Wiggle Ups and Downs Sportive Report
Wiggle Ups and Downs Sportive Report
A team of highly committed Handsling Racing riders headed out on a fairly chilly April morning to try out the delights of the Wiggle Super Series Ups and Downs Super Series sportive. Despite arriving at the same time as some character building hail and sleet, they resisted the temptation to hide in their cars and headed out on the 98 mile sportive that takes in some of Surrey’s finest roads and climbs.
The Wiggle Super Series is a 46 strong series and as you would expect for such a large endeavour, involves a huge amount of logistical support and planning. As the biggest player in the sportive field though, they have got it all down to a fine art now, with route signage, mechanical and medical support, finishers medals and t-shirts; you can even get your car valeted while you’re riding!
The Ups and Downs sportive is a favourite of mine, it takes in roads I used to ride on and it’s nice to come back once in a while and ride them again. Last year I rode the 77 mile standard route, but with other members of the Handsling Racing team recently back from Mallorca and looking to put in some serious miles for summer sportives abroad, it was democratically decided that we would attempt the full fat Epic route.
With the temperature dropping, hail and sleet falling it looked like today’s ride would be of the character building type; the survivors kindly recorded their own experiences of the day for your delectation.
Our first rider is Guy Apter. Guy is a new recruit to the Handsling Team and is a lover of roads that go up! He has plans for riding some hills in Italy this summer, so thought the Ups and Downs would make for some good training, over to Guy…
I had not done a sportive for a couple of years. I had come to the conclusion that to pay to ride on roads did not make sense unless the roads were closed to traffic. For some reason, I had thought that I couldn’t possibly be the only one to think this way. So it came as something of a surprise when I found out just how popular they are. Over a thousand people had turned up on a cold wet day to do this ride.
I’m going to hold my hand up and immediately admit that my mind has been changed by my experiences today. Aside from Wiggle’s organisational abilities, which I will come on to, the sportive experience included a great deal of camaraderie and meeting of new people, who I might go on to ride with another day.
More valuable still, was the motivation it gave me. I had chosen the epic route and because it was ‘an event’, I would finish it. Despite rain, cold and pain, there was no stopping at a pub, no third coffee stop, there was only an objective and a resolve to push on, get stronger in the process and reach the end.
As for Wiggle, their organisation was superb. First impression, a decent sized car park and friendly staff directing us. In fact, we only met friendly, helpful and professional staff from start to finish. Add to this the well stocked feed stations, with absolutely no scrum or chaos to reach the tables, the well signed route, which was stunning at times, and you have a day worth repeating. Thank you Wiggle from a prostrate cyclist and his sofa who might just have to start doing sportives again!
Mike “The Gap” Walden loves nothing more than a hard chaingang followed by a fast technical downhill. He is obsessed with VW camper vans, is the king of the cycling selfie and could probably do with a new alarm clock.
Getting out of bed before 7am doesn’t inspire me. Getting out of a warm, cosy bed at 6am on a Sunday, hearing rain pouring outside, with the prospect of cycling 160km and climbing 2000+ metres inspires me even less!
But, I’d signed up for the Wiggle Super Series Ups and Downs sportive, and that’s what I was going to do! Several snooze button presses later, I slide myself stealthily from my bed (so as not to rouse the g/f) to begin my pre-sportive process. Porridge with raisins and sultanas and a cuppa. It’s still raining outside. It’s still raining and still quite heavily. I WhatsApp my fellow Handsling Racing riders (as texting is so passé) to confirm the meet point and to also advise them of the weather, only to discover they are already en-route to the event, scheduled to arrive in the next 10 minutes.
My already overcast mood greys over somewhat as I guesstimate the timings and determine that I won’t make it onto the start line with them. After deliberating too long which overshoes and gloves combo would be correct for the days forecast conditions of snow and rain (matching Castelli diluvio are preferred over Endura – but mostly cos my Endura’s are mitts – the gloves that is, not the overshoes) – and adorned in cycling kit, I make another cuppa (which I deliver to the still snoring g/f), then depart for deepest Dorking.
Arrival at the event location and directed into overflow parking commences a flurry, not of snow, but four, five and six letter expletives. Outside my car the rain persists. Inside my car the mood drops another notch. I survey my surroundings and its content. Mostly German marques, mostly with roof mounted racks mostly transporting bicycles worth more than the value of my car and bike combined. Meh! Sportive’s are obviously attracting a certain demographic or perhaps just this sportive in The Surrey Hills?
