Event Review

REVIEW: SRS Burgess Hill Springtime Classic 2014

by Nick Gregory

GB Flag

The SRS Burgess Hill Springtime Classic 2014


Date: Sunday 30th March 2014 
Distances: 72, 54 and 36 miles 
Entry fee: £30.00 (£40.00 on the day, if available) 
Participants: 700 
Start: Oakmeeds Community College, Station Road, Burgess Hill, West Sussex, RH15 9EA 
Feedstops: 4 on long route 
Catering: Hot/cold drinks and food available (Free roll, crisps and tea or coffee post-ride) 
Timing: Tag worn around neck (Sportident) 
Signs: Red on yellow background 
Roads: Quiet, reasonably well-surfaced lanes for the most part; a few short sections on main roads and some tough climbing 
Photos: Avelo Images 
Goody bag: Free Continental inner tube (although I couldn't see where they were being distributed) and post-ride lunch 

For many cycling fans the Spring Classics, which take place between late March and the end of April each year represent the high point of the professional season. With half an eye on my impending participation in the Paris-Roubaix sportive, I decided to open my 2014 sportive season with the notoriously tough SRS Burgess Hill Springtime Classic. 

Having put together a preview of the key climbs on the route for Cyclosport a few weeks previously, I had some idea of what was in store; but with 80 miles in the legs from the day before - and nowhere near enough climbing sessions banked during the winter - the reality proved even harsher than I had expected. 

(Image: Avelo Images)

The event website was encyclopedic in its level of detail, covering everything from the Highway Code to relevant Strava groups. The only down side to this was that, on occasion, it took a while to find specific things you might be after. Nevertheless, having gleaned the important information the night before, arrival and registration was an absolute breeze. 

There was plenty of free parking available at event HQ: Oakmeeds Community College in the centre of Burgess Hill - 10 miles north of Brighton in the heart of Sussex. Having parked up and unloaded the bike I headed to the main indoor hall where sign-on was taking place. With friendly event staff manning numerous desks there was no queue whatsoever, and I was quickly given my rider number, timing chip and route map. 

Ample parking at the start

Registration pack

Having affixed my number to my bars I joined the by now substantial queue of riders waiting to depart. Admittedly, I probably didn't do myself any favours by lining up at bang on 08.30 when the first wave of riders on the long route were due to depart, but it was gone 09.15 by the time the wheels were turning in anger. 

Nevertheless, in fairness to the organisers, the continued sustainability of sportives is contingent on local goodwill - as any event organiser in the New Forest will I'm sure testify - and regulating the stream of riders flooding out onto the roads is paramount to both that and safety, so in the grand scheme of things this was a relatively minor annoyance. 

The surrounding area, known as the Sussex Weald, features iconic cycling havens such as Ashdown Forest, and Rupert Rivett and his team at SRS Events made full use of it. Somewhat bizarrely, the first feed station came after just 12miles, and preceded any real climbing of note. Having only just got the legs warm, I opted to press on. 

In the waiting line

(Image: Avelo Images)

Initially heading east to Chailey, the route then turned due north and into the first testing climb of the day - Pillow Mounds Hill. Relatively short, but fiercely steep, the ascent was certainly tough, but perhaps the most treacherous aspect of it came before the climb even began in the form of a small ford that contained potholes deep enough that I decided to dismount to avoid a puncture. Unfortunately the disgruntled rider replacing his inner tube on the side of the road hadn't escaped so slightly. 

After the stunning 2mile descent of Colemans Hatch Road, next up was Kidds Hill - known locally as 'The Wall'. There were, however, two reasons why the descent wasn't quite as enjoyable as it could have been; firstly, the wrenching realisation that "what goes down must come up", but secondly, and perhaps more relevantly, the only blemish on what was otherwise faultless route signage. 

This came in the form of a fairly abrupt right hand turn across oncoming traffic at the bottom of the extremely fast descent. Whilst the junction was marked, given the speed of the approach, and the oncoming hazards, it might have been useful to have forewarning signs or even a marshal on the approach to the junction. However, as I say, this aside the signage was absolutely faultless. 

Kidds Hill was a long, slow slog, and somewhat sadistically, an elderly couple had position themselves at the top of it - camping chairs and all - to watch the suffering unfold. Each to their own. 

(Image: Avelo Images)

The descent of Black Down Hill followed almost immediately, before a stretch of relatively flat road (in comparison to the rest of the route anyway...) It didn't last long though, and shortly after the route split came the steady, alpine-esque profile of Groombridge Hill for those on the long route. Cresting the summit and passing into Kent, the erratic staggering of feed stations started to take its toll. 

Having not checked the locations of the feeds, I opted to skip the first one after 12miles and was consequently pretty tired by the time I reached the second one at 40miles. With 4 in total, it seems curious that they were placed at the 12, 40, 50 and 60 mile marks. But still, having pulled in I couldn't have asked for more: vats of SiS energy drink to top up the bottles, hot sausage rolls, sweets, biscuits, flapjacks - the works. Having noticed during the first half of the ride that my front tire was a bit low, the friendly mechanic at the feed also kindly leant me his track pump so I could get some air into it. I made use of the toilet and got back on the road. 

Scenic feed station

Fill your boots time

Now well over half way, and having only stopped once, I decided I'd try and press on to the finish without stopping again. The climbs were unrelenting, almost to the point of being gratuitous, and by the time we reached the infamous Cob Lane Hill just shy of 60miles it had clearly taken its toll on many. The 20% brute saw many dismount, and had it not been for the presence of one of the Avelo Images photographers at the top, I might well have been amongst them. 

Just a couple of miles up the road came the final set of really nasty climbs - the Ardingly Reservoir Hills. On legs that now resembled jelly, I wobbled my way to the top to be greeted by the sight of yet another member of the Avelo Images team. Their pain radar was obviously well tuned. 

There were more lumps and bumps on the run in to the finish - and a sighting of a snake on the road (genuinely!) - but by now my legs were completely numb. I eventually limped back into HQ in Burgess Hill and hauled myself off the bike before slumping against a wall to take stock of what had just happened. 

(Image: Avelo Images)

Post-event massage proved popular

As I watched the riders trickle in, the general consensus seemed to be one of exhaustion and pride. Local knowledge often plays a major part in organising great events, and SRS - based in Brighton - should be commended for remaining focused on running high quality events in the Sussex area. Just about feeling human again, I headed inside to return my timing chip and rider number, before collecting my free roll, packet of crisps and cup of tea. 

Whilst none of the 'Monuments' of professional cycling take place in the UK, the SRS Springtime Classic does an admirable job of offering the mountain goats of Sussex and the surrounding areas a flavour of the Ardennes. 

With seven successful years now under its belt too, the event is establishing itself as the 'Doyenne' of early-season climbing events in the South East. Personally, I'm more of a fan of the parcours of Northern France, but in this case, to take that out on the event would very much be a case of a bad workman blaming his tools.

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) 10 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 9 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) 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?) 9 out of 10
Overall Rating 86.7%

Events You May Also Like...

Ride The Transfagarasan Epic Ride The Transfagarasan Epic Days to go until event: 12