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Wiggle New Forest Spring Saturday Sportive REVIEW

by Jennifer Trotman

Essentials

Date: Saturday 14th April 2012
Distances: Epic (83 miles), Standard (56 miles)
Entry fee: Epic £26, Standard £24, U16 free.  
On the day entry if not sold out (it was) with a £3 per person surcharge.  
Start: Brockenhurst College, Lyndhurst Road, Brockenhurst, New Forest, Hampshire. SO42 7ZE. Plenty of free parking.  
Indoor HQ with refreshments available, toilets and changing facilities.  
Catering: Free tea/coffee voucher, with other food and drinks available to purchase.Timed: electronic tag attached to helmet.
Signs: A clearly way-marked route with clear signage. White arrows on orange rectangles for course directions, black on yellow triangles for warnings (caution, quiet zone) warnings.  
Roads: Picturesque route through the New Forest on country roads.  
Professional photography of the event from www.sportivephoto.com.
Sports massage. Bike wash facilities. Goody bag: finisher medal, water bottle, mini Muc-off spray, gel, bar, Cycling Plus.

The Ride

The alarm went off at 4:40am. Mad as ever! As this was my fifth event of the year, I've now got the hang of packing for a sportive so it doesn't take me long to get ready and I was out of the house and on the road by about 5:15am.  I'm getting quite good at driving east these days as the last two events have been over that way too.  At least those roads are quite fun first thing in the morning, as they're fast and empty.

I got to ride HQ - Brockenhurst College - around two hours later, which meant that although I was by no means first there, I did get to park in the car park nearest the start.  Always good.  Having done the New Forest 100 last year I was familiar with where everything was, and there are plenty of facilities - toilets, changing rooms, etc.  Registration took no time at all, the obligatory timing sticker went on my helmet, and that was that.   


Sports Centre HQ


Portable Toilets

Time to faff.  Not that there was much deliberation to be done since the only actual decisions to be made were overshoes or not, overgloves or not, Buff on head or not.  The rest was what I was wearing and that was that.  I was tempted to skip the overshoes...but then I remembered how much I hate cold feet and stuck them on anyway.  The overgloves went in the saddle bag just in case, and the Buff went on my head, on the basis that I could always take it off later.  I got it so right.   

I'm lucky enough to have my own Garmin gadget, but for those that don't and fancy test riding one before buying one, you could have arranged to demo and borrow one for the ride, which is a nice idea.  Clearly quite a popular one too as riders were queuing up to collect theirs.


The Rent-A-Garmin Queue

As you can see it was grey and gloomy.  What you can't see is that it was also a tad chilly, and that there was more than enough wind.  Isn't there always?  Having run out of layers to consider, gadgets to set up, and delaying tactics to use, it was time to head to the start.  I took my place in the pen indicated, and waited my turn.


Queue for the Start

Following a short riders' briefing, our pen was on our way at 7:45am, one of the first away. Today was my first solitary sportive of the season, though sadly it won't be my last. I stuck with a loose group for a while as we got underway, and it was proper nippy out there once you started rushing that air past your skin!  

Not as cold as my last event though, so I never completely lost touch with my fingers and about 10 minutes later they were back.  The group split up and spread out after a while, mostly because they weren't going fast enough for me and I needed to warm up, not wheel suck - that could wait for later - so I put my foot down and hurtled for a bit just to get going. The first hour or so of an event is nearly always the fastest, and it's nice to get miles under your belt. After a short section in the forest there was a climb up to the moor. Although it's called the New Forest there seems to be more Moor than Forest, and it can't half be bleak up there!  Flat, open, exposed, with the headwind to fight against over slab-laid road surface - bump bump bump over every tarmac filled join.  Not so nice, but it would be a completely different story on a sunny day.  


Riders on the Moor


Less is Moor

I put my head down and slogged along. Being away so early meant I couldn't find a group to hook on to, so it was just me. I was caught by a couple of the riders who I'd overtaken when trying to warm up, and after sitting behind me for a while they admonished me for being a lousy windbreak - apparently I'm too little - and promptly left me behind.  Ah well.  The roads were lovely and quiet until about 9:15am when the local residents all woke up, realised they'd run out of milk or needed a newspaper, and hit the roads in search of both - so the traffic level increased noticeably.


Forest. Sort of...

The weather slowly deteriorated, adding rain in varying strengths to the mix, and the temperature dropped another couple of degrees, so it was a relief to be off the moors for a bit. I was glad of those overshoes now, and any thoughts of taking that Buff off my head were long gone. There was an upside to the miserable weather though, in that there were less people out there trying to enjoy the New Forest!  I think that helped a lot with the traffic levels, and with those drivers that were around not getting cross with cyclists being on the roads. It was time to try and distract myself from the weather by enjoying the scenery.  


Topiary Squirrel

You should see some of the property lurking in amongst the trees too.  Possibly a little bit out of my price range though...


A Very Big House in the Country

I'm also fairly sure I won't be buying my next car here...


Bentley Garage

The first food stop came at around 35 miles in which for some reason, it being an 83 mile ride, seemed a little late.  It was also sat in the middle of an exposed grassy area, with no toilet.  Darn...  At least it had everything else you could possibly need - drinks, water, bananas, fig rolls, flapjacks, jelly beans, etc.


First Food Stop

There were two very smiley staff, which is impressive considering where they were standing and the conditions in which they were going to be doing so for hours!  I chatted to them briefly as I topped up my bottle, and was very shortly on my way again.  There was another food stop at 48 miles, which I think was really for those doing the MTB event, though it seemed to be being used for both.  I didn't stop there though, nor at the third stop at 54 miles in, since I was travelling well equipped and didn't want to stop.


