Today was the Wiggle Kent Classic Sportive and a bit of a sad day for me as it’s my last main sportive of the 2017 season. I’ve only got the Santa Ride South from Farnborough on 10th December left. Still, let’s not dwell on the negatives! Life is way too short!
I had been looking forward to today for a while now. It’s a free sportive for me as UK Cycling Events said I was their ‘best’ customer a few weeks ago and kindly offered me a free sportive entry (a big “thank you” from me – very much appreciated).
Also, Kent is a new county for me to ride in – well, sort of, as I did ride 3 miles each way down to Dover Port on the Wiggle Le Tricolore a few weeks ago. Today’s route also passes through a bit of East Sussex which is definitely a new county for me to ride in.
I arrived in the area the day before and stayed overnight nearby. In the morning I was up nice and early for the 8 minute drive to Lingfield Racecourse and the event HQ for the day.
After parking up I rode over the road to the racecourse and registered. Why is it the R queue at registration is always the longest? It seems to happen week after week. I know all the best surnames start with an R but it’s really odd ;).
As I came out of registration I spotted my southern sportive riding mate Andy, who I was riding with today. We headed off to the start line after a quick catch up and were on our way in no time.
The weather today was not the best, with low cloud and heavy rain forecast and with pretty heavy constant rain in between. Still, I’m not a fair weather cyclist and have not come all this way to not do the Epic Course. Onwards and upwards (literally!).
The route initially headed south from Lingfield, to the side of East Grinstead and towards the south coast. Very rolling countryside with quite a few sharper climbs.
After the Epic and Standard routes split from the Short route at Coleman’s Hatch, we had a pretty long and steep climb up through some trees, which was reasonably testing. Only when I got home did I realise this was “The Wall” climb and is in the top 100 climbs in the UK book. A very nice bonus indeed as that is another ticked off the list without even realising it! Loved the sign they had put part way up – “It’s only a hill. Get over it!”.
The first feed stop was at 22 miles into the ride at Groombridge. We stopped to top up with water and have something to eat and were delighted when we saw they had Tea and Coffee. Just what we need to warm us up as we were pretty wet at this stage and cooling down quickly as soon as we stopped.
In the village, we also passed over the Spa Valley Railway (click here for more details). Shame we did not see any steam trains today as that would have been great to see!
Not long after the feed stop the Epic course split from the Standard and we started the extra big loop to the east side of the route. This marked the point when the terrain started to settle down a bit as we descended into the Weald of Kent, which is pretty flat and dotted with the hop fields and hop houses that you associate Kent with. I was meaning to get some photos of them but was enjoying the ride so much I forgot to stop!
Andy, my riding partner, is from Kent and was doing a fab job as a local tour guide, pointing out different things and explaining the meaning of words in village names e.g. Hurst is an old Saxon word for a hill with a wood on it.
At this stage, we were riding in East Sussex, which is a new county for me to ride in (one aim I have is to bag every county in the country). We soon passed into Kent though.
It was approaching 11am as we neared Lamberhurst and it’s the 11th hour of the 11th day, so we stopped outside the Memorial Hall to observe 2 minutes silence to remember those who selflessly gave their lives in various wars for our freedom.
The route then started to head northwards towards Maidstone and just after this, the third feed stop at Mereworth. This was a short ride off the route up a gentle hill.
After the feed stop, we had a very long climb near Plaxtol that seemed to go up and up forever. Every time we thought we were at the top we turned a corner and up it went again! Not a problem though as it was really lovely scenery and when we did get to the top there was an expansive view all around, or rather there would have been an expansive view all around if it was not so misty today!
The final part of the ride was much easier as we descended off the hills into Edenbridge and onwards to the finishing line at Lingfield Racecourse.
At the end, we had a quick coffee from my friends at the BOMO Espresso Bar and said our goodbye’s.
A fabulous final main sportive with a lovely route and impeccable organisation as is usual from UK Cycling Events. Thanks again for the free place today. I had a great day out and loved it, despite the rain.
Route: click here
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