Our annual Away Day had an official starting point in Wisborough Green but Andy W’s suggestion that we make a longer day of it by riding down from Reigate was taken up by most. This extended the ride from the planned 70 to something from 112 to 136 miles depending on where home was. On a beautiful morning that continues to show the English landscape at its best we set off down to Wisborough Green keeping fingers crossed that the cafe would be open for Mark T’s required first shot of the day. Fortunately it was. Peter T, who’d accompanied us down for the hell of it, took official photos with the junior cricketers already in play as our backdrop. Walter H, Bruce D, Richard N and Simon (an increasingly frequent visitor from DCC) set off on the 50 mile jaunt stopping at the Roman villa at Bignor for coffee and excellent views of the downs. My group comprising Andy W, Steve T, Mark T and Nick B was supplemented by two welcome visitors and friends of mine Richard Lebon and Andy Whittingham.
Our ride proceeded smoothly and without incident until we stopped for a brief rest outside Bignor. “Oh we could take this road as an alternative and it will rejoin just here” I said. A couple of hundred yards the road the lane turned hard left (not right as expected) and rose sharply. Strava put it at 26%. Realising that we’d made (sorry I’d made a mistake) I stopped but the others pushed on. There was no way back onto the bike so I had to push my bike 200 yards up the hill to find a level patch on the corner to remount. But then there was another stretch at what seemed nearly 20%! There was no turning back so I grinded my way onwards an upwards. The hill did moderate to 8% or so but the tarmac ran out at the top so we decided to come back down again. I think we all found it all a bit scary coming down and I thanked the good lord above for my disc brakes. Apparently a man commented to one of us that cyclists shouldn’t climb this hill let alone descend it. I’d agree.
The lanes that run along the base of the downs are delightful but are often characterised by their lumpiness. It was quite a sawtooth sort of ride to Cocking but thereafter somewhat flatter and we quickly reached South Harting and the official stiffest climb of the day. It’s relatively short but it does hit 18% or so. Steve T and I took it slowly but were both stung by horseflies on the way up and being unable to take our hands off the bars we had to let them do their worst!
Downhill thereafter to coffee and cold drinks in Compton. It’s a beautiful little village and one with a personal connection for me as it was here that my parents took rooms when they were first married in the early 50s. We left just before 1pm with 29 miles to go to return to Wisborough Green. We swept majestically south to the flat lands before heading east and then north to climb up to Goodwood Racecourse. As you sweep downwards to meet the Duncton Hill road there are wonderful views of the coast and then we hit the two descents that culminate in Duncton Hill itself. This is a fast drop with two great left handers at the bottom. Here I must offer a public apology to Mark T for passing him too close which was scary for me and unnerving for him.
At this point we were crossing our morning route passing through Cocking again and heading for Fittleworth where you turn right for the last hill of the ride. By now my legs were certainly feeling it and I brought up the rear. The Cricketers were only 3 miles away or so and the heat of the day added extra anticipation to quenching qualities of a pint of cold Thatchers.
On the descent poor old Nick B suffered our only puncture of the day but we were all back safely by 3pm. Of course we still had to get home. For me that was only 20 miles but for Steve T it was 32 or so.
Stats for the day - Wsiborough Green loop was 72 miles with 5,256 ft of climbing. Overall (for me) 112 miles and 7,200 feet; the others did more!