With no signs of the rain easing, I WhatsApp my Handsling Racing and Rocket Bike CC buddies for motivation. This obviously does the trick and I declare (using a few choice words) that I’m not up for it and am about to drive home. As I turn the ignition my conscience reminds me or was it Simon Whiten the Handsling Racing DS once more of my obligation, not to mention how much of a dick I’d look driving away.
So, somewhat lethargically I remove The DQ (Dancing Queen) from the boot of my illustrious French motor vehicle, put on my wet weather gear, including the not easy to get on neoprene Castelli overshoes, lock up my sexy Citroen and cycle to the event site.
The well laid out event campus is bustling with people and bikes of all shapes, sizes and colours, and despite the downcast conditions the atmosphere is buzzing. There are several vendor and merchandising stalls, of which the eye candy on display by Reynolds Wheels holds my interest way too long. I hastily remind myself that I’m not here to make expensive purchases and lead myself away from temptation down a flight of stairs towards registration.
The registration building is a gymnasium complete with gymnasium flooring; complete with lots of grumbling cyclists having to remove their cycling shoes (and first any overshoes) to avoid damaging said flooring. Removing my shoes and (now wet) neoprene overshoes which I’d battled to put on less than 10 minutes ago does little to lift my ‘Oscar the grouch’ mood. But… greeted by the beaming, bad weather banishing smiles on the faces of the incredibly pleasant and uber efficient young ladies fielding the entry-on-day desk (who immediately knew my name despite my bumbling attempts to recall the name of my fellow Handsling Racing club member, sorry Paul!), a break in the dark clouds of my mood begins to appear.
Exiting registration (after replacing my dancing shoes and overshoes again of course) it’s evident that the smiles of the delightful damsels appear to have performed a double whammy as the rainfall has almost subsided, and with a tagged helmet, rider number and zip ties in hand I head out to face the music.
Chatting to fellow riders (above the choons from the sound system) in the start queue I dutifully discover that riders tackling the Epic route could mostly be in the minority. Maybe it’s just the batch of riders I’m with who are on the ‘Short’ route? The other ‘Epic’ riders would have left earlier wouldn’t they? After a detailed briefing advising us of a sponsored walk, a super car event, a classic car display and another cycle event we’re given the green light and sent on our Short, Standard or Epic ways!
In about the time it takes to make a pot of coffee (approx 4km) we arrive at our first ‘up’ of the day and the first name on this very full dance card. The ramble up (the damp) Ranmore Common is a sign of what’s in store, and serves to be a shortish, sharp warm-up for the next two names of note on our card. The (careful) descents of Crocknorth and Combe Lane – both of which had very visible and vocal marshal’s at key points of their descent warning riders of the road conditions.
As we rock and roll along our route through Surrey and Sussex we continually check the names off our dance card with robotic like routine. Our trancelike trip take us via Albury Hill, Parklands, Hound House, Brookhurst & Swallowhurst, Knowle Lane, Alford, Dunsfold, Loxhill, Hascombe, Hambledon, Plaistow Road, Whites Hill, Cooks Hill, Holmbury, Hoe Lane and Leith Hill. The surroundings are truly stunning and every up and every down offers their own unique challenge; even Dunsfold’s dicey roads and Hascombe’s harsh headwinds!
Leaving the penultimate peak of Leith Hill in our wake we approach the final ‘up of the day’. It may not be Paris, but this last Tango in Surrey is the well worthy knee weakening White Down. However, being a somewhat experienced veteran of this climb – and despite having no Garmin (the battery died shortly after leaving the final feed station) to inform me as to when the pain is scheduled (although those walking up were indication enough) the climb is conquered with relative ease, even if in my bottom gear, and in the small ring of course!
From that last up, it’s on to the definitive ‘down of the day’ and the final name on this dance card, Ranmore Road. Once again the well positioned (audible and alert) marshal advised me to be cautious on the descent which can be notorious for posterior based squeaky moments when approaching the public refuse site, but on this day it was vehicle free in both directions and dare I say it – pleasurable!
After Ranmore all that remained was to cruise alongside the vineyards of Denbies to the finish line, where once again the friendly and experienced marshals ensured riders knew where they were going and what to do. With the obligatory selfie taken clutching a free t-shirt, wearing a finishers medal with matching smile I returned to my car. Very tired, very proud and very impressed.
