On Good Friday a group of 20 Club members assembled at the 44Two Club to take part in the second annual Not the Tour of Flanders ride.
My thinking about this was pretty simple, last year for the first event I wanted to ride the real Sportive in Belgium however circumstances dictated that I had to stay at home, so in tribute to the greatest classic of all I planned out my own route. Even looking on the map it made the legs ache, so I invited some friends along. It was tough!
This year I wanted to keep things small, and casual, but in keeping with the original inspiration tough.
The route was pretty simple 80 miles, 2000m of climbing the steep ascents of the North Downs over 14 climbs.
We departed 44Two promptly and joined the route proper in Star Lane, now almost overgrown Kev managed to get the first puncture of the day here, although at my pre ride briefing I’d explained that it would be hard to stay together as one group we all waited whilst Kev effected a repair, I really wanted to do this so that I could watch everyone suffer up the first climb of the day, the Spekesberg, this was small beer really but it is an unmade road between Hempstead and Wigmore, so it just made things interesting, and dusty! We made our way to the top of the Downs via Bredhurst and Boxley Hill joining the Pilgrim’s Way to Jades Crossing at Detling before tackling our first major climb of the day. Coldblow Lane was used for the Wigmore Hill Climb back in the 70s and it is certainly tough, in less than a mile our group was spread over 5 minutes, in fact one member claimed to have mechanical problems and stayed on the Pilgrim’s Way and met up with us when we got back down via Old Barn Hill. The up and down theme continued with climbs of Hollingbourne, Stoney Lane, Hubbards Hill, Hart Hill, (Stonestile Farm Rd), our group having now split into distinct sub groups. At the foot of Charing Andy had a puncture, a quick change saw us back on the road, but having stopped our legs complained when faced by Charing, things could get worse I suppose, and of course they did when we turned left onto “The Wynd” at 30% it was a leg breaker. Back on the main road we enjoyed some flat miles turning right to descend to Westwell village. Of course what goes down must, eventually go up, and our next “up” was White Hill, being so familiar with it did not make it easier, Andy was somewhat concerned when a herd of deer gave him the evil eye on the way up!
Back to the 251 we headed for Faversham for a while before bidding farewell to Sam, who only had a morning pass, as we turned left for Charing. We took a well earned break at the garage on the A20 to fill bottles and empty bladders, and again began our relentless task of climbing the Downs. We retraced our outward route from here, but each climb was seemingly steeper than the previous one! At Stede Hill Paul Smitherman , whilst desperately searching for a lower gear managed to snap his gear cable, but being true mates we let him struggle to the summit before showing him how to use the adjuster screw to get a slightly better ratio to use!
So another one bit the dust! Onwards and back down Hollingbourne just a couple of “ups” to go, New Barn hill was quite nasty suffering a lack of solid road surface which caused some wheelspin and swearing. So at last the final ascent to taunt us; Boxley! Great, I normally avoid this if possible, and today. We already had 1900 or so metres ascent in the legs, down onto the 25 then and into the hurl locker again, oh, the lactate, the pain, still we all rode it and then found that sudden racer’s urge to finish ourselves off with a sprint back to 44Two through Hempstead, forgot that hill!
So we made it, beer, chips and mayo all round. Cheers! Great company, great weather, great banter and I think we’ve got the basis of an annual classic!
(thanks to Rob K for that).
Here is my garmin from Not the Tour of Flanders, (Tom)
Here are the photos. Thanks to Andrew