07 March 2013

Our own "The Hell of the Ashdown"

 As some of you may already know, Lucy and I are not big fan of sportives, that is, rides that you pay (usually lots!) for in exchange of a pre-determined route and occasionally some feeds.

But, they do have their advantages, granted. The routes they usually take are well thought out, and involve going through scenic bits of this island. The Hell of the Ashdown is one such sportive that I've been wanting to ride for quite a while, just not with hundreds more of other cyclists (and without paying the hefty fee!).

March continues to be a cold month, much more than last year, where we were already cycling in shorts on a number of days. The forecast was not too bad though, just above freezing, but no rain and even some sun towards the end of the day. After a bit of fiddling with the official 2013 route, we took a train that dropped us to the south of Orpington, near the North Downs.

This ride promised to be on the hilly side of things, yet nothing too challenging nor Pyrinean, we hoped. With just over 1900 m of climb it would just be rolling terrain throughout.

Departing from Chelsfield was uneventful and quiet, yet climbing up gently for the first 15 km or so. Not sure why, but I felt super weak here, started to overheat and feared something was wrong. Perhaps too much clothing? not enough breakfast? I never knew, but just kept on drinking a bit of water, taking it easy on the hills (even for Lucy, that is!).

We soon went over the M25 and into the North Downs, with its continuous up and downs to keep things a bit interesting. I began to feel ok again, and carried on towards the Ashdown Forest without delay. 

Kent - The garden of England (not surprisingly!)

Quiet roads
 We had seen plenty of cyclists up until now, a good number of them from London-based clubs. Despite the fact that it seems to be a popular area for cycling, Lucy remained the only woman on two wheels we saw that day. Perhaps there's a reason behind it?

Lucy's feet were feeling too cold, even colder than usual. Her combination of two pair of socks (thick merino plus waterproof sealskins) did not seem to be working that well. One explanation she came up with had to do with her circulation being somewhat restricted by the tightness of wearing two socks and the cycling shoes? Whatever it was, she was not feeling too comfortable, so we looked around for somewhere hot to stop for a few seconds.
In Ashdown Forest

Not many places appear on the road when you most need them, but a quick stop in an off-license seemed to do the trick - for a little while. We then pressed on to the end, enjoying the fine views from the Ashdown and further on back on to the North Downs. Light was fading at this point, which gave us an opportunity to snap a few pictures along the Bough Beach reservoir.

Bough Beach reservoir
The last few hills towards Orpington were the most notorious of the day, having me on my lowest cog and struggling a bit. I need to put in some good (hilly) miles before the big rides I have planned in April (Yr Elenidh and the Dorset Coast 200) and May (Bryan Chapman).

It had been a good route, with most sections with very little traffic, despite this being one of the busiest areas of the UK. We did not record the stats, but from memory, we just did under 20 km/h average, which for this  time of the year, the climb etc was not too bad.

Roll on March.

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