After listening to the weather forecast on Friday, it sounded as if the best day of the bank holiday weekend was going to be on Sunday – perfect timing for the LongLeg Sportive in Surrey. The only problem was, someone didn’t tell the weather that.
But that didn’t deter the 200 cyclists who arrived to ride the 73k and 116k courses – slightly longer than advertised due to last minute adjustments that had to be made due to flooded roads, although it wasn’t necessary to remove any of the climbs.
Starting from Albury Cricket Club in the heart of the Surrey Hills, both courses rolled out towards Hascombe and Hambledon before the short climb of Mare Lane ahead of the first feed stop.
The long course continued on into West Sussex, winding its way towards Bedham, the second climb of the morning. Longer and just as steep as the first, with a nasty switchback at the top which meant, unless you stayed in the saddle, rear wheel spin was the norm on the wet Tarmac on such a steep gradient.
Meanwhile, the short course made its way east towards Loxwood and then onto Rudgewick on smooth, flat roads. After the second feed station, which all riders passed through, the biggest climb of the day loomed; Bar Hatch Lane, probably the steepest climb in the Surrey Hills.
The sign at the bottom of the ascent reads 21 per cent – which would be steep enough if it were strictly true. So a long, slow, painful climb ensued. Some resorted to traversing the road, others powered and grinded straight up only to be caught out at the last. Going around the corner, riders were confronted by a wall which had Garmin’s flashing at 24 per cent.
Before the long course riders got to this point, they had to climb Leith Hill – but not the usual way, instead taking on the cold, twisting and narrow climb of Tanhurst Lane; what some of them didn’t know was that Bar Hatch Lane was waiting in the wings.
Rider feedback was positive, according to the organisers. “I’ve ridden around here for years but I was riding on roads and up hills I didn’t know existed – it was epic,” said one finisher.
“That course was the toughest I’ve ever ridden around here,” said another. “There was no respite. You couldn’t get into a rhythm until the last mile.”
The Scott Great British Sportive series continues with The Arrow in Herefordshire on June 17. Find out more at www.gbsportive.co.uk/the-arrow