King of the Downs

King of the Downer more like.  Or King of the Downpour.  Or King of the bad feed station.  Or King of the burger van at the end of the ride.  King of the no timing chips.  King of the no marshals.  King of the punctures. King of the worst sportive I’ve ever done.

In fairness to Evans I’m a little down on the ride today.  Not least as I abandoned for the first time ever and this was entirely due to the weather.


This picture tells the story. 

Registration opened at 5:00 apparently which is kind of crazy.  PaulS and I rocked up at about 7:15 or so with the weather just about holding out.  DaveM was already waiting.  The registration process was nice and quick and we got our race numbers.  Though this is not the first UK sportive I’ve done where the cable ties are not of sufficient length to wrap around handlebars – a bit of a dumb oversight. 

More depressing was the lack of timing chips.  Instead our numbers were  typed into a laptop at the start.  Budget.

Anyway, the we rolled on through the industrial estate behind Gatwick.  PaulS very wittily remarked “well, when you have all this on your doorstep”.  However, we were quickly out of Gatwick into the countryside.  And I was finally going to get my ride in the Surrey Hills!

At risk of sounding unduly bigheaded (I’m all too aware of my status as nothing more than a mediocre club rider) there were a lot of poor riders around.  Crap bikes.  Crap kit.  Some bloke wearing a coat with a hood for God’s sake.  Making a meal of small hills.  And riders off their bikes as soon as the gradient tipped 5%.  Still, it made me look better.  When I go to races I’m very much at the bottom of the food chain so I should probably be more sympathetic…. Nar :-) .

I was in the mood to push on a little and DaveM popped off the back. 

Due to the lack of a grouped start and despite the number of riders doing the course, the density of riders on the road was pretty low and it was possible to do long stretches without seeing other riders let alone finding someone of your own ability to ride with.

The weather didn’t hold out long and it started to chuck it down – I think we had hailstones for a while too.  Hoping it was just a shower we pressed on.  I teamed up with a couple of really cool guys from Addiscombe and we rode mostly together for an hour or so.  

I was pleased to be able to do some of the famous Surrey Hills, including Leith and Box.  Box Hill especially is lovely, with little switchbacks and great views.  Everything an alpine climb has apart from length and gradient!  But it’s a super hill to power up on the big ring.

On and on the rain went.  Getting worse rather than better.  Then I punctured.  I rode all last year on commuter tyres so escaped this cruellest of punishments.  I hate getting punctures.  I’m nay fatalist but it always feels like very bad karma indeed.  Soaked to the skin I quickly started to shiver and I couldn’t feel much as I clumsily changed the inner tube on my back wheel.  It seemed to take ages and it was depressing to think of all the effort that I’d put into the ride being thrown away.

Back on my way my heart wasn’t really in it.  I got into a bit of a group and sat in for a few minutes.  However, my thoughts turned to abandonment.  The course is a figure-of-eight around Gatwick and I knew that I probably only had another 10 or 15 miles to go.  I really went for it, left the group behind and pushed on – though the harder I went the more it rained.  Of course, correlation isn’t causation…

I turned up at Evan’s base at Gatwick and threw in the towel.  In fact I wished I had a towel to throw in.  I was very cold, shivering and completely soaked.  And with no change of clothes either I the heartened-o-meter was in the red.

Not only that but there was nothing to eat and drink at the end of the ride.  On a complimentary basis anyway.  This seemed a bit tight frankly.  There was a ‘burger van’ which, well, seemed to rather sum up the event.

The rain subsided and I cycled back to the car.  It took me an age to get the bike in the motor and pop my jeans on.  At some point I stopped shivering.  I decided to move the car closer to the start/finish and, to give you an idea of my confusion, started driving on the wrong side of the road. Admittedly I was in France last week, but I didn’t even drive!

I was relieved to see that DaveM and PaulS had the same view as me and had bravely quit and were queuing at the burger van for refreshments.  They were shivering like crazy – in fact the whole place looked like a Parkinson’s sufferers convention.  The only warmth was derived from the involuntary spilling of hot drinks.

Overall a bit of a disaster except that

  • My cool new Oakley shades performed brilliantly in the wet
  • Next time I’ll know to take a towel if there’s any danger of rain
  • And some spare clothes
  • I felt great on the bike – probably due to the fact that I’d forced myself to rest for a day or two