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Cyclosport.org REVIEW: Pro VO2 Longest Day Sportive

by Adam Tranter

Essentials:
Distances: 90 km / 180 km
Participants: 300 (Sold out - although 270 took to the roads)
Start: Eton Dorney Rowing Centre, Dorney, Berkshire SL4 6QP
Cost: £12.50 (£15 on the day)
Transport: Parking on-site
Burnham station, less than 3km
Feedstops: Long (3 after the split), Short (2)
Timed: Yes (Ankle tag system)
Signs: Black Arrows on yellow or white background, some signs had been removed by another event inadvertently, but event organisers were on course during most of the race trying to rectify the situation. A few junctions and climbs/descents could have been better forewarned.
Road: On the whole great fast road surfaces, some short rougher sections
Ride Map:
http://www.endomondo.com/workouts/r3MBNH5IHk8

Summary:
A great flowing ride that allowed you to maintain a high average despite the sometimes poorly surfaced roads. A good mix of A and B roads with a couple of testing climbs to sustain interest along with a couple of descents that ensured you kept concentration levels high. The weather was glorious, cool enough to ensure a good pace at the start but warming to the low 20's by the time I finished the shorter route. The race HQ was set against the backdrop of Eton Dorney Rowing Centre, the venue for the 2012 Olympic rowing and kayaking competitions. The only disappointment was the confusion with some of the signage, leading many riders to miss key turnings or to be unaware of impending junctions.

The Ride:
Sign-on and distribution of the timing chips and race numbers was straightforward and quick. Martyn from event organisers F3 then briefed all the riders before departure. Riders were ushered over the start mat to begin a scenic roll alongside the rowing lake.

Once out on the open road, several groups quickly formed as riders meandered their way through quiet roads. Before long a sign appeared indicating 10km had been covered in quick time. The biggest difficulty at this point was avoiding the large potholes whilst riding in a large group.

Despite it's proximity to the M4 the route used a welcome selection of smaller country lanes and main roads. This allowed riders to find a rhythm and maintain a healthy average. The journey out to Beaconsfield and onto Winchmore Hill flew past.

One of the few alarming incidents arose on the descent down Cock Lane into Wycombe Marsh and the A40. A signpost flashed past showing a 20 per cent plunge towards the London Road. All of a sudden the road turned to single lane with a set of traffic lights. Thankfully showing green! However around the next bend the road came to an abrupt end as it deposited us at another set of lights and the main road.

Safely across the road, the route returned to more sedate means before the climb to the old ski school atop Wycombe Heights. The centre burnt down in 2005 and has remained in ruins. The ascent started abruptly and with little warning as the curses and gear crunches behind confirmed.

Over the top and on towards Marlow Bottom the route settled down. At this point the average was nudging towards 30kph, respectable on any course. One of my riding companions grew up in and around the area and I was treated to a trip down memory lane as we sped through and on to Marlow where the two routes would go their separate ways.

Marlow was soon negotiated and at 50Km I waved off my companions as I turned towards Quarry Wood Road and the remainder of the shorter distance. The climb was fairly stiff at 12 per cent but the slog up to the summit was rewarded with great views off the top and a welcome breather on the descent. It was here I had a chat with a rider who had journeyed up from Cornwall to visit family but thought he would take in his first sportive. He wasn't disappointed when I caught up with him at the finish, signage aside.

Despite a more solitary ride the rolling countryside and the pleasant view across the Home Counties distracted my mind. Nashdom Abbey soon hove into view, an imposing building built by Edwin Lutyens for Prince Dolgorouki in 1909. It was taken over by the Anglican Order of Benedictine Monks in 1929 before it's closure 68 years later. It stands proudly as some very posh flats!

After following the perimeter of Dropmore Park Estate it was onwards to Taplow and the final stretch. The only sticking point was the huge car boot that caused a bit of blockage on the A4. Safely round this I found a willing partner to complete the last few miles back to Eton Dorney and a ride well done.





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