Event Review

REVIEW: Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive - Success Through the Sabotage

by Caven O'Hara

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Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive 

Distances: 62 & 84 miles 
Participants: 2,000 
Start: Matchams Leisure Park, Ringwood 
Transport: Christchurch Station 5.7 miles 
Feedstops: 1, 2 
Catering: Hot drinks, snacks and cakes at the registration tent and other food stalls before and after 
Timed: Timing chip on your helmet 
Signs: White arrows on an orange background 
Road: A fast route through glorious countryside. Good quality roads, well organised and plenty of wildlife. Another huge rider turnout, highlighting the popularity of the event and location. 
Goodies: Finishers medal and T shirt 

Now in its sixth year, the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive has become a big fixture on the sportive calendar. It sells out months in advance, despite there being two days, testimony to both its popularity as an event and the route served up. This year was no different. 

However, last year had seen an unsavoury and potentially dangerous episode when tacks and mud were thrown on a section road. This year, despite reassurances from the organisers and a change of route, there was a repeat of the action on Braggers Lane, Bransgore where over 20 riders sustained punctures from nails placed on the road. 

No-one was injured but UKCycling Events Director, Martin Barden said: "the majority of local residents were extremely supportive of the event, and the riders really appreciated them clapping and cheering them on as they completed the course." 

He continued, "It was surprising and disappointing to see a handful of anti-cycling campaigners trying to disrupt the event again this year by throwing tacks on to the road on several occasions." 

Riders and locals getting on fine...

Local MP, Julian Lewis also spoke out against the attacks, "It does not help anyone when people, however frustrated they feel, do something that could lead to a nasty accident, or at the very least a nasty confrontation. I'm hoping that the cause of the provocation will be sorted out sooner rather than later, but taking the law into one's own hands is not the way forward." 

Campaigners opposing the event had put up posters in the lead up to the event claiming the sportive posed, "an abuse of our tranquil locality," and warning visitors that they may be "at risk as they go about their daily lives." 

Leading the protests had been the New Forest Equestrian Association, who's Chairman, Tony Hockley said, "Many people will obviously be unable to avoid using parts of the route while the event takes place. They will need to take very great care as there will be a fast-moving stream of entrants for several hours each day." 

I didn't witness the incident but the Police were informed and the marshals cleared the debris. A shame given this has proved to be a great event in an area of the country that should be enjoyed not hidden away. 



Stunning forest

Anyway, 'on with the show'... 

The continued success of the event itself appears to be based on a couple of key ingredients: A well-oiled machine putting on and organising the event, and a terrific route in a stunning part of the country. 

The only downside was the 'silly o'clock' alarm which, on the back of a friend's wedding the day before, meant I was dragging myself out of bed, sober but with only five hours sleep! Having packed and organised everything the night before it didn't take long to shower, make a coffee and get going. 

All thoughts of, 'what am I doing' were soon banished though as the mist and fog faded and the sun rose. The purple tint evident in my rear view mirror was breath-taking. Given the early start, the traffic was light and I made good time. As I headed down the M27 I took advantage of the services, wanting to avoid queues and extra delays at the event centre. The number of cars pulling in with bikes on board indicated not only how many had the same idea, but how many were heading down for the ride. 

This hunch was confirmed by the queue of cars approaching Matchams Leisure Park. It didn't take long to wend our way round to the parking areas though, even with this many cars. With registration opening at 7:15 it was already packed by 7:45. 

Parking was easy

And registration a breeze

Before unloading the bike I grabbed my helmet and headed off to registration. The marquee set up for the weekend was huge. The tables were laid out with plenty of volunteers ready to serve. At the far end, the on-site café was set up. Timing chip attached to my helmet and it was back to the car to ready the bike and grab all the bits I may or may not need. 

Despite the sun it was a little chilly waiting in the start pen for the safety briefing from the main man, Martin Barden. Said briefing was short but to the point, what to look out for, the signage and the expected behaviour from the riders. The latter being a key issue given the problems that affected last years event, but there have been plenty of steps taken to reassure local residents that sportives can benefit everyone, not just the riders, who also bear some of the responsibility. 

All that taken care of and it was time to roll down the slope back to the main road and head out onto the course. From Matcham there was a short spin before joining the main section of the day's route. For the first 25 miles we headed east, almost reaching the Beaulieu River before turning north. Despite the odd rise, the route chosen was almost totally flat. The average speed started high and didn't drop. Yes, there was the occasional hill, but nothing that really did a great deal to hold you back. With this many riders, there were pockets of them up and down the road. It did allow you to find a group that you could work with. 

Briefed and ready for the off

Signage was spot on

The scenery reminded me of the moorland areas more akin to the Highlands or even Dartmoor. With this sort of view to drink in, it just made the ride even better. Rolling through iconic areas of the New Forest, such as Beaulieu and Brockenhurst, you appreciate what a beautifully unspoilt part of the UK this is. It was a little bit of a surprise when the first feed station suddenly appeared after 36 miles. Having not been paying attention to the mileage due to enjoying the shared workload, it was even more of a shock to realise less than 2 hours were on the clock. 

The feed station offered all that you come to expect of these Wiggle events. Stocked with plenty of snacks - sweet and savoury - topped off with High 5 drinks or water. I topped up a bottle and grabbed a handful of things to eat. There were several portable toilets to combat previous complaints of riders urinating by the roadside in built up areas. 

High 5s all round

Mountains on offer

It took a while to get the legs going after the stop, not helped by some of the steeper inclines of the day appearing shortly after, as did the course split. Turning right towards Fritham we passed the 50-mile mark and headed out into more open countryside, interspersed with some forested areas.  

We swept past the interestingly named hamlet, 'Lover' and then almost turned back onto ourselves as we picked up the Roger Penny Way, named after a much-respected local highway official. The wind was really blowing across here and it felt like we'd turned directly into it. Here the benefits of working in groups really paid off as we ploughed into it. Dropping down off the top through Fordingbridge and the famous holiday resort of Sandy Balls, it was onto Hyde and past the 70-mile marker where those riding the standard route re-joined. 

For the first time it seemed like really hard work as I struggled to find a group to work with. It wasn't long though before a group passed me at speed that I was able to latch onto. The final 8 miles or so passed in a blur as the most was made of those last few, flat miles. The finish was a little bit of shock, as we had to re-climb the hill we'd rolled down less than five hours previously. 

The scale of the event!

The bar and hog roast

Across the line and the team were there to enthusiastically welcome back the riders and hand out the finisher's medals and T-shirts. Having caught my breath, I hung my bike on one of the many racks provided before availing myself of a coffee and pasty. With the organisers set up for the weekend, there was the prospect of live music, a bar and a hog roast. Not bad at all, and certainly made the 'silly o'clock' alarm worthwhile. 


Editor's Note:
Following the sabotage attempt on Saturday local police investigating the incident are carrying out door-to-door enquiries in an attempt to find the culprit or culprits.

Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 10 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) 10 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) 9 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 10 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 10 out of 10
Overall Rating 94.4%