Third Food Stop

Anyone who's heard of the New Forest knows about the ponies, but it's not just horses and ponies that roam free you know...


Stripey Cow


Donkeys

Due to the weather conditions and being on my own, a lot of the ride felt like a slog.  There's not a lot of climbing involved, only around 8/900 metres all told, but there's quite a lot of gradual undulation.  Without big climbs, you don't get much by way of decent downs either, so you really have to make the most of those that you do get.


Wheeeeeeee!

There was a memorable section somewhere on the return leg, back up on the moors, where the road was long and straight, and the wind was behind me, and I was flying for miles.  I could have done that all day!  There is a kicker of a 25% hill in the middle as well, which I'd completely forgotten about.   I think it's called Blissford Hill.  Anyway luckily it's short, and although I did have to get out of the saddle, I really didn't have any problems getting up it this year - whereas I remember it being much harder work last time.  Result!  

Mind you one poor guy in front of me had just decided it was too much, and was about to stop, but failed to un-cleat. Now this would be bad enough usually, involving toppling onto your left side on the verge as it does, but sadly in this instance the verge turned into a deep concrete lined drainage gully...I can't really describe quite what happened but it was fairly dramatic, involved him ending up upside down in the gully, with his bike on top of him.  The rider next to me was already stopping, so I just kept going, otherwise I could easily have joined him down there - stopping on that kind of hill with momentum is not easy.  I hope he was ok.

At around the 55 mile mark, after they overtook me, I ended up as part of a loose group of four, which I stuck with for a while.  However we weren't quite well matched enough, if anything they were just a little bit too slow for me.  I could have sat in this little group 'til the end, effectively getting a free ride, but I don't go riding to take it easy, and besides, that was going to take longer than I wanted it to.  We were getting down to 20 miles to go now, my legs could sense the end, and at a decent speed I thought that could be done in a reasonable time.

OK, I'll admit it, I was trying to get a gold time.  Only because I managed one on the longer event last year, and it looked like it might be doable.  It certainly wasn't going to happen if I stayed where I was so I put my foot down again, and pushed it for those next twenty odd miles.  It may have been harder work than it needed to be, but it worked for me.  You have to ride your ride your way, or it just doesn't work.


Finish Line

I crossed the finish line, fairly knackered but justifiably so, and collected my medal and goody bag (Cycling Plus, mini Muc-Off spray, bar, gel, water bottle etc). After stashing my bike safely back in the car I went in search of refreshment. There was quite a queue so I went and used the changing room and got changed into civvies, as two hours in the car in damp lycra didn't appeal.  The queue was a little better when I got back so I joined it.


Post Event Coffee Queue

The sports massage option was proving very popular too.


Sport Massage

All the food on offer - cake, sandwiches and the like - looked very nice.  However they get extra marks for having soup available.  Well I was cold, and vegetable soup is a good option for me. I took myself off to a corner to enjoy it and very nice it was too.  There was a real mix of riders around, courtesy of the two distances to the road ride and the MTB event running at the same time, but the general buzz implied that, apart from the miserable weather, everyone had had a good ride, which I think sums it up pretty well.  

The provisional results were published online on Sunday night, and it looks like I managed to scrape in and get that GOLD time by the skin of my teeth.  5:03:28 - another 1:32 hanging around anywhere and I'd have been a silver - so that's the icing on the cake for me.  I do like it when events have achievable standards.  

The event is run by UK Cycling Events, who clearly know what they're doing, having run quite a few events by now, and the whole day ran smoothly and efficiently.  If they could organise the weather too that would be great! 


UK Cycling Event Signs





5 Comments

17th April 2012 1:52pm wrote:

Nice write up.
By the way stripey cow is a Belted Galloway or Beltie I think.
Also, forest does not necessarily mean an area of trees. The word originates from the word for hunting ground which the New Forest was created for.
Glad you enjoyed your visit
And thanks to all that rode, the standard of riding that I saw was good and the level of litter very low.
Barry (New Forest Cycling Club)

andywatts
17th April 2012 2:42pm Andy Watts wrote:

Great write up. I have to confess to being "that guy" on Blissford hill. Sorry for getting in the way and thanks to the nice bloke you mentioned who stopped to lever me out of the ditch. It was surprisingly deep and slippery. I might still be there yet.

I did get a bit hurt, so limped home to an abandon. When the doctor stopped laughing he confirmed there is nothing broken. (apart from my pride)

Loved the first half of the ride, looking forward to the second bit next year with perhaps a few more gears and looser cleats.
Andy

JenniferT
17th April 2012 5:45pm JenniferT wrote:

Glad you're ok! I felt guilty for not stopping so am glad to hear that no serious damage was done, other than to your pride ;)

Chapmake
18th April 2012 2:23pm Chapmake wrote:

A great write up - I completed the ride on Sunday - no rain but the wind was strong - I seem to have similar recollections of the stretch across the Moor running south west from Beaulieu - congrats on the time - to do the photos and the Gold Standard is impressive - most amusing was the commentary on getting up at 4.50am - how many of us are doing this ! As I travelled down the M3 there were many other like souls - we are a strange bunch - finally UK Cycling events did another great event - the John Lewis of Cycling Events?

Keith

noahs_arc
18th April 2012 6:36pm noahs_arc wrote:

Nice write up, I completed the standard on the Sunday although I should have been there on the Saturday doh. So thanks to the lovely teacher who accepted my very late entry. Only one real complaint was the quality of the medals. Something out of a kinder surprise would have been of a better quality! Wiggle check out the Lionheart medal - that's a proper medal.. The NF route was extremely enjoyable .....we were only interrupted by horses and pigs (yes pigs) crossing our path ...that was a bit of a bore!!