Event Review

White Horse Challenge 2013 REVIEW

by Jennifer Trotman


Date: Sunday 21st April
Distances: 90 miles
Entry fee: £30.00
Participants: c.500
Start: Shrivenham Memorial Hall, Highworth Road, Shrivenham, Oxfordshire, SN6 8BL.
Plenty of free parking.
Indoor HQ with refreshments available, toilets, additional portaloos.
Feedstops: 2 evenly spaced
Catering: Free tea/coffee after the ride, with other food available to purchase.
Timed: electronic timing chip for wearing on left ankles
Signs: A clearly way-marked route with clear signage.  Large black arrows on yellow background, and blue/white warning signs.
Roads: quiet picturesque route on scenic back roads.
Professional photography of the event by www.sportivephoto.com
Marshalls and motorcycle outriders.
Goody bag: medal

The Ride:
Another Sunday, another sportive. I like my life predictable. Today's was the White Horse Challenge, an event I've done once before, but that was 5 years ago, so I don't remember much about it. It's one of my riding mate Guy's favourites and there had initially been a plan for a posse to draft him around and help him beat his previous time. However not all plans come together, and this one was abandoned a little while ago. Which is good since there was no way I was ever going to be able to keep up and I would have been left behind. This way I stood a chance of some company to ride with.

whc bikerack
Bike Rack

The team car, aka Martyn's Picnic, arrived here at 5:45am, and collected both Gary and I, as the skies brightened and the pink clouds cleared. An uneventful drive down the motorway got us to HQ at Shrivenham around 7:30am as planned, and we were marshalled on to the field to park. Not really a field, more of a wooded glade off to one side of the venue. Guy, having arrived exceedingly early, was parked in the small car park actually next to the building, and a little down our row from us Chris was already parked up. That made five of us. Before getting ready, we walked across the pitch, past people queuing for the four portaloos outside, and into the hall to register. After a brief wait at the table designated for my number range, a lady appeared from somewhere, checked I'd signed by my name and number, gave me my number, and an electronic ankle tag. She instructed me to pick up cable ties and map on the way out, and to enjoy the ride. Oh, and by the way, the toilets are inside on the right. Which they were.  Way better than outdoor portaloos, and you gotta love being a girl - no queuing at all!

whc hq

whc registration

The forecast was for dry until late afternoon, fairly mild but not hot, a little breezy...ooh, the layering options were bewildering! And with three of us faffing around one car, it was like faffing squared. Or cubed!  Poor Guy was left kicking his cleated heels in the sunshine, waiting for us, for some considerable time.

whc portaloos
HQ Portaloos

whc start line
Start Line

Eventually we all assembled at HQ, after a few trips to and fro the car for forgotten things. We were joined by Martyn's tri-athlete friends Mark and Jeannie, bringing us up to 7. The plan was to be two groups. A fast, race 'round group (Martyn, Gary, Figgy, Jeannie), and the keep me company slow group (Me, Guy, Mark).  Departure was an informal affair, just a case of heading off over the timing mat when you were ready to go, so off we went. We set off in the sunshine as a larger group, which didn't last long as there was a draggy hill about two miles in which came as a nasty shock!

My legs felt like achey lead and it was 'orrible! The sort of horrible that makes you wonder if turning around and going home might'nt be a good idea. As the group spread out, with riders finding their own level like water, I was pleased to discover that the next 15/20 miles or so were fairly flat, which allowed me to warm up and get into my ride properly, and shake off that I feel like death slightly warmed up feeling. The fast lot rapidly disappeared off into the distance, never to be seen again, leaving us three behind to get on with it our way.

whc royal wooton
Royal Wootton Bassett

whc first white horse
First White Horse

It was a lovely day to be out riding. If it had been a bit warmer and a bit less windy it would have been a lot perfect. Even so, there are definitely worse ways to be spending a Sunday morning than riding along quiet country lanes in chilly Spring sunshine, with gorgeous views, stunning scenery, and wide open skies.

