Event Review

REVIEW: Wiggle Ups and Downs Sportive 2014

by James Berresford

GB Flag

Distances: 160 km / 113 km / 63 km 
Entry fee: £30 / £30 / £20
Start: Friends Life Building, Pixham End, Dorking, Surrey, RH4 1QA 
Feed-stops: 3 / 2 / 1 
Catering: Sandwiches, snacks and bars available at the start with a free tea or coffee at the end 
Timed: Yes (Helmet stickers) 
Signs: Clear, white arrows on a red background, hazards well signed. 
Roads: Some rough surfacing and gravel after this winter and the recent deluge.  

The Ups and Downs is and one of the original sportives in the hugely popular Surrey Hills area, there are now a vast number of events to choose from but Wiggle and UK cycling events continue to deliver one of the best experiences and its obvious why this one has endured. Poor weather before and during dampened the spirits a little but they still managed to put on a great ride out. 

The ride starts on the edge of Dorking, a stone's throw from Box Hill, and the epicentre of all things cycling in the South-East. It's a short train ride from London but a world away for cycling.  

The event draws big numbers, around 1500 had signed up, but because of heavy rain in the lead up not so many turned out on the day. There were still plenty to ensure you were never alone on the road though. 

The sign on was run with precision by an army of enthusiastic volunteers so there didn't seem to be any queuing. There was a similarly minimal wait at the start as riders were released in groups following the usual safety briefing, and as the weather was continuing to be a little damp everyone was keen to be on their way. 

Team ready at registration

Wiggle Ups and Downs start

The hills are what people travel here for, and that's exactly what they get more or less from the gun as we headed away from Dorking, straight up Ranmore Road, over the common and down Crocknorth - a hill with a gradient to make me grateful I'm dropping down it rather than struggling up. The rain in the previous days had been torrential, and the bottom of the road was more like fording a river. 

After negotiating the marginally less brutal Green Dene and cautiously crossing the A25 we avoided the village of Shere which the ride had passed through in previous years. A shrewd move as it is always chocked full of traffic. We joined the road above the village and took on one of the longer and steadier climbs in the area, over Hound House Road. 

Passing through Cranleigh the ride looped south for some much flatter terrain before moving through Dunsfold, again touching the downs over Loxhill and Hascombe. Throughout the ride we encountered the UK Cycling Events vehicles, and it was reassuring to see them on course. 

Fording a new Surrey river

Well stocked feed stations

The big climbing let up for a considerable time, instead looping further south through more country lanes and tiny villages that are typical of this part of Surrey. But it was by no means easy - the little digs and steady rolling inclines were real energy sappers, especially in the wind and occasional rain. 

It wasn't until Loxwood, well over 100km in, that the roads began to lift again - climbing the substantial Holmbury hill, and onto Peaslake a well-known mountain biking spot. 

The course is unforgiving as the tough climbing comes so late. Next up was Leith Hill at about 150km. Unfortunately, after a pretty impressive climb, my ride partner took an inexplicable tumble topping out the hill. We were fortunate enough that a big camper van was passing and they stopped and took us in, even fixing a cup of tea. 

The support vehicles which we'd seen on route came into their own. We rang the support number and they were with us in fifteen minutes and took us and our bikes back to the start. 

Green country lanes

UK Cycling Events rescue

Back at HQ the onsite medic checked and cleaned up my friend while I enjoyed a post ride massage to ease some much needed warmth back in to the legs. 

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