A chilly and foggy start meant that for the first ten miles I was fully hydrated just from the dew that had collected on my clothing and beard. Winding down narrow country lanes, avoiding local tractors, the ride was often bumpy. So much so that at the bottom of one particularly rough descent, my water bottle jumped from its cage along with several of my fillings.
Subsequently, the sun burst through and it was a great day for a ride. We cycled up and down dale, using a delightful range of B-roads with smooth tarmac. The field became stretched out with just several sightings of riders for miles. A couple of trains came whizzing past me comprising club teams, but I was in a state of early season unreadiness and didn’t have it in me to catch a lift. I pedalled on at my own steady pace and enjoyed the sunshine.
Riding alone for what seemed an age, around Woodsford the route became pan flat and I must admit to losing my focus on a long and straight road. However, the road climbed slightly and I came across the sportive photographer (www.sportivephoto.com ) who was a welcome sight for a lonely traveller. The climb led to a breathtaking glimpse of the sea through the valley and then a swooping descent down into the picturesque town of West Lulworth.
Climbing out of Lulworth, we entered MoD land and were greeted by a Challenger tank at the Army’s gunnery school. Quite apt really as my bike was now sounding like a German half-track with my really dry chain. Then onto Wool up a long drag where I spied a farm cat just staring at me apparently thinking ‘why are you doing this?’ – and I was inclined to agree with my energy stores running low.
Soon after the second High5 feed stop at 56 miles, around Stoke Wake, the real climbing began. I cannot hope to describe the intensity of the climbing at this point. Just when you crested one hill and thought that you couldn’t get closer to the sky, another hill became visible and off you went again. I must say that my 11-28 cassette came in extremely useful throughout this section (even though I was scoffed at for such gearing back at CTC HQ). However, we were treated to the fastest and longest descent on the entire route, where we all felt like champions in full aero tuck.
The last five miles allowed me to boot it along at a fair pace all the way back into the Blandford School for the finish and some well deserved pies. Impressively, personal times were available almost immediately after completing the ride. I managed 5 hours 10 minutes which was slightly over the five hour barrier I had anticipated, largely due to the intensity of the climbs.
Ben Kimber from London, rode the short route with his Dad Patrick in 4 hrs 32 mins. Having ridden several early season sportives already, this is what he had to say:
“It was the most enjoyable ride I’ve done this year. Great route and scenery with a couple of climbs and lots of ups and downs. The people were all very friendly and it was very well organised”.
Adrian Bryant rode the long route in 5 hrs 7 mins:
“The last two climbs were the icing on the cake. A very challenging route and much better weather than last year!”
Chatting with Graham Temple from Wheels in Wheels, the man behind the route, (one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet, and not at all the sadist you may think) informed me that “They (CTC) wanted a challenge – so I gave them one”. Well Graham, you certainly did, but extremely rewarding nonetheless.
For more information on CTC Challenge Rides and to enter on line please visit: www.ctcchallengerides.co.uk