The One. Judgement day.
A route which was created for no other purpose than a gimmick. I honestly never planned to ride it any time soon as I gave birth to it one fateful night with the Garmin (the data donor!). But once I released it into the wild and the world of social media got hold of it, I had no control of it anymore. Should I put it down before it bit or ride the bull and hope that my legs stay attached to my body?!
Let's start from the beginning. I began this site as a hobby, I thought with the amount of time I have spent now exploring the roads of Surrey and the surrounding areas, I have some useful knowledge (arguable!) to share to the world so 'wlondoncycling' was born. The routes I began with explored a few hills at a time, ideally aimed at newbies in the area or those who are just starting out road cycling. One evening after probably a few too many Guinness's, I wondered how many Surrey hills I could fit in into one ride with the emphasis on not doubling up on roads and creating a route with some aesthetic substance. 'The One' was created; 13 hills, 56 miles, 6000ft.
200 notifications later and a tweet simply saying 'Lets make a date' posted by Nick from @UKCycleChat, June 11th was date stamped and I'll take my hat off to everyone, no one forgot about it but then no one was honestly looking forward to it either. 13 different climbs with people you've never met before? They might not even be real?! @DirtyWknd had got on the act too, a fellow Londoner who organises rides out in all directions out of London and beyond. The week before, I had the pleasure of leading a ride for them to Windsor with a enthusiastic bunch of people so I was grateful to be involved in his project of spreading the love of cycling.
So on to Judgement Day.
When I created this route, I knew of more quieter spots to begin from but with an amazing view, a free car park (soon to possibly change!) and most importantly a cafe, Newlands Corner was ideal. Granted its climbs that we would be tackling are not exactly traffic friendly but for 'The One's first exposure to the cycling world, it would do. I opted to drive there although a member of the group decided to get a warm up in by cycling from Richmond! You'll find out who this is later. The other half kindly lent me the use of the car which meant she was stuck in for the day, we are getting married this summer so swings and roundabouts! Arriving at Newlands, I was a little nervous, I had never met any of these people and they would probably look to me to direct it all. But my nerves had eased when Chris rode over as I was setting up the bike and introduced himself. A local who knew the hills and roads better than me really, I knew straight away I could rely on him if the group was to split or get lost at points (no spoilers!). I walked over to meet some of the early arrivals. Nick representing @UKCycleChat and the one which basically got the chat going about making 'The One' happen was a strapping lad with all the gear, he looked serious to be fair but once his big grin showed itself, Teddy Ruxpin looked more intimidating! David representing @DirtyWknd brought along a mini entourage. It was good to finally meet David, I had led a group ride for him the week before so it was good to put a face to the name, well you couldn't miss him because he was plastered with Dirty Wknd all over his jersey! His 'groupies' consisted of Ali (Alex) who was wearing a KOM jersey. Now wearing such a jersey sets a tone that you're the one to watch, he got some stick straight away from me! But then I noticed another Dirty Wknd member was wearing a KOM cap! Emily is a keen Twitter user and I knew from her posts that she has been gaining some climbing experience so was a dark horse for the day. Despite completing the longest warm up known to man, Eve was surprisingly looking like she had returned from a night over at a spa, she was looking that fresh and ready to roll! One member was missing and as soon as David said her name, I knew time keeping wasn't her strong point! Papiya came on the ride to Windsor with me the week before and quickly earned her nickname of 'Polly Pocket', I was very impressed with her smooth cadence on the climbs so knew she had some power punches in her!
