Posted Monday 7th March 2011 –
Sunday the 6th of March saw the inaugural Hell Riders sportive take place, starting from Redborne Upper School in Ampthill, Bedfordshire.
Registration was fairly quiet when I arrived, no need to queue, so I quickly got signed on and collected my number. It felt fairly cold getting the bike ready and I must have spent a good 10 minutes deliberating how many layers where really necessary and trying to decide if I’d be ok in 3/4 lengths or should I go and change into full length tights.
Once at the start rider numbers where recorded and after a short briefing we were off. I started with a small group and we seemed to pick a few other riders up along the way which meant we made good progress through the initial miles with the group working together and sharing the lead. The route was well marked with good sized signs at all the junctions making it easy to follow.
The first and only really significant challenge came at around 10 miles in as the route climbs a 12% gradient from Bow Brickhill up to Aspley Wood. I’ve ridden the climb before and knew that it got steeper so thought better of trying to keep up with the quicker guys and just set about tackling it at my own pace. By the top of the climb the group of riders had split up and I found myself riding alone.
Following the climb there seemed to be a fairly constant headwind whichever way the route turned and with very few flat sections the middle of the ride, from the climb to the Feed Station at Woburn, felt a bit tougher than expected.
The feed station, at Woburn Village Hall, came round a bit over half distance at about 40km/25 miles, it required a slight up and back detour off the main loop so a few riders decided to miss it out and press on but for those that stopped it offered riders the chance to fill bottles and grab some fruit cake as well as use the toilet facilities. There was also hot soup on offer, I’m not sure how many took up the offer, but it’s a thoughtful touch given the fairly cold conditions.
After riding on my own for much of the section from the climb at Bow Brickhill to the feed station it was good to team up with some fellow riders to share the work for the homeward leg.
The weather seemed to improve as the day went on with a few bits of blue sky peeking through and whilst there were some ups and downs in the final run home it seemed more down than up allowing us to hold a decent pace back to the finsh. Final time for the route was just under 2h 30 minutes based on my own Garmin recorded time (which to be fair I paused whilst at the feed station).
The route distance was advertised as 45 miles but my Garmin showed just over 68km so probably closer to 42 miles. The plus side of the fairly short route distance being that I had time to grab a coffee at the event centre and still make it home in time for Sunday lunch.
Route – A really enjoyable route, mainly on quiet traffic free and (for the UK) well surfaced country lanes. At under 45 miles the course was relatively short compared to most sportives, the choice of a longer distance would have been nice, but for the time of the year and relatively cold conditions it felt far enough for most.
Signage – Pretty much spot on, nice large signs that were easily visible and located where you’d expect to see them.
Feed Stations – It’s good to see feed stations located in buildings such as village halls rather than just on the side of the road if for nothing else than the toilet facilities. No specific sports nutrition products on offer but not really an issue for a course of this distance and there was plenty of cake, bars, bananas, etc along with hot soup if you fancied a longer rest.
Timing – Manually recorded timing rather than electronic chip timing but for a small event such as this chip timing isn’t really necessary.
Summary – A relatively low key event compared to some of the bigger sportives but a well thought out route and decent facilities all at only £15 entry make the Hell Riders events well worth a visit.
If you rode this event let us know what you thought using the comments section below.