Whichever of the three routes one decides to ride, 53, 63 or the 84 mile the Woodcote Sunday Sportive certainly offers something for all abilities. Although not a hard riders event, make no mistake the day certainly throws a few leg hurting ascents into the mix. Our roving race reporter Andy Whitehouse takes a closer look.
Starting from the village of Woodcote the route heads in a southerly direction towards the Thames Valley on gentle country lanes; just time enough to warm the legs up before hitting Whitchurch Hill, the first climb of the day and although steep, coming within the opening 10 miles of the day, with the correct gearing the majority of riders will be able to tick that off the list.
The top of the climb takes the riders away from the Thames' path for the first time on the ride and heads out towards the quaint Thames Bridge village of Goring, although coming fairly early on in the ride, there are a couple of public houses and cafes that serve refreshments and it may be worth taking a few minutes to stop on the bridge to have a look at the weir.
Above: Quaint ivy-clad houses in Goring.
From Goring the ride takes us south passing Basildon House and park towards the first mid route split which sees the long route take in an extra loop to their first check point at Bradfield before re-joining the main route at Yattendon, again their are opportunities to stock up on refreshments from the local shop at Yattendon.
Above: Timber-framed houses in Yattendon.
This southern part of the route is run on quiet lanes, which, although undulating, are quite easy on the legs and shouldn't be a problem for riders of any ability, so it may be worth choosing the mid distance route and take in a few more miles of the lovely Berkshire countryside.The course turns at Upper Bucklebury, the southernmost point of the ride and starts to head north through Hampstead Norreys and gently climbs to Aldworth which sits on The Ridgeway, probably the oldest road in the U.K.
Here you can take in views for miles around although it was a bit cloudy the day I rode up there. Dropping off the Ridgeway, literally, the route takes us on a half-mile descent back down the famous Streatley Hill towards Streatley to complete the first part of the ride. A note of caution here, make sure you have decent brakes because the descent is steep and there are traffic lights right at the bottom of the hill.
Above: Well I never - it's the Maharaja's Well in Stoke Row, a gift from India dating back to 1864.
The route heads in a northerly direction from Streatley running parallel to the River Thames towards Wallingford before turning at Crow Gifford and heading back to Stoke Row where the riders on the short route head back to the finish. Stoke Row is famous for the Maharaja's Well, which was gifted to the people of Stoke Row by the Maharajah of India in 1864. Five minutes ride from the well is the Cherry Tree Pub, a 4-star awarded restaurant which I found a good place for lunch. Although not cheap the food was superb and there was plenty of space to park your bike.
Above: Expansive views from atop Britwell Hill.
Leaving Stoke Row the route takes the riders past Nuffield and onto the last mid route turn off at Greenfield. The longer route takes in more quaint little villages at Ewelme and Benson before heading back in an easterly direction to meet the main route and the second leg breaker of the day, Britwell Hill, turning out of Britwell Salome the road narrows and the riders are welcomed by 1 3/4 miles of an energy-sapping lane, which, although not super steep, will see the little ring used in earnest.
Above: Looking toward the summit of Britwell Hill.
The views go for miles if you choose to take a leisurely approach to the hill (which I used as an excuse to take a breather!). As with most hard climbs there is always a bonus and this ride is no exception with a six mile gentle descent south through Middle and Lower Assendon, taking in acres of farm land, giving riders the chance to get their breath back the road passes Stoner House before clipping the outskirts of Henley-On-Thames.
Above: Our full image gallery from the route.
A gentle climb sees the route head back up to Sonning Common and again onto Stoke Row before the final few miles to the finish at Woodcote and the chance for a well earned drink and the chance to discuss the day with your fellow riders.
A well thought-out route which is very well balanced, giving the rider a couple of hard climbs but with undulating roads, great scenery and a few places of interest along the way, the Woodcote Sunday Sportive is a must for any rider whether new to sportives or an old hand with many miles in the saddle.
The roads, I found, were in a pretty good condition, even after the recent inclement weather and the majority of the route is along quiet country lanes so relatively traffic free apart from the odd tractor.