Event Review

REVIEW: Ride: Evans Cycles RideIt! Gatwick

by Caven O'Hara


Distances: 14, 32, 52 & 70 miles
Participants: 580 had signed up but 370 started
Start: Evans Cycles HQ, Gatwick
Transport: Gatwick Station
Feedstops: 1, 2
Timed: Yes
Signs: Black arrows on a pink background
Road: A scenic route through the Sussex countryside using a mix of main roads and local back roads. Lumpy at times, but never dull and made more challenging by the foul conditions. 

When I checked the calendar at the back end of last year, I selected the Evans Cycles RideIt! event at their HQ because it's local, there's some really good riding in the area and I thought the weather might be half decent. 

Well, the first two points were sorted, the third failed miserably. When I say miserably, I mean wet, really wet and numbingly cold for the hands and feet in particular. This is not to detract from the Evans' team's effort to put on a first class event. This was my first event of the year but for one of my riding companions, Paul this was his first ever sportive. Talk about a tough baptism, more of Paul's thoughts later.

About as dry as it got

The forecast all week had been grim but it had improved over the first part of the weekend. Before I set off, I had decided it wasn't as cold as I had feared but it was raining. A quick change of jacket and waterproof donned, it was time to begin the 21Km ride to the start. Not that there were any car-parking issues. Given that nearly 200 of the 580 riders who'd signed up for the event, failed to show it was unlikely to get too congested. It was a damp ride in but being a Sunday, pleasantly quiet. On arrival, sign on was quick and straightforward. Just as well, within a few minutes the cold was seeping in and it was beginning to feel uncomfortable. 

The opening 20km or so saw us amble north out towards Smallfield before turning south and aiming for Turners Hill. For anyone who has undertaken the London to Brighton ride, this hill is one of the landmark climbs en route to the south coast. Rather than follow the well-worn tracks of the BHF event, it was a left turn for a loop that skirted the edge of East Grinstead and Weir Wood reservoir and the day's second significant lump.

The reward for the climbing was the day's first feed station. Time for a top up and a few quick snacks before the hands and feet went numb again. Leaving the feed station we left Ashdown Forest and carried on towards Sharpthorne and the second split of the day. Those on the long route had already departed on their extended loop and now those on the short ride continued on back to HQ. Undertaking the medium route, we turned left at the Intrepid Fox pub and on to Highbrook. 

Refuelling for Caven's ride partner Paul

This is a nice gentle descent on top of the ridge, affording you in normal conditions an unrestricted view of the surrounding Sussex countryside. What we didn't realise at the time was how much of this area we would ride before getting back to race HQ. Once into Ardingly we turned south past the college of the same name before heading north and perhaps the icon of the day, the Balcombe Viaduct. 

ViaductConstructed in 1841, this is a stunning example of engineering and has been described as 'the most elegant viaduct in Britain'. The road runs parallel to it and climbs alongside, so you get plenty of time to take in the view. Once through the village it was a short run to another well-known landmark, Worth Abbey. Beyond here and it was time for another long descent towards the day's second reservoir, Ardingly. Our progress was halted momentarily as the second feed stop popped into view but with about 25Km left it wasn't a long stop. The rain was still teeming down and any waterproof garments were just holding water and cold.

Eventually we reached the reservoir and before long were plummeting down to the water level before the long climb back to Ardingly. The respite was short lived; a quick flit through the village and it was a right turn opposite the Ardingly Show Ground, home of the South of England show. The right turn was into Cob Lane, normally most events that feature this infamous road, tend to come up it. At 20% it is a leg burning, lung buster! This time is was a little hairy given the weather, the amount of standing water and the gradient. 

Cob Lane
Cob Lane Climb

Safely down, it was another climb back up to West Hoathly and the final push towards the finish. There was time to negotiate Turners Hill once more, this time from the shorter south side. Past the church at the top and it's another long fast descent down past Tulleys Farm before reaching the outskirts of Crawley. One final push through Copthorne and through the steadily falling, unrelenting rain, and it was back to HQ with a season opening ride of 85Km in the bank. 

First call was to get in doors and get our hands on a much-needed coffee. With several staff helping it didn't take long and best of all it was warm. As for Paul, we had a chance to catch our breath and discuss the day's ride. "It was hard towards the end, but I really enjoyed it. I've never ridden that far in one go or been on the road bike for that length of time. Yes, the weather wasn't great but it helps riding with others and you get to see some great scenery."

Plenty of friendly faces at the finish.

So despite having done most of his training on a turbo trainer, it shows what you can achieve. Paul has already got more events lined up and it proves cycling is on the up and up. Numbers for these early season events are good, and all we need now is a decent summer. 

We can only hope.

Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 6 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 8 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 7 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 8 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 5 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 9 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?) 8 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 8 out of 10
Overall Rating 74.4%

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