start/finish area. This gives you the option to bailout at any point, or miss out some of the tougher sections if required.


Greenery

Ruardean Hill is the high point of the course at 928ft, from the top the views were amazing, and the course then climbs and descends  to the second feed at Drybrook village It had all the same refreshments as the first, including a savoury option of sausage rolls. 


Second Feed Station

Suitably refreshed it was time to venture to the most northerly point of the route at Coughton, and then onto English Bicknor, a savage little climb after a steep descent and a very sharp right turn, not allowing you any momentum of speed up the hill, it's climbing from a standing start.


Bluebells

The only relatively flat part of the route is the road following the River Wye down towards Kerne Bridge and then, a sharp left and along towards the coup de grace, 25% in places, and if you can dodge the parked cars trying to pass each other, Symonds Yat.


Symonds Yat

I have always loved the descent off this hill back to Monmouth, it flows perfectly, and with good technique, and sparing use of the brakes, it's the true reward for a tough day out.


Views

Back at the finish there was a goody bag and vegetable soup with a roll. Also there was massage available, and the team were busy most of the afternoon.

  
Sarah, Matt and Chris

Sarah Withers from Monmouth is a regular cyclist although a novice to sportives, and this was her baptism of fire to say the least. Sarah loved the first third of the ride, but didn't like the rest of the hills, so she will be looking for some slightly flatter and shorter distance events in the future.

Matt Disney from London is a regular rider with over 7 years' experience riding sportives, including the Etape Caledonia, Dragon Ride et al, as well as the Marmotte last year. Matt loved the course and has ridden it a few times this year already in challenging conditions. Matt is training to beat his time at the Marmotte this year, and he will be using the South Downs event in a few weeks, and then the Dragon Ride to fine tune his training.

Chris Liptrot from Bristol found the day a lot harder than he thought. After doing the Dartmoor Classic last year, he thought this was easily on a par with that event with the distance and climbing. Chris is a regular sportive rider, and couldn't fault the event at all. Future events for Chris are the Dragon Ride, Dartmoor Classic and then the Marmotte, all very hilly!!