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Gavin at the King of the Downs

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British Cycling Sportive Blogger Gavin takes on the King of the Downs in preparation for the Dragon Ride.

With two weeks to go before the Dragon ride - the organisers sent out useful information about tapering. The gist of the article was to inform participants that in the weeks leading up to the Dragon Ride - the best - course of action was to scale down one's training to reduce fatigue levels and increase performance for the event.

With this in mind - the draGoons - in true Corinthian style - laughed in the face of informed opinion - and promptly signed up for the Evans King of the Downs. At 115 miles and with 3000 metres elevation this Sportive would be a good indication of the type of ride we could expect in Wales.

Based in Gatwick - the route was made up of two loops combining the pain of Surrey Hills on loop one and some Kentish Killers on loop two. There were ten marked climbs in all - plus one or two unmarked climbs.

DraGoons Dave and Tom sensibly withdrew/declined - so it was down to Peter and myself-to enjoy the sunny weather and early start, meeting up at 6AM in the car park of an Evans warehouse at the end of the runway at Gatwick.

The first loop passed without any problems, taking in a little known route up Leith Hill and the Olympic icon, Box Hill. We had both agreed to take our time - not push the pace - and get the miles in our legs for the following week. We both knew the Surrey section reasonably well -as we quaffed cherry cake and peanuts at the stop half way through the sportive we both felt reasonably good, the day was to get worse as the route headed off through Sussex and in to Kent.

The climbs on the early part of the loop were easily negotiated - and as the route wound through the beautiful Ashdown Forest the sun climbed higher - and the shadows from the trees spread over the road like ink on a page. And then came Kidds Hill - the first of a triumvirate of vicious hills.

Kidds Hill is also known as "The Wall" - appropriate given that I climbed it like a brick. Peter displayed a burst of power on the steep lower ramp - and I later recognised some rich industrial language - as he made a turn only to see an even steeper section leading to the top. Having caught our breath at the top - there was a rolling ride to the foot of the next climb - Yorks Hill.

Every October - this steep single tracked road is transformed by hundreds of spectators lining the sides to cheer and shout on the participants of the infamous Catford CC Hill Climb. Even in June - the traction on the surface was slippery - and the debris in the middle of the road - doesn't help scaling the 25% incline.

And it was here - after ninety miles - that I provided a comedy moment - just 20 metres from the summit - within view of the feed station - I acquainted myself with some of the nettles and vegetation on the side of the road as my legs just stopped turning and I took a rest in the ditch. Peter laughed - sympathetically and I searched for excuses ! ! !

The next section was a sprint alongside the south facing vinyards overlooking the M25 - and up to the final climb of the day - Titsey Hill. There was a dangerous right hand turn - I tried to keep the bike upright and the rubber side down and the last climb of the day - proved to be the hardest. the view from the top was stunning - but the Gatwick runway was visible and it was apparent that the there was still a few miles left and an unwelcome spike in the profile before the jets landing at Gatwick became closer.

The site of the event HQ was welcome -and the goody bag was one of the best I have had - certainly equal to the amount of effort required. Pasta was also provided in what was one of the most enjoyable well-organised sportive I have participated in. Whilst not exactly a tapering exercise - Peter and I felt after this ride - we felt a lot easier about the Dragon this week-end.

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