Event Review

Surrey Legs of Steel 2013 REVIEW

by James Berresford

Surrey Legs of Steel: Dave Aitchison Challenge Ride 2013

Essentials
Distances: 46km / 81km 
Entry fee: £31 (Profits go to Charity)
Participants: 600
Start: Box Hill, Tadworth, Surrey KT20 7LB
Feed-stops: 1 / 2 
Timed: Yes (Skewer tags)
Signs: Black arrows on a yellow background
Roads: Mixed bag but Surrey is slowly improving. 
Routehttp://app.strava.com/activities/87022028


A short, fun and fast club-run charity ride that packs a hilly punch. It's a very well run local institution, over roads familiar to most riders in the South-East and beyond. The arrival of electronic timing was a welcome addition this year, however, the move to later in the calendar and resulting clash with Dulwich Paragon's Ride of the Falling Leaves weekend was less so.

The Legs of Steel has become a standard fixture in my calendar, and despite it being pushed back a month to sit on the same weekend as the other South London classic: Dulwich's Ride of the Falling Leaves, I couldn't resist getting involved again.

The ride starts at the iconic Box Hill. A part of so many Surrey and London club and social rides, the area has recently been tagged by the National Trust themselves with 6ft letters declaring their love for cycling. 

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A Box Hill welcome for cyclists 

I arrived around 8am and registered at the Box Hill visitors centre. The ride is run by the triathlon club, Ful-On Tri in memory of Dave Aitchison - a former club member who died suddenly in 2007. The many club volunteers on hand made registration swift and painless.

For the first time the ride used electronic timing (relying previously on manual numbers). They plumped for the skewer tag system which seemed to prove reliable, although the old manual system had held up surprisingly well. 

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Rider registration

Some riders were already taking their start, so we joined the end of the queue which already snaked around the top of the hill. The rider briefing included the usual instructions - including a warning to be courteous to other road users, particularly highlighting the current tension between Surrey residents and cyclists. Fortunately, barring one incident with a lady getting a little liberal with her horn, we seemed to get off lightly. 

Riders were released in small groups, to prevent the often very narrow lanes from becoming overly clogged and particularly spacing people on the very fast start down Box Hill. 

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Busy Box Hill start 

Fast is a good summary of this ride. The relatively short distance, and position late in the season, generally result in a lot of riders attacking it flat-out, and this year was no exception. 

Although short, it still packs 1.5km of ascent so there isn't really much let up from the punchy climbs all the way. After dropping down Box the relatively tame Ranmore Common is the opener, swinging sharp left at the top to take a fast descent back towards Dorking before climbing back up on the seemingly never-ending Coldharbour Lane.

A fast period of short punchy climbs follows, including Abinger Road and Holmebury Hill to Peaslake then a rolling section towards Cranleigh. Turning back towards the hills we met Winterfold, the biggest test of the day; it starts off innocuous enough, but builds all the way through to a 20%+ crescendo which had us reaching for that imaginary triple.

The ride then swings north for some very minor valley bumps before mounting the downs again up Halfpenny Lane. Through Albery, and descending into the beautiful village of Shere, the route crosses the A25 and climbs up Combe Lane with a kick at the top where the lactic really started to build. 

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Zig Zag Road

The fast descent down Green Dene gave some light relief, but it was short lived as we took the sharp right to climb to the gapping jaws of Crocknorth Road - the site of the previous weeks Tour of Britain route. The route then re-crossed Ranmore Common and on towards the final climb up the ZigZag bends of Box Hill. 


Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 8 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 9 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) 8 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) 9 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 8 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 9 out of 10
Overall Rating 86.7%