British Cyclosportive route ridden - Road Cycling UK

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British Cyclosportive route ridden

Official car; nice

Kentish short, sharp shock

The editor bides his time

Sunshine was order of the day

The end

One of the most eagerly-anticipated British cyclosportives of 2007 is only a month away, and the lucky 5000 entrants who managed to beat the rush will even now be fretting over tyre choice, what to eat, which oversocks to wear, whether the training has gone well, how to get back from Canterbury….

Not the least of their concerns, of course, is what the route will be like to ride, which is why the editor joined a select group of cycling ‘VIPs’, including former footballer Geoff Thomas, to reconnoitre the route one sunny day last week. Well, most of it. We started from the historic town of Rochester, thereby avoiding the misery of riding through Greenwich (especially now the Cutty Sark is a blackened hulk), Woolwich, Dartford and the aptly-named Gravesend. British Cyclosportivers can imagine that part of the ride for themselves; the more imaginative might like to wait until the day itself to find out.

Rochester is pleasant enough, sat on the east bank of the Medway on the better side of a great iron bridge. The town is famous for its Norman keep, which glowers out over the river. The route passes close under its western face, running alongside mudflats until it rears up away from the river’s edge and runs under the M2 and Eurostar railway viaducts. It is now on the southern edge of the North Downs, and follows the ancient Pilgrim’s Way for a couple of miles before dropping of the escarpment to the picturesque village of Aylesford.

There follows a dreary couple of miles along the A20 corridor, which mercifully ends with a left turn towards East Malling. A steady climb and fast, wide descent take the rider to Wateringbury, where the route turns right onto the A 26, which it follows to Tonbridge. The Tour peloton will simply blast along this wide, open and mostly flat main road; Cyclosportivers, with a good 40 miles in the legs already, would do well to take it more easily, especially as there is the stiff 4th Category ‘Cote de Southborough’ climb, reaching 130m, out of Tonbridge. Once over the top, the going is easy through Southborough to Royal Tunbridge Wells, although slower riders may get snarled up in traffic on this section. Snaking through RTW, the ride bears east through Pembury along the A228 and finally, having taken a right turn towards Matfield, shakes off the trappings of the motorised world and enters the Kent of popular imagination.

From now on, it sticks largely to small, meandering lanes and gets a lot more lumpy, with a series of short, stiff climbs between Matfield and the big 4th Category ‘Cote de Goudhurst’, again reaching 130m. Mosquito Bikes’ Phil Sheehan lit the touch paper with a blistering attack at the foot of this climb, prompting Pete Slater of Science in Sport and Impsport’s Dan Ellmore to give chase. The editor, more familiar with a climb that features heavily in his own club’s winter reliability ride, waited until the gradient began to bite after 800m before launching a savage counter-attack, which although it was never going to catch the flying Sheehan still bagged second place in the VIP KoM.

After Goudhurst the route becomes irksomely lumpy once again, with lots of small kicks that individually amount to little but which taken together will sap strength just when it is needed for the climb out of Stowting, known to the Tour as the ‘Cote de Farthing Common’. These are classic Kent roads past pretty towns such as Tenterden and Bethersden, and will be familiar to generations of Kent League racers. The Tour riders will find them tricky going, with plenty of opportunities for attack and escape as the big peloton negotiates smaller roads; Cyclosportivers are advised to take it easy, enjoy the scenery and gird the loins for the’Cote de Farthing Common’. Also rated 4th Category, it rears to 187m, and will hurt. Once over the top, however, the route is mostly downhill along a Roman road with one last little kick up before it reaches Canterbury, where the sight of the great cathedral will prove welcome indeed.

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