Burgess Hill Springtime Classic 09

114K and 1509m of climbing in the Sussex countryside.

The Burgess Hill Springtime Classic 2009 proved to be a great early season sharpener as I begin my preparation for 365 days to Ironman 2010. Coming from Sussex, I was fairly aware of what to expect from this challenging and scenic route. Bright warm spring sunshine greeted us as the starter released our group and we headed out east from Burgess Hill towards Chailey before turning north to the Ashdown Forest. Appropriately, I had entered the event with my springtime training buddy Al and we quickly found ourselves in a group of riders keen on tapping out a brisk early pace. After 10 miles or so the route took us through narrow lanes; Al had darted ahead with another couple forming a mini-breakaway whilst I chose to settle into a group now 20 or so strong, weaving past potholes and through tree-lined corners.

The first decent climb warmed us up nicely for the more challenging Kidds Hill up ahead. The large group fragmented somewhat as we rolled up Pillow Mounds Hill and – feeling good – I got speedily down onto the drops once over the crest. 5k later and Kidds Hill – aka The Wall – reared up in front of us, near Chuck Hatch on the way up into the Forest. Despite having doubts about my lack of riding (one day a week since Christmas) something about the sunshine and the fact it was my first sportive in over a year and a half was spurring me on. I found myself turning the pedals comfortably and passing several riders to boot.

Once over the top of Kidds Hill the route then ducked down through the wooded lanes to the east of the B2026 through Friar’s Gate before hitting another steady climb at Groombridge Hill. By this point I’d leapt onto a back wheel and had been joined by another guy also keen to step on the pace; the three of us stayed together until the first feed station at Hever (63k). A banana, some cake, top up of fluids and I was on my way. Sadly my two recent cohorts were content to stretch out tired limbs and soak in the feed station hospitality – whereas I was keen to resume riding and chase Al through Sussex! – so I pressed on solo.

The next climb came and went – and so did the second feed station, to which I was oblivious – and I was aware I was making good time. The field was pretty thin by now, but this dramatically changed at the bottom of Balcombe Reservoir near Ardingly. All of a sudden a narrow winding (genuine) wall of tarmac towered upward in my path, with numerous cyclists weaving left and right, desperately mustering all reserves of energy to turn the pedals over. Grimacing and gritting my teeth I stood up, gripped the hoods, and pressed down left right left right. Pure adrenalin carried me to the top, and pure relief washed over me as I rolled into the time check at feed station 3. Feeling great; 15 miles to go.

But disaster was to unfold. Half a mile past the checkpoint and my rear tyre made a loud bang before flapping against the rim of my wheel. Simple tube change? If only. The bang had been the puncture tearing through the tyre wall, leaving a two-inch shredded hole; the cruelest of luck. Sadly the mechanic car was at the back of the field some 50mins behind. Race over. Little did I know, but I was in 56th of around 240 riders and on for a 4h40 silver category time. Al – meanwhile – was on his way to 26th and 4h18m. His own write up can be found here.

Next time…

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