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The Joker Sportive - Conquer Cobbled Gold Hill

by Henry Peacock

The Joker brings some entertaining features and novel twists to the standard sportive format. For 2013, the event will be on April 7th (as April 1st falls on Easter Monday), but will keep the same format that makes it the most enjoyable and innovative season starter on the calendar.

gold hill
It's Tough But Thankfully Short

What sets the Joker apart is the introduction of a series of extra loops or route choices spurring off of the core circuit, each featuring specific challenges or obstacles. Probably the highest profile of these is the climb of Gold Hill in Shaftesbury; the iconic 1:4 cobbled climb featured in Ridley Scott's famous 1970′s advert for Hovis, in which a bakers delivery boy pushes his bike up the dreaded slope.

The organiser said of the event: "We know this area well, having run mountain bike events from Salisbury race course since the 1990s. This is not Salisbury Plain! The Joker course is further south and has much more to offer in terms of variety and scenery. The backbone of the course is the Chalke Valley, which runs Salisbury west to Shaftesbury. This is a beautiful chalk stream valley, scattered with classic English villages and thatched cottages, and flanked by a pair of high droves to the north and south, which form the bulk of the days significant climbing challenges. The key to making the most of this superb area, while adding in that unique Joker character, was to give the riders plenty of options for their ride, but also to keep those options simple."

There's Descents Too!

There is a free t-shirt for completing the ride too, and the 2013 design has just been released. This is a high quality item too, as the organisers are keen to point out: "We believe a an event t-shirt should be a giveaway, not a throwaway. We have a strict rule that we won't give out a shirt that we wouldn't be happy to wear on a casual night ourselves. So we use high quality, heavyweight cotton shirts, printed with clever, eye-catching designs."

For each Jokers Challenge you complete, you also receive a souvenir Joker playing card, with a unique design for that challenge. And for all the Jokers and Fools, you can be assured that the organisers will taking the event as seriously as any other. As with all Southern Sportive events, you'll get support and route marking, well stocked feed stations and event catering, plus instant ride timing for those of you with performance goals in mind.


For more information and entry please visit:

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