Event Review

REVIEW: Wiggle Wight Winter - A Real Christmas Cracker

by Nick Gregory

The Wiggle Wight Winter Sportive 2013

Essentials

Date: Sunday 1st December 2013
Distances: 61 and 42 miles 
Entry fee: £39 including ferry from Lymington (non-ferry ticketed entry available for those already on the island.)
Start: Lymington Ferry Terminal, Undershore Rd, Lymington, Hampshire, SO41 5SB 
Feedstops: 2 on both routes 
Catering: Hot/cold drinks and food available (One tea or coffee free of charge) 
Timing: Electronic strip on helmet 
Signs: White on orange background + yellow 'Caution' signs.
Roads: Fantastic route on virtually traffic-free roads for the most part, with some short sections on busier roads and enough climbing to really test your legs.
Photos: www.sportivephoto.com 
Goody bag: Finishers medal, sweets, High5 bottle, Muc Off products and other bits and bobs. 

December, a bike and an island in the middle of the English Channel; chuck in a 4.30am alarm call and it's easy to see why, to the outsider, cycling seems like a pretty bizarre way to spend your time. In fact, by the time the pedals first turned at a shade after 8.00am, it was only just getting light. However, all of this would soon be forgotten as those lucky enough to take part in this sell-out event discovered just why it is so popular.

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Early, early start...

WW5All aboard!

Conscious of the fact that entrants were required to be on specific ferries at specific times, we opted to pay (still only £5 for the day) to park at Lymington ferry port - which was also doubling as the registration area - rather than having to worry about finding our way from the free off-site parking. In hindsight, we needn't have bothered: not only did we arrive with plenty of time to spare, but the overflow car parks were as well sign posted as the route itself.

The registration process was as smooth as ever with UK Cycling Events - albeit considerably more dark and cold than at some of their more tropical, mid-july offerings. The nice chaps from Wiggle were on hand at the start to assist anyone who required last minute adjustments of a mechanical nature, and the sight of their seemingly omnipresent orange and black roaming moped throughout the event was a welcome reassurance that help was close to hand, should you need it. 

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The reindeers adapted to their new role with great ease...

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And for the record, Santa rides a Colnago

Reflective of the time of year, there were just two rather than the usual three route options available: 61 and 42 miles. However, the longer route - which I had convinced my initially reluctant dad to take on as well - still featured the thick end of 3,500ft of climbing, ensuring that it would be enough of a challenge to warrant the early wake-up.

Rolling out from the ferry port at Yarmouth, any hopes of a gentle start were soon dashed as the route ducked inland and tackled a succession of sharp climbs through the residential area of Totland, which proved testing on cold legs. Skirting the most westerly point of the island, famous for the colourful cliffs of Alum Bay and the iconic Needles, the route linked up again with the coast at Freshwater Bay. From here, it was impossible not to be blown away by the spectacular, 15mile undulating coastal road known as the military way, which proved to be one of my most enjoyable stretches of any ride this season. The guys from Sportive photo were up the their usual tricks whenever the road went up (or down) sharply, and judging by the evidence that is now online, they got some fantastic shots. 

Had the weather gods not been smiling, 'blown away' could have taken on a very different meaning, as the dramatic cliff-edge vistas come with a price tag: namely complete exposure to the elements at their most ferocious. As it happened, the rain stayed away and the wind was minimal - the most you can really ask for in December.

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The views made the climbing worthwhile 

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And then there were the decents
 

Eventually, after passing through Chale, the route headed sharply inland, and immediately upwards. Coming just before the first feed station in Niton, the biggest climb on the route was long, but never too severe, making it fairly easy to set an early tempo and gradually grind your way to the top. Once summited, the reward was a breathtaking view over the Channel.

If the first third of the route had been impressive, the first High5 feed station only served to further boost my opinion of the event: Mince pies, fig rolls, Quality Street, Oreos and Nutella sandwiches were all readily available, as well as the usual UKCE offerings of jelly beans, flapjacks, bananas and the customary energy gels/ drinks. I could have stayed there all day. In fact, I nearly did.

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The spectacular first feed station

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And the bountiful supplies on offer

Back on the road the first route split came almost immediately, with standard riders heading back towards Yarmouth, and those of us doing the longer route continuing east to the coastal town of Ventnor, via Whitwell. Now, at our most south easterly point on the route, it was time to cross up and over the centre of the island in the vague direction of home. The signage, as always with UKCE, was excellent. Not only that, but the organisers had gone to the trouble of placing extra marshalls at two points on the route where the road had become icy, warning people to slow down. Nice touch. However, we did see two guys sat at the roadside - at different points - who had obviously come down pretty hard. Hope they weren't too badly hurt.

From this point on there weren't any major climbs, but neither was there much by way of genuine flat either. The towns and villages of Wroxall, Godshill and Chillerton came thick and fast, ensuring that the route remained varied and interesting. Before we knew it, we were at the second feed in the picturesque village of Brighstone, stocking up on supplies and admiring the thatched roofs. With around 20miles to go, and the worst of the climbing behind us, we rolled on through Brighstone Forest and over the last remaining lumps and bumps feeling revitalised. From rejoining the coast at Shalfleet, all that was left was a quick 5mile dash to the finish back in Yarmouth.

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The thatched roofs of Brighstone

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The second feed - 20 miles to go

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Nutella! 

Having been initially sceptical about how smoothly the ferry arrangements might pan out, I was wholeheartedly proved wrong when, upon returning to where my dad was waiting with the bikes, I had to promptly down my hard-earned coffee so that we could board just minutes after crossing the finish line. 

All in all, whilst not the most challenging, the Wight Winter was without doubt one of the most enjoyable days I've ever had on a bike. The route was spectacular, the feeds delicious and the atmosphere unique. Admittedly the weather made it a much more pleasant experience all round; but just in the same way that the abject conditions at the South Downs 100 did not detract from what was an excellent event, this one would have been brilliant regardless. At both events it was the one factor out of the control of Martin Barden and the team at UKCE, but on both occasions they delivered those factors they could control to such a high standard that it became irrelevant. The consistent level of quality that the Wiggle Super Series has offered in 2013 is as much a reflection of them as anything else.

There was a real sense of satisfaction at the end, knowing that the easy mid-winter option of the indoor turbo trainer had been avoided, and that a fantastic day out on the road had been enjoyed by all. An absolute must-do for 2014. 

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Heading back to the mainland

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See you next year!

Entries are now open for next year's Wiggle Wight Winter, and more information can be found at the UK Cycling Events website.


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) 8 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 9 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?) 9 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 10 out of 10
Overall Rating 91.1%




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