Weather was a bit humid and cloudy but dry. We were ready to roll out. I took the notion of leading us down the descent of Newlands, I hope the guys didn't mind at the time but myself like others hadn't had a 30 mile warm up so I changed up into a big gear and got the legs spinning. Not much traffic around so sweeping around the bends was good fun. Already Nick was on my ass (spoiler alert again!). Apart from myself, Chris and David, the others hadn't come across the hills we were about to take on so I always offered my lowdown just beforehand although a certain member made it clear she didn't want to know what was around the corner, this approach was to change later! First climb was Combe Lane. Normally, I'm hitting this after a couple of hours riding so climbing this with fresh legs felt so easy. I always remember Combe as having a nasty hairpin but everyone was flying up the first hill, for a moment there I did think what teams did these pros ride for?! 1/13
We all took it easy on the descent on Green Dene. Again, the roads were very quiet, not many other riders about which was surprising for a Saturday morning but just meant we had the Surrey hills to ourselves. It was on Crocknorth that I had noticed a mini bunch at broken away on the climb. I held back because I knew we all didn't have the routes uploaded or knew the route off by heart and I didn't want them getting lost so early (Chris was very pro and had the hills written down on a list like he had just completed a recon in a support car!). Crocknorth was also easier to get up with the fresh legs, the danger was we were pushing too hard too early. My personal goal was just to make sure I could get home and walk up my stairs. I had built up the training for this particular ride by combining some hills together. I had managed to climb 6 of these chosen hills and combined with the actual ride out to the hills, I was confident I had the endurance to conquer 'The One', it was the short sharp climbing I was worried about. I perform better on the long drags as I can grow into the climb whereas a steep ascent drains any power I have left. 2/13
Apart from temporary traffic lights halting our speedy progress at the top of Ranmore, the front group had missed a turning and ended up climbing up the little lump by Bikes Direct UK again! Serves them right (evil laugh!). We all stuck to the bike path down to Box and then once again, the lads upfront bolted off. My mindset was to get half way in the route (top of Whitedown was my marker) then see what I had left in the tank. The group decided to grab an early food stop which was understandable because David and his crew had been on the train from 7.30am, I only just got up at this point! Now, it was at this point we all found out the real reason why the boys were jumping ahead on the climbs. They had organised a KOM competition which we had all been secretly entered in for! This also explains the KOM jersey that Ali was wearing but it also turned out it was the only jersey he owns! For his troubles, we had teased them that the KOM/QOM (from now and out of respect for both genders, I will use the abbreviation KQOM to satisfy all!) would win his jersey and he would have to go home in his bib shorts! It was also at this point that David turned out to be a Maths wizard and had mentally calculated and kept track of all the scores. 3/13
Here they are so far (first three riders to receive 5,4,3 points):
KQOM Combe: 5pts David, 4pts Ali, 3pts Nick
KQOM Crocknorth: 5pts Ali, 4pts David, 3pts Nick
KQOM Box: 5pts Nick, 4pts Ali, 3pts David
After a great group photo at the top of Box overlooking the Downs, we shot down the Zig Zag road and crossed the a24 to reach Ranmore Common Road. Personally, this was the first real test. It's a tough little climb, 7-8% average gradient with another hairpin to contend with. This was where Emily sporting her polka dot cap showed her cards. Sharing her life with the bike and her very respectful role as a doctor, I would of tipped my own cap off if I was wearing one to Em for getting the time to enjoy the pleasures of cycling. I was waiting for the first drain in the legs but it didn't come. I was pacing myself well and it was somewhat down to not joining in the festivities upfront because it would of been game over for me. KQOM Ranmore Common Rd: 5pts Ali, 4pts David, 3pts Nick 4/13
Passing the roadworks again and a sheepish David and Nick half naked on the side of the road taking off their base layers, we circled around Dorking's town centre for our next climb and the first of two 'Octopus' legs (a now infamous ride taking in all 8 ways up of Leith Hill hence the clever title of 'Octopus'). Coldharbour Lane can catch first timers out so I made sure those who didn't or want to know....knew! Mainly consisting of 2 ramps quickly following each other, its important to know you're nowhere near the top of Leith once you've gotten yourself over these sections. I stuck at the back as I was still waiting for the first signs of the lactic acid to announce themselves at the party but the invite must of got lost in the post because the party was in full flow, Freddie Mercury was singing how much he wants to ride his bicycle, energy gels were being downed in the corner in shot glasses and some were even throwing shapes and chain rings on the dance floor! Oh this was ride was the place to be on this sweaty morning! I never quite saw who conquered this climb but David's counting skills were starting to enter TV show territory, was thinking of secretly entering him into Countdown or something, after all he had entered us into his secret competition! KQOM Coldharbour Lane: 5pts David, 4pts Nick, 3pts Ali 5/13