whc aveburys
Avebury Stone

whc marlborough downs
Marlborough Downs

It's a lovely route. There's plenty of flat and fast, and some lovely long climbs, with equally lovely downs. There was in fact a deceptive amount of climbing, which is not to say that it's a very hilly route, more that you climb more than you realise, almost without noticing. There were enough hills to be challenging with enough space between them to recover in time for the next one. Apparently one of those hills was 17%, as indicated by a road sign which I missed, which is probably just as well from a motivational point of view. I did make it up all of the climbs, however slowly, and I have to admit to taking a certain pleasure in riding past walking riders. Hey, I've walked up enough hills in my time, I've paid my dues, I feel I've earned it.

whc cherhill

whc white horse
Slow For The White Horse

It's not called the White Horse Challenge for nothing. Yes, there's Challenge, but there are also White Horses. Four of them, though I didn't seen the last and oldest one at Uffington. Apparently it's not actually visible from the final killer climb that takes you over the hill on which it resides.  It's a big hill, and they were playing King of the Mountain timing games up there, so I was too busy concentrating on getting up the hill to be looking around for it too much anyway. As the last big climb of the day, it was quite enough for tiring legs to deal with, but it was at least followed by a fair few miles of flying home, which were great!

Today's ride gets points for food stations with a range of sweet goodies, and the all important toilets. The first was in a village hall, the second on a village green with a portaloo which was still clean, and still stocked, which was pretty impressive! I topped up with water, not the High5 on offer, and ate banana halves as usual.

food stop
First Food Stop

first feed
The Sun Was Out

It's a lovely friendly event - at least when it comes to the organisers, helpers, and marshalls. Most of the riders out there were friendly enough as we said hello in passing too. There we a few pelotons that flew past, including the large one that decided that they had right of way at the roundabout in Wootton Bassett and would just hold up the traffic while they did what they wanted. We made a point of stopping, stopping others, and allowing the quite rightly irritated lady driver go where she was perfectly entitled to have been going in the first place. Honestly, sometimes us cyclists don't do ourselves any favours - and I bet those same cyclists complain the next time a motorist goes off on one about the behaviour of cyclists too!

second feed stop
Second Food Stop

second food stop portaloo
Second Feed Stop, The All Important Portaloo

There was a bit of a shortage of people saying "clear" at junctions, pointing out obstacles, warning of approaching cars etc. Luckily the roads were for the most part, unlike the A4 stretch past Cherhill, pretty quiet. The road quality varied a bit, from the lovely to the quite a lot of potholes but since there wasn't much traffic, it wasn't too hard to avoid those. The signage was pretty clear, as you can see, though the GPS route must have been a bit join up the dots with straight lines because my Garmin peeped off and on course all the time, which was minorly irritating.

finihs line
Finish Line And Riders

We rolled over the timing mat a bit over 6 hours after we left, to join lots of happy looking riders chilling out in the sunshine. The fast group had been there a while, unsurprisingly, and were full of tales of how fast they'd pushed it, and couldn't have done any more, and if it hadn't been for those darn traffic lights maybe. We all printed our times out, an ability I always like, which included standards and KOM times. They may have gotten around fast - and they did - but I still beat Martyn up the hill.   I'm planning on not letting him live it down for a while as he's well aware.

Timing Print Out

ankle tag
Ankle Tag


We sat around in the sun for a bit, drinking our free coffee, and wearing our well earned medals. There was a range of drinks, rolls, and cakes to buy, and the cakes in particular looked awesome.

Overall, we all agreed it was a really good event. The company was good, it was well organised, the route was nice, and the scenery was lovely, aided and abetted by the sunshine no doubt. It's a lovely part of the world to ride around. I felt pretty good the entire way around too, and even afterwards. My kind of sportive I think.


Danish Pastries

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) 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?) 10 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 10 out of 10
Overall Rating 96.7%

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