Event: 7 April 2013
Location: Salisbury Racecourse, Wiltshire
One of the most original new sportives of 2012, The Joker, is back on 7 April 2013 to get the spring season under way.
The event was conceived to take advantage of April Fools Day falling on a Sunday in 2012, so as you might expect, doesn’t conform to the usual sportive rules! Organisers Southern Sportive tell us, “We saw that date and thought, we just have to put an event on. And from there it was a just a case of finding a format that caught the spirit of the day, while still presenting a proper sportive and a good, full days riding on a great course.”
The Joker brings some entertaining features and novel twists to the standard sportive format. And for 2013, the event will be on April 7th (as April 1st falls on Easter Monday), but will keep the same format that makes it the most enjoyable and innovative season starter on the calendar.
What sets the Joker apart is the introduction of a series of extra loops or route choices spurring off of the core circuit, each featuring specific challenges or obstacles. Probably the highest profile of these is the climb of Gold Hill in Shaftesbury; the iconic 1:4 cobbled climb featured in Ridley Scott’s famous 1970′s advert for Hovis, in which a bakers delivery boy pushes his bike up the dreaded slope. “Gold Hill was the feature we wanted to use from the start, and getting approval to use it was the icing on the cake. It is rideable if you get your pacing and balance right (and grit your teeth), and it’s a great feeling when you get to the top. Particularly if a small crowd gathers to cheer you on, as happened on the event in last year!”
"Gold Hill was the feature we wanted to use from the start, and getting approval to use it was the icing on the cake. It is rideable if you get your pacing and balance right (and grit your teeth), and it’s a great feeling when you get to the top."
Event organisers on the Joker's trick card, Gold Hill (AKA 'Hovis Hill')
There is much more to the course than just Shaftesbury’s famous cobbles though. “We know this area well, having run mountain bike events from Salisbury race course since the 1990s. This is not Salisbury Plain! The Joker course is further south and has much more to offer in terms of variety and scenery. The backbone of the course is the Chalke Valley, which runs Salisbury west to Shaftesbury. This is a beautiful chalk stream valley, scattered with classic English villages and thatched cottages, and flanked by a pair of high droves to the north and south, which form the bulk of the days significant climbing challenges. The key to making the most of this superb area, while adding in that unique Joker character, was to give the riders plenty of options for their ride, but also to keep those options simple”.
And there are plenty of choices for you to tailor your ride. If you work out all the different route variants on the Joker, they add to up well into double figures! Not that you need to worry about this; you simply enter for the long or short option, then decide which extra challenges you want to do by following the signs. Just follow the main route if you want to keep it simple, or take the Jokers Challenge turning if you fancy that extra loop. The finish line systems quickly assess the options you’ve taken, and you’ll be listed on the event results for the actual distance you’ve ridden.
There is a free t shirt for completing the ride too, and the 2013 design has just been released. This is a high quality item too, as the organisers are keen to point out. “We believe an event t shirt should be a giveaway, not a throwaway. We have a strict rule that we won’t give out a shirt that we wouldn’t be happy to wear on a casual night ourselves. So we use high quality, heavyweight cotton shirts, printed with clever, eye catching designs. You’d easily pay £20 on the high street for a shirt of this quality, so we hope these are shirts that riders will be proud to a take away and wear.” T shirts may be subject to availability, so you are encouraged to enter in advance to guarantee yours.
For each Jokers Challenge you complete, you also receive a souvenir Joker playing card, with a unique design for that challenge. And for all the Jokers and Fools, you can be assured that the organisers will taking the event as seriously as any other. As with all Southern Sportive events, you’ll get top notch support and route marking, well stocked feed stations and event catering, plus instant ride timing for those of you with performance goals in mind.
The Joker takes place on 7 April 2013 from Sailsbury Race Course.
More information can be found at southernsportive.com.