A quite technical descent down Broomehall Rd broke up the group for a while. I had found myself in the middle of the pack but stopped at the junction to Ockley to make sure the girls didn't veer off somewhere else. We had created our own little chaingang and rolled onto our 6th climb and a tricky one in the form of Leith Hill Road, a ride included on the Ride London 100. Within our little group, Eve had powered on. How she was managing to push a good pace with the mileage in her legs already, it was impressive. We dragged ourselves up the highest point in South East England (controversial as its the actual tower which makes it the highest point!) and rejoined the breakaway in a lay by where we topped up the energy stores with some gels and some huge jelly type sweets thanks to Em. None of us wanted to say it but we all knew what was coming next but once over our next climb, we could relax....a little! KQOM Leith Hill Road: 5pts Nick, 4pts, David, 3pts Ali 6/13
Whitedown. Does it need an introduction?! Widely regarded as one of the toughest climbs on the Surrey hills circuit, my first time up this I had to stop. If you go hard straight away on your first time up, it'll bite you so hard, you might as well get a tattoo on both butt cheeks with the words 'White-Down' to mark your failed attempt! Chris gave the bunch a good tip to look out for a telephone box if I'm not mistaken as a marker (or some sort of outpost!), once past that, give it your all. This was the climb I had been anxious about. All my times up this nasty witch I've struggled but following Em up and just keeping the pace going and the cranks turning, Whitedown could kiss my fat ass this time! I gave Em a good blast of encouragement as she was popping her Whitedown cherry and did so very well. So was Papiya and the little PowerPuff girl was smashing everything too. This was half way roughly on the route and with the toughest climbs out the way, you could feel a sense in everyone that it wasn't a case of can it be done, but 'The One' will be done! KQOM Whitedown: 5pts Nick, 4pts Ali, 3pts David 7/13
After a tricky descent down Crocknorth following a very cool roadie couple on a tandem, it was now time that I got involved in this climbing malarky. Seizing my opportunity with the 'Columbian' trio (You can argue between yourselves boys who's Quintana!) toying with eachother, I knew Green Dene was a longish climb compared to what we've done so far so I changed up a gear and attempted to create my own breakaway. Peaking back around, there was a flash of a white Castelli jersey. The guy who told us at the start that he categorically does not do hills was now so far up my ass, he could probably tell what deodrant I was wearing. Green Dene doesn't really have any kicks but I knew where the top was and Nick didn't so when he jumped around me, I kept the pace and tried to maintain a gap. I had another peak round to see where the rest were, David was attempting to bridge the gap but the forever presence of the polka dots had gone missing. Was Ali done?! The gap stayed as it was between us three but I had finally managed to score some points. KQOM Green Dene: 5pts Nick, 4pts Ben, 3pts David 8/13
We all deserved a refreshment stop and we opted for the lovely village of Shere. In hindsight, this was well timed because if we hadn't topped up on the fluids and carbs, I'm not sure we would of kept our level of performance going. Everyone was quite impressed with the route so far. Majority of the roads were traffic friendly, we had the woodlands and the countryside as our backdrop and the chat and banter between the group made the ride a great social experience. Who knew the power of social media would bring us to this point?! Refuelled and ready to tackle the last phase of this course, Houndhouse was next up and another climb I thrive on. It's long with no real kicks so I could knuckle down and keep a strong cadence going. Ali looked fresh again so when I upped the ante and jumped the Columbians, they were all on my tail in one long line. Either Nick knew how to draft or he really liked the look of my bib shorts but it was him again who was following my wheel. Quite clever tactically from Nick as apart from Chris, I was the only other one who knew the climb well. David and Ali started to drop back so it was another battle between me and the non climbing TT specialist. He timed his move well and on the only section where the gradient moved up a notch, he pulled away and I had to concede defeat. I did have to hang on to 2nd place as David was again making ground but another 4pts in the bag and still the tanks in the legs are not empty. KQOM Houndhouse: 5pts Nick, 4pts Ben, 3pts David 9/13
Do have a slight confession for the group here...the roads that cut into the next climbs I have never rode before. I've done the hills, just not used the short cuts. But the descent down to Peaslake was pure bliss. Quite and wooded, we were passed by an old Aston Martin we had seen earlier, could of been our support car but David never confirmed this as part of his secret climbing competition! Peaslake is another village great to visit, nicely nestled in between Holmbury Hill and Winterfold, we didn't have time to check out the very welcoming village store or its own MTB shop, the boys and girls shot on up Radnor Road. David had his GoPro for the day to grab some footage of the ride and has a great clip of Nick making a Froome type attack at the top of the climb. He was clearly lying at the start about his climbing ability, another forward tactical move but he was now a marked man in the remaining climbs. I opted to drop back to catch up with the girls who were quietly getting on with it but showing no pain and no struggle. Had no indication of the groups fitness levels before this ride but we had all pushed each other on even if it was through the climbing challenges or just pacing each other up the hills. I thought I'd take the opportunity to chat with Eve and her travels. We had both visited Nicaragua (separately!) and it was great to share some memories of places we had both been. If you think the girls weren't getting involved in the adrenaline driven KOM competition....(spoiler alert!). KQOM Radnor Road: 5pts Nick, 4pts David, 3pts Ali 10/13
