Event Review

REVIEW: Harp Hilly Hundred and the Formation of Berkhamsted CC

by Andy Dawson

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REVIEW: Harp Hilly Hundred and the Formation of Berkhamsted CC 

Date: 18th Jan 2015 
Distances: 102/55km 
Entry fee: £10 (half goes to charity) 
Start: 8.30 to 9.30am, 3pm finish 
Feedstops: none, but plenty at end 
Catering: sandwiches, pastries, tea and coffee 
Timed: yes, plastic card with a bar code to be scanned at start and end of ride 
Signs: yes, clear, distinctive HHH signs 
Roads:  some gravelly back lanes but mainly light traffic and open roads 
Goody bag: no 

The Chiltern Classic reliability ride series kicked off with the Harp Hilly Hundred on Sunday 18 January. This traditional season-opener takes a tough route over North Chiltern Hills for 102km.  There's also a 55km option for those not yet up to speed this early in the year.  Being a reliability ride, you are expected to complete the 102km within 5 hours.  

I was with the newly-founded Berkhamsted Cycling Club who had targeted this event as their very first club effort. Formed mid-way through 2014 Berko CC had managed to get 37 entered for the Harp (out of the field of 200).  This was important as HHH gives a prize to the club with the most finishers on the long route. The Harp Hilly Hundred Shield has been awarded every year since 1954, and many established and prestigious local clubs have their name on it.  

Grand Depart

We gathered at the Hemel CC clubhouse early Sunday morning.  At the well organised sign-on we were given plastic cards with barcodes and when these were scanned your timing had started.  Once we'd all formed up and got our cards read it was off together through the traffic lights immediately outside the venue and up the gently rising Rucklers Lane. This narrow, gravelly road was pretty car-free and helped everyone warm up and get used to the conditions (no ice, but not a warm day).  

Soon we were up through Bovington and past the start venue for the Chiltern 100 (May 31 this year) and then riding over to Berkhamsted.  Route so far was just mildly lumpy and a fast drop down Durrant's Lane brought up to the easy but long climb onto Northchurch Common.  A long descent down to Dagnall and some flat riding got us fully warmed up after 29km.   

This was good as we then turned right and headed up the dreaded Bison Hill - not particularly long but very steep and always requiring a maximum effort to get up. Views from the top are spectacular, if you have the energy to look, and further riding along the ridge of Dunstable Downs was also good.  

The Bison 

There followed a long, flattish ride all the way over to Tring to ease out the legs after Bison. Here we tackled the long Aston climb.  One of the problems with this hill is the long "pre" hill before it - very easy to think you aren't really climbing. Go too fast and you'll arrive at the "real" hill completely spent. At the top a set of Berkhamsted CC riders reformed after being spread out on the hill and we group rode over to Wiggington and down Hemp Lane.   

More flat riding got us back to Ivinghoe Beacon which is another gentle but long ascent.  By now we could smell the finish and a fast ride back over Northchurch Common had us descending back into Berkhamsted before turning right to hit the difficult Durrent's Lane.  This is very steep but very short, and thus lethal if you've already used up your legs. Once over that it was easy until a final, short 13% ramp on Ley Hill road. A long 2km drop back down Ruckler's Lane got us to the finish.


Overall, the route is an absolute classic with plenty of opportunities to form up groups and make time on the flats, plus the hills are well spaced out so you have time to recover from the major efforts.

There was very little traffic about on the route and the welcome at the Hemel clubhouse was as good as last year, with a spread of sandwiches and pastries plus hot drinks. There was also a scrolling photo screen featuring shots of everyone on the event to help us relive the pain whilst sipping our coffees.  

And the Harp Hilly Hundred Shield? Berkhamsted Cycling Club won which is a huge achievement for such a new club.  We're now part of history!

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) 10 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?) 10 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 9 out of 10
Overall Rating 91.1%

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