After the successful attempt on The One v1.0, the route was revisited and taken to the next level. We've given it more mileage, more hills which means more elevation. This is the story of The One v2.0.
Backed by @UKCycleChat and @DirtyWknd with the local expertise of @thechrisgregory a new version of this now infamous ride was put into place. Version 1.0 had 13 hills beginning and ending at the beautiful viewpoint of Newlands Corner. Following feedback, a new rollout point was researched as the a25 road leading up Newlands was deemed a bit too traffic heavy even though the lure of the cafe and free parking (which is due to change!) made it a sacrifice we had to make to make sure everyone had a safe start and end to their day. There are plenty of car parks dotted around the hills but knowing @AllezNutrition is usually pitched up at the top of Staple Lane nicely nestled in between 2 climbs, this was a good spot for the main rendezvous. With Clandon train station nearby, The Queens Head at the bottom of Staple Lane turned out to be a good neutral spot for us all to aim for. So out went Newlands Corner (x2) and promoted from the bleechers was Sheephouse Lane, Beech Avenue and Pitch Hill. The order of the climbs was also altered to prevent crossing back onto the same roads and a late change to the order meant Beech Avenue would be the climb after Whitedown which I thought was a thoughtful gesture from me to those who would find the gradient of Whitedown hard going and in need of some respite. There was to be 3 main refreshment stops; Box Hill National Trust Cafe, Allez Nutrition and Peaslake Village Store (although this kinda went out the window for some!!!). So if v1.0 was Batman Begins, this definitely turned out to be the epic The Dark Knight!
Saturday October 8th, alarm lets itself known at 6.30am (I am unfamiliar with this time as my work as a teacher lets me have at least another half hour!). The Autumn mornings are still hiding and the dawn light was struggling to make itself visible. Maybe its me but getting ready for a group ride turns me into an OCD type of cyclist, double checking every item. Riding on my Jack Jones (on my own, not an old school friend!), I'm out without checking the TV still isn't on! Its probably trying to prevent the embarrassment of turning up and realising you've forgotten your bike or something! So I made my way to meet Nick from UKCycleChat (who wasn't in best shape due to a cold/flu/ebola/the plague but still someone who makes a hill look like a speedbump!), our local backup guide Chris (he saved 2 children by sacrificing himself and his bike once! I'll let him tell you the story but just remember not all heroes wear capes!) and Richard (who could possibly own the brightest bike in South England, we've christened his bike with the appropriately named 'The Beacon', I'll let you work out why!). Now at WLC, we like to think of ways to make our routes a little special whether it be a view point, a bit of history thrown in at some point or in this case, a laminated hill breakdown for riders to tape onto their bars. We haven't taken ours off yet, we might keep it on their for a while and revel in the glory (did I just give away the ending?!).
Whilst rolling down Staple, I had thanked my experience as a cub scout back in my youthful days by being prepared as the lovely and warm neckie I was wearing supplied by le col kept my airways cosy (the thermal inner lining felt like having a water bottle around your neck!). It was a fresh morning and the descent down made me realise each downhill section would replicate the frozen food section at the supermarket so the neckie would stay on for the whole ride. We were aware there would be a bigger group this time round but a small nation of cyclists had turned out for this challenge! The group had a wide range of abilities and happy to report both genders were represented! It was a shame that a few of the 'originals' couldn't make it (looking at you Dr!) but the increase in intrigue and interest meant there would be new graduates this time round. After everyone was handed out their hill chart for the day, it was decided even though it was a large group (an unofficial count of 24 was made), the group would eventually fracture and people would find their own pace groups. A last minute to call to Ali (@RouteSurreyUK) who gave up a 'full' night of drinking to attend, letting us know he was just rolling down Staple to meet us. We would pick him up on the way out. There was a lovely selection of bikes on show which gave me bike porn envy especially as my Tarmac is starting to feel dated even though it does the job. Cycling can be a very expensive hobby and we are not blessed with the funds of others (each to their own, we all work hard and deserve what we get) so I do appreciate how far the red steed has got me. I've achieved so much during my time with 'her' but I'm getting that rash again (no, not that one you dirty minded people!), the rash that comes with the itch for an upgrade.
