On Sunday October 13 it was with an optimistic heart that I set out on one of the last sportives of the year - the Box Hill Original.
The sportive was scheduled to leave Epsom Race Course with echoes of the recent stage seven of the Tour of Britain. The town of Epsom lends its name to world famous bath salts - the properties of which are deemed to give a relaxing and soothing soak.
There was plenty of water around on Sunday - but not much to feel soothed and little to be relaxed about. The heavens opened and weather that was more suited to the jumps than the flats was to prevail. Although the going was soft the 1200 participants were anything but.
The pre-ride briefing warned of continued torrential rain - and an advisory from the events team not to attempt anything other than the 44 mile "fun" route. I gladly took this advice on board - and sank my objective of completing the 100 mile epic. I consoled myself instead, in going for a thoroughbred time on the "fun" route.
The weather seemed to worsen as the morning wore on and the descents were more akin to white water rapids than roads. The thick layer of rain water running down the hills hid a myriad of potholes, leaves and autumnal debris, all ensuring that the route was additionally signed with upturned bikes in various state of undress, their single wheeled chassis pointing the way.
Other treacherous tell tale signs also bore witness to the conditions. One rider - who I later discovered was Pablo Brookes, was spotted falling from his bicycle at slow speed. The fact that this happened on a flat section within close proximity of Denby's vineyards raised few eyebrows, as such scenes are often played out by revellers who have overindulged at the excellent vineyard shop.
Despite an impressive gash and a cut to the arm - Mr Brookes carried on to receive his finishers medal unflustered.
I managed to scrape home - despite being held up by the level crossing at Betchworth for what must be the only train that runs through that station all week. Time could not be made up on the descents and going down Chalk Hill and Ranmore Hill is dangerous enough in perfect conditions, let alone during the torrents that, by now, had gripped the region relentlessly for the best part of eight hours. Finishing was a great relief and should anyone be interested - my ride according to Strava can be found at:
The conditions all the way through were the worst I have ever known in a sportive. The fact that so many completed it (over 1200 riders) - and some even completed the standard and epic routes - is a tribute to the bravery of many.