So this is where I made my only mistake of the day. After we re-grouped, I chose to lead the group down on the winding descent but with a combination of Ali on my wheel and looking ahead for any potholes to avoid (weren't the greatest road and looked like a proper grind up the other way!) we missed our turning to Holmbury St.Mary! Thankfully and I assume it was Chris who had directed them the right way, the rest of the group took the correct turning. I probably apologised to Ali enough times to make him feel like he wanted to punch me, but we had to turn ourselves around and climb a little back up to the turning we were supposed to take. At the bottom of the next climb, I tried to give David a little ring (a phone call, not a romantic gesture!) but they must of all been battling for the remaining points on offer. So me and Ali took the climb on ourselves, it wasn't the longest climb of the day but the kick just by the school can catch you out if you're in a too bigger gear. KQOM Holmbury St.Mary: 5pts Nick, 4pts, David, 3pts Chris 11/13
Because we weren't sure where the others had gone and the chances are they were on the way back to the remaining 2 climbs thanks to Chris and his old school note pad and everyone else with their Garmin, me and Ali agreed to head back too. We accidentally found ourselves passing through Abinger's Queen's 90th Birthday fair and it was luckily for Eve that we had done because I did think of descending a different way down to miss the slow traffic passing through the village. It had rained a little in this part of Surrey and rolling down a mucky section, we noticed someone on the side of the road with their front wheel off obviously suffering from a puncture. It was Eve and knowing that she didn't have the route on at hand to follow back and that she's already done a length of Britain that day, I told Ali to go ahead who was going to head straight home. A respectful handshake and a smirk that he might of kept his own jersey, I watched Ali ride off into the distance whilst I mucked in to give Eve a hand. Now hope she won't mind me saying this but she did seem she needed some support so I offered to take over especially when she said she had a O2 cartridge on her instead of a pump. I've only had one experience with a cartridge before and it was a bad one which resulted in my tyre exploding! So I gave Eve some puncture tips I had learnt from Mr B (my friend's Dad who can fix anything!) like pushing the tube in from the valve and opening up the brake pads to put the wheel back in. It was nice to pass on this knowledge after all these years! It was lucky I stopped because I had spotted a tear in her tyre which could of been disastrous. Eve had informed me that the tyre wasn't that old so I advised her to take it back to the shop where she had got it from as you could see the threading in the tyre. I'm no mechanic but I knew that wasn't a good sign. So we took it real easy to our double descent of Newlands to rejoin 'The One' group and finally kill this beast of a ride! KQOM Newlands Corner South: 5pts Nick, 4pts, Chris, 3pts Papiya 12/13
So here we go, final climb of the day. Unfortunately, David joined Ali on the train back to London but it was a pleasure to ride with him and I am sure I'll see him soon again on a Dirty Wknd ride, maybe I'll get a break from hosting next time! I really appreciated the others hanging back for me and Eve so we could all finish it together, was really thoughtful and I really appreciated the effort they had made to make today a great ride. Descent was a blast, I took the time to rest the legs because I knew the northbound climb was the hardest out of the 2 ways up Newlands. Whilst climbing up, I felt a twinge in the inside of my left thigh, first time I had felt any pain all day so I focused on using other leg muscles to get me up. There would definitely be no PBs this time up! Turning back into the car park with the group, we had accomplished something that many said that couldn't be done, some said we were loco, some said it was even illegal (might be exaggerating!). But 'The One' was no more the route we had feared, it was now the route that sets the bar for the next batch in the series. KQOM Newlands Corner North: 5pts Nick, 4pts Emily, 3pts Ben 13/13
Well, hand on heart, the whole day and ride was probably my favourite of the year. I will even go as far as it beats most of the sportives I have done. Only one that comes close was the Palace to Palace ride years ago I took part in just because you start on the Mall on a closed road, having Buckingham Palace as a backdrop takes some beating. But the guys and girls I met on 'The One' were a pleasure to ride with. I like to think they all enjoyed the route and conquered some of their own demons and the proof is in the pudding as they've all requested an upgrade which you can find here nicely titled 'The One v2.0'. I have also even been given a 'Chilterns One' route which I hope to ride before my wedding opens me back up to drink, food and finally a bank account free of a savings transactions! So the moral of this adventure is very simple; if you have a joke or a gimmick which might create some interest, don't share it, keep it to yourself, lock it away and never speak of it again!
KQOM Results (everyone receives a point for each hill completed):
1st: Nick 71pts
2nd: David 55pts
3rd: Ali 44pts
4th: wlc 24pts
5th: Chris 20pts
6th: Emily 17pts
7th: Papiya 16pts
8th: Eve 13pts
'The race is won by the rider who can suffer the most'