Chiltern 100: review

Chiltern 100

As the Giro was finishing in Rome, I was spinning my pedals for 7 hours and six minutes around the Chiltern hills. Starting early at 8am from Great Missenden, I joined the first group of 20 and quickly leapt out with two other guys – also on Madone’s – keen on setting a good early pace. The first hill hit us almost immediately to warm up the legs, and Team Trek’s gap on the group increased! My bad sportive luck hit again though after 10 miles: my water bottle inexplicably jumped from the holder, causing me to turn back and retrieve it. Catching the other two on my own wasn’t going to happen so I pressed on solo.

By Berkhamsted the real country riding started. If you haven’t ridden in this area I’d strongly recommend it: rolling hills, some sharp climbs and beautiful scenery typify the area. Memories of killer 1/2 marathon hills from last spring came flooding back! I was caught by a big group of 20+ riders around Dunstable and we soon swept up my early breakaway colleagues. Unlike in the BH Springtime Classic, a lot of teams in club kit were working together. I found myself forging unspoken partnerships with riders not in teams, and we cracked on through to Tring. I passed Checkpoint 1 at Ivinghoe Beacon in 1h42.

However, when the real hills kicked in this tactic became tougher and tougher as groups were blown apart on each climb. The relentless 15 percent hills in the middle section were really testing with limited downhill recovery time, before the next corner presented yet another climb. The Chiltern hills seem consistently steep; the even gradient makes finding a rhythm easier but the steepness takes it out of you more than the North Downs.

Relentless climbing hit in after Tring, testing the legs to the max

Relentless climbing hit in after Tring, testing the legs to the max

I’ve grown in confidence in decending so I was able to pick off riders and regain back wheels fairly easily once over the top. However, by the second feed station my lower back was aching and spasming, so I spent a few minutes stretching out. The 27-degree heat was also taking it’s toll and my quads felt slight cramping. 40 miles to go.

Fast decents helped make up time after the tough hills

Fast decents helped make up time after the tough hills

The final section seemed to drag on and on and I spent long sections solo as the field was very spread out. Over the longer distance – 107 miles – solo on the flat also drained energy reserves and concerns of the dreaded bonk reared up frequently. It’s amazing where the mind wanders in such circumstances – I even started muttering to myself at one point, which is rather worrying! PowerBar Ride bars and Go energy gels did the trick.

Finally the ’10 miles to go’ sign appeared, just as I latched on to a group of 5 to roll our way back into Great Missenden. One guy I spoke to claimed this is a tougher ride than the Dragon, despite it’s shorter distance – I’ll reserve judgment for two weeks’ time! I would recommend this Sportive: it’s well organised, a fantastic route, and attracts many of the teams from the south of England. I should have broken the 7-hour mark really – officially front derailleur problems and my achey back are to blame, but unofficially I need to work on my climbing that’s for sure! Still, a great day and a great work out – very happy.

More photos in my Flickr Photostream.

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Chiltern 100

Here’s what I’ll be doing this weekend:

Chiltern 100 Route

Chiltern 100 Profile

The Gran Fondo route is actually 107 miles with 2,620 metres of climbing over 21 hills mostly averaging 15% gradient.