This week's mission was the Pearson 150 London to Brighton and back. A further challenge was introduced - when I arranged to meet my wife back in Epsom for 1PM for a family day out. I estimated an average speed of 16mph to make this viable.
Pearson Cycles assert to be the worlds oldest bicycle shop and they also sell their own branded bikes. A colleague of mine owned a Pearson frame for eighteen years, it outlasted two of his marriages and a few career changes.
Pearson's located this Sportive at the Royal Marsden (Sutton) where Roger Pearson (the fourth generation of Pearsons to run the business) received care and treatment. Entry money was donated to the Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign, providing participants with an opportunity to support a local business and worthwhile charity.
What this event lacked in mass appeal - it certainly made up for in quality of course and organisation. Peaceful country roads, games of village cricket and quaint Sussex hamlets provided a backdrop to the route that twice ventured beneath the Gatwick flight path. Despite being held up by a queue of cars at a car boot sale (where I was offered a tenner for my bike), everyone I spoke to at the end had nothing but praise for the day out they had.
Undoubtedly the flagship climb of the day was the north face of Ditchling Beacon. This hill, iconised over the years by the thousands of riders who enter the British Heart Foundation London To Brighton charity ride, certainly lives up to it's celebrity status. Virtually unhampered by trees (the climb is framed by open grassland and grazing sheep) the view over the towns and villages that "the Ditch" dominates are there to be enjoyed throughout the ascent.
A quick dash in to Brighton - and an ice cream on the seafront proceeded a city style commute up to Devils Dyke. Here the speed merchants were satiated by a long, fast downhill section. It is on such descents - when the odd click or clunk is amplified and doubts over the structural viability of the bike creep in to the back of the mind. During such plunges, It is not uncommon for the cyclist to discover a religious fervour that is otherwise absent in the normal day to day life. With the 45mph descent behind me it was another lonely trek on the way back to the event HQ up the western leg of the route. Punctuated only by a few groups who beat me up on the climb out of Dorking and towards Epsom Downs, it was a ride undertaken mainly on my own - not a tyre to follow all day.
It was perhaps unfortunate that this event clashed with three other sportives in the area on the day, I certainly believe that the great route and organisation (not to mention supporting the Marsden) deserved a much larger turn out, though there was a healthy support from local clubs.
There was so much to be enjoyed about this sportive, not least the kudos that it gave me among non-cyclists. Tell someone you are cycling round the Surrey Hills for a morning - and they glaze over, tell them you are cycling to Brighton and back - and all of a sudden you are regarded as something of a hero - or a maniac.
As for my timescale - I made my appointment and was driven to my nephews third birthday party in (wait for it) Brighton. Fortunately - this journey was more relaxed as I slept peacefully in the passenger's seat all the way down.