I could wax lyrical about the great route signage but I shan’t. Though I will add that after my Garmin failed (which I was really only using for drink and food timing) I never gave a second thought to directions as the signs were very well placed and very clear. I could harp on about the three feed stations covering all three routes, each of which were well stocked with tasty treats and suitable supplements. I don’t usually stop at all feed stations during a sportive, but during this event I found myself actually wanting to, either for a brief chat with the cheery event staff or other riders or simply for another slice of the fiendishly moreish flapjack!
I could also mention the mobile support teams who I noticed on several occasions; assisting riders with punctures/mechanical issues and whatever else they required. Although I pretty much cycled the entire route solo, never once did I feel that I was alone and that can only be testament to the organisational abilities that Wiggle demonstrated and the confidence it instills within riders.
So, did I have any complaints? Well yes. I had a few but they were all related to waking too early on a Sunday morning, leaving the comfort of a warm bed (containing an even warmer g/f), and the initial weather! Not anything that Wiggle could take any responsibility for! However, they might consider hosting future registrations in a cleat friendly environment! Well done Wiggle!
Last up is one of Handsling Racing’s duo of Colombian cyclists, Jose Soler. Not keen on today’s Classic themed weather, Jose took a while to warm up, but once firing on all cylinders left us wallowing in his wake every time the road went up!
I’m a Mamil, a Cat 3 Mamil. I enjoy riding my bike, whether that’s riding with friends, a sportive, or racing from where I get the most pleasure. I’m always up for a challenge whether it’s running, dancing, singing, cycling, karting, etc, etc, what ever it is I’ll have a go and always enter with the mentality that I can win.
So when my Handsling team-mate Paul offered me a place to enter the Wiggle Super Series Ups and Downs sportive I just said yes without thinking how hard or how easy it would be! I thought it would be challenging as the name suggested. I don’t usually look up the profile of rides as sometimes it plays on my nerves and I suffer more just thinking how hard the next section is.
The day started with a nice breakfast and a cup of finest Colombian coffee (is there any other kind?). Then I was picked up by one of my riding bodies, Guy. We headed to the HQ of the ride. It was cold, wet and windy and to be honest those are the weather conditions I hate the most; but I was wearing all the warmest clothing available in my drawer, and there was no turning back.
At the Wiggle stand we met Paul who was getting cold waiting to take us to the registration, where we signed up to do the Epic. Once we had our numbers, timing chip and a few freebies, it was time to get ready for the start. We had agreed to start at eight o’clock but being Colombian running on time doesn’t always apply, so we were a little late. But not as late as our fourth ride companion, Mike, who also runs on Colombian time it would seem and wouldn’t be making the start with us. So we would be riding as a trio.
Eventually we started just after eight o’clock (that’s 0854 UK time!). God it was cold! And to warm up we had the first climb at about 4-5 km up to Ranmore Common. As usual I was dropped by my riding companions, luckily they felt sorry for me and waited at the top (if we had known the pain he was going to hand out to us later on, we would have left him! Ed). We carried on and mile after mile, up and down, and slowly I started to warm up. By the time we arrived at the first feeding station, I was firing on all cylinders.
After a not so quick pit stop we got on to a good pace, passing riders of all ages, all shapes and all sexes; of course a few very enthusiastic riders passed us as well! We stopped at the second feeding station, again for a bit longer than needed, but we agreed to carry on and not stop till the end, where we were awarded a silver time.
All in all it was a very good day on the saddle. We saw riders of all levels, most of who were well behaved and managed to ride well. Wiggle knows how to excel in organizing events from parking, registration and feeding stations, every one was very helpful and polite. Big thank you Wiggle!
If you haven’t ridden one of the Wiggle Super Series sportives before, we can all thoroughly recommend them after today’s experience. With such an experienced team behind the scenes, the experience is impressively slick. As with all sportives I find the experience more enjoyable when ridden in a group, whether club mates, or riders you pick up en route; sharing the work makes a fast time more achievable and is good training for road racing; just remember to not stop for too long at the food stops, although our official time was 6 hours 27 minutes, we could have knocked over thirty minutes off if we hadn’t stopped! Oh and watch out for those Colombians, they’ll drop you the first chance they get!
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