Event Review

REVIEW: Chiltern Cycling Festival 2014

by Andy Dawson

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REVIEW: Chiltern Cycling Festival 2014


Date: 13 July 2014  
Distances: 160km Gran Fondo/ 100km Medio Fondo Amersham-Brill-Amersham sportive, 50km Amersham Classic 
Start: Amersham 
Feedstops: one on Amersham Classic 
Timed: yes, sticky strip on side of helmet 
Signs: yes 
Roads:  good quality, mainly car free 
Goody bag: yes, musette with leaflets 

The Chiltern Cycling Festival took over the centre of the pretty market town of Amersham last Sunday with a range of rides, events and stalls. There was something for everyone, from a 160km sportive, through to a childrens' ride around the town, which is blessed with a very steep hill just off the High St. and this hosted a serious hill climb competition in the afternoon too. There was a strong vintage theme, and I went along to try out the 50km "Amersham Classic" retro ride. 


All the sportives were being run by the highly competent Allez Sportives company. Once the large fields of 160km and 100km Amersham-Brill-Amersham people had been waved off in groups of 20 it was the turn of a smaller group of vintage riders on the Classic run. Chatting to people it became clear most had been on the L'Eroica Britannia a few weeks ago: the vintage sportive world is a small and friendly community.  Whilst most of us were on relatively modern steel bikes (though pre-1989) and dressed in retro cycling jerseys we did have a couple of characters on very old single speeds and dressed in shirts, boots and caps straight out of a pre-war cycling scene. 

Dropping the Union flag started us off and we stuck together as a very sociable retro-peloton for the first 10 miles or so. It soon became clear that one of our single speed people was the author Tim Moore who has just published a book about riding the entire 1914 Giro route ("Gironimo!  Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy"): it was a Radio 4 book of the week back in May. We had our own taste of terrible weather in the shape of a heavy, soaking downpour within the first hour. 

Retro peloton

Author, Tim Moore

Allez Sportives often feature really well chosen routes, and though I'm familiar with the area, they always take me on new roads and have a good mix of opportunities for group riding plus challenging climbs.  Immediately after the rain storm the sun came out and we arrived at Princess Riseborough where we did a clever loop to avoid most of the main road approach to the big hill on our ride: Whiteleaf/Peter's Lane.  This has a very steep ramp at the start then eases off to just 10% before going back up for a long, steep climb through the trees. Various non-derallier equipped people were getting off to swop around their gears and most were walking by the middle of the hill. 

Whiteleaf food stop

At the top of Whiteleaf was the single food stop on our run. This had flapjack, malt-loaf, bananas and water plus tabs and sweeties. After this the route took us back towards Amersham via some long, relatively open descents which were a pleasure to drop down and a final bit of relatively quiet dual carriageway. Our times were taken via a disposable helmet strip just before the town and then there was a finishing gate and cheering onlookers to welcome us into the festival centre. The whole of the town High St was closed off with vintage stalls, steel bike emporia and local sponsor tents. It was really impressive how many partners and businesses had got involved in the festival, and with the sun now beating down there were crowds of people enjoying the event. 

Finish line musette

Bike shop

Checking with a friend (thanks Nick) who did the 100km Amersham-Brill-Amersham Sportive he confirmed the excellent choice of routes and added that the Garmin mapping was outstanding.  The Festival is set to happen each summer, and on the excellent strength of this inaugural event, looks likely to become a highlight of the season.


Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 9 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 9 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) 9 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 10 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?) 9 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 9 out of 10
Overall Rating 91.1%