Event Review

REVIEW: Harp Hilly Hundred Reliability Ride

by Andy Dawson

REVIEW: Harp Hilly Hundred Reliability Ride

Date: 19th January 2014 
Distances: 100km and 55km
Entry fee: £10 (half going to charity)
Start: 8.30 to 9.30
Feedstops: none
Catering: big spread at the end
Timed: yes via a card reader
Signs: yes
Roads:  clean, wide, not too busy
Goody bag: none 

The 2014 Chiltern Classics reliability rides kicked off with the long-standing Harp Hilly Hundred on Sunday, 19th January. This is the first of six rides in the area that get the new season underway and follow an age-old tradition of club reliability rides. The Harp Hilly has been run every year since 1954. 

Reliability rides have limited or no food stops, simple directions and are used mainly by clubs as early season endurance events. The Harp Hilly Hundred goes beyond the norm, offering timing cards, downloadable navigation files and excellent signage all round the route.

Gathering for the off

Timing card being read

About 200 keen cyclists gathered at the Hemel Hempstead CC Club Room in Kings Langley on the outskirts of Hemel for the 8.30am start. Sign on was super easy and the plastic card barcode reader method of timing was simple.

Plenty of groups were forming and riding off together so it was easy to tag on the back of one and go off very quickly out into the countryside. One advantage of reliability rides is how clubs and committed groups predominate, so riding in packs is more common than on summer sportives.

Unfortunately, a greater than usual number of riders could be seen fixing punctures in the first 3 kms as we climbed gently out of Hemel and over towards Berkhamsted.

Punctures galore!

The team working together

Digging in at the top of the Bison

However, soon we were climbing out of Berko and crossing Northchurch Common before dropping and then climbing via Bison Hill - the steepest part of the HHH. This hill scattered the field and it took time for new groups to form.

A long return skirting Dunstable, passing north of Ivinghoe Beacon and past Tring brought us to the next challenge of the day - Aston Hill. By now people were visibly slowing and stopping to consume whatever food they have brought with them.

I, for one, was certainly cycling on the memory of last summer's strength...

Descending on the open road - and the sun came out!

The climb at Aston

Aston Hill took us around to Cholesbury Common where we dropped down to a long stretch going back north before a second visit to Ivinhoe Beacon. This time we actually climbed the reasonable slope and then dropped back down to Berkhamsted. A short but brutal climb out of town got us over towards Chesham, and a final 13% ramp in the last 5kms sapped any remaining leg strength. Luckily, the last 2 kms was all downhill so it was possible to coast, if slowly, into the finish.

Back in the clubhouse enjoying a brew

And the excellent spread!

The HHH was a very friendly event with plenty of chats along the way, most of which revolved around how good the route was - a good challenge with reasonable, well spaced out hills.

What hadn't been sufficiently flagged up was the amazing spread of food waiting for us in the Hemel Hempsted Club room. All free, we had sandwiches, an enormous Danish pastry and tea or coffee - described as nectar by a fellow cyclist.

Overall, a great early-season event with good camaraderie, an excellent route and faultless signage. Plus, a warm welcome on our return - what more could you ask for.

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) 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) 10 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?) 9 out of 10
Overall Rating 92.2%

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