If you’re searching for a sportive in the south west on Sunday November 11 you could do worse than the Evans Ride It! event from Cliddesden, Hampshire.
Braving the glowering sky that hung over Hampshire, I headed out from Cliddesden village hall to sample the 30-mile route; one of four offered, with longer options of 50 miles and 70 miles, and a 15 mile fun ride.
The opening section takes you out of Cliddesden (a small village a mile from Basingstoke, conveniently equipped with a modern village hall), across the A339 (care needed here) and for a brief moment alongside the M3, though far enough from it to watch the cars pass almost in silence.
The short stretch completed, it’s off along an unbroken route of country lanes through pretty Hampshire villages. Polecat Corner passes and I soon find myself stopping to photograph the Fox and Goose pub in Mapledurwell. Good things come in threes, and the chocolate box settlements of Up Nately and Greywell follow in quick succession.
The road conditions for my preview ride are foul. Recent heavy rain has washed mud from the verges and on to the road; tractors and agricultural trailers have also done their worst. If you’re riding Cliddesden, I’d recommend leaving your best bike at home and making full use of your winter steed.
The final third of the route is notably hillier than the opening sections. There’s nothing too troubling or that could be classified as a serious climb; just a series of long drags which could perhaps test those with heavy legs at the end of the longer routes.
I hadn’t previously ridden in Hampshire to any great extent and was impressed by the scenery: high hedgerows made threadbare by the change of season lined narrow roads punctuated at frequent but irregular intervals by villages whose features typically included a pub, a church, and red telephone box. Mechanical disaster shouldn’t leave you stranded (the ride is fully supported) but in the event of catastrophe, and an absence of mobile signal, BT’s finest should allow you to call for help.
There are a few sharp descents, at least one of which ends in a sharp turn, which tested the braking capacity of our machinery, so we’d recommend keeping out a look out for signs and paying close attention during the pre-ride briefing. One brought us rapidly into the company of an oncoming car, whose blind approach over the brow of a hill had us diving for the drops to wring extra stopping power from full actuation of the levers.
The final section of the route brings the rider along a straight section of road from which Cliddesden village hall can be seen from a distance of about three miles. Some may welcome the sight; others wish for longer in the saddle. I was sorry to finish the admittedly brief experience of the 30-mile route, despite the awful conditions that had reduced to my shoes to a mud-clogged shadow of their former selves, owing to my forgetting to bring shoe covers.
Loading the bike into the care was a fairly unpleasant experience and washing the mud from legs, caked from the shin downwards, took almost as much effort as cleaning the bike. None of this, however, should put you off riding the Cliddesen sportive. If you’re looking for a flattish course, on quiet roads, with a start-finish area easily accessible by car from the M3 or by rail from Basingstoke station, this could fit the bill.
For full details visit Evans Cycles