So GoPro rolling, the constant sound of clicks from the 24 pairs of cleats accompanied us as we hunted down our first ascent of the day (albeit it being a 50m ride to the bottom of the hill!). I tried to meet and greet as many as I could:
Steven with the BMC rocket and a fan of tequila (he mentioned his prep' for the Legs of Steel the week before!)
Patrick the avid hill lover and his excellent sock game
Papiya one of the originals and known as 'Polly Pocket'
David creator of Dirty Wknd and a lover of cycling caps
Howard also from UKCycleChat with all the matching gear too!
Jamie with the gillet and Giro shorts, a past contributor to the site
Nick creator and designer of Blackmore apparel with the cute duck logo
(And to everyone else, I sincerely apologise that I can not remember your names but as this blog will show, not totally my fault! But your support and attendance on the day was very appreciated and I hope you had as much fun despite all the climbing as I did!).
Fate had it that day that I wouldn't see the majority of them again during this ride (have I given away the ending again?!) so I tried to get in as much small talk as I could. For Staple Lane (no.1), I joined up with Sam who I only started to get in contact with via Instagram a couple weeks prior and he seemed keen for a ride. With a small but athletic frame, you could see he was built for speed. His climbing technique mirrored the sprinting position of a certain Mark Cavendish and having his FTP thresholds taped on his top tube, I had to make sure I didn't get into a race with this guy! And how weird that we converse on Insta' but he lives literally a few streets down from me?! As the bunch strolled up Staple (with fresh legs, it's nothing!) an unsurprisingly late Ali flew down. As I'm such a good friend to him (the start of a very long guilt trip, be warned Ali, this is a long haul flight and you havn't even got an economy seat, you're in with the luggage and the livestock my friend!), I decided to pull out of the group and slow up for him knowing it would be at least a 5 minute wait for Ali to claw his way back up. The rest of the group sailed on towards Crocknorth (no.2) and Box Hill (no.3) for refreshment stop number one but as I empathise and wouldn't want to leave my friends on their own (this guilt trip hasn't even taken off yet mate!), I thought of Ali and him being alone and not knowing anyone when we eventually rejoin the group.
Crocknorth was again nothing much even with its 20% section. The descent down Ranmore was a bit wet made my the morning dew so the brakes were applied for a few times, no point even risking coming off here so early into the ride! Whilst climbing Box, we came across a woman who was stuck in a big gear. It seemed there was something wrong with her electronic shifters so she looked like she was struggling although after we gave her the encouragement and advice of pulling into Destination Bike who are a store as well as a cafe, she zoomed off and left myself and Ali to it. That was good deed number two after my patient rendezvous with Ali! As we rolled into the cafe, the group had probably enough time to finish up a full English and were keen to get going. So I munched down a flapjack that Ali had kindly provided and was introduced to a new addition to the bunch. Allyson, Sam's club companion, had joined us and I had hoped Sam gave her the lowdown and made her aware this was no flat ride but it turned out that Allyson was a better climber than most!
With the group back together, a fast descent down Box was followed by a roll under the a24 via the underpass and Ranmore Common Rd aka Westhumble (no.4) was next on the agenda. I decided to hold back and join the backmarkers (anyone who wanted to cruise up rather than TT their way up the climbs!). At this point I thought myself and Sam were the last ones but after climbing out of the hill's notorious hairpin, we accidentally rode past Jeimy, our international rider for the day thanks to her Columbian background, who had found herself following a different group all together up the hill! Another but more drier descent down Ranmore again to Dorking, round its one way system and into Coldharbour Lane (no.5) brought us into 'Octopus' territory (no not the aqua based animal, the infamous cycling challenge found in these parts!). From v1.0, I knew the importance of pacing so again let others go up further if they wanted to so I partnered 'Polly' up the climb. Again, I found this hill very doable when often it can be a grind to get up. I was impressed with my own breathing, never felt out of breath or even pushing the heart rate up so this filled me with confidence for the rest of the route. Last time I descended Broomehall it was in version 1.0 and we were in small group which meant being on the brakes so not to smash into someone's back wheel. This time round, all of the riders were further up the road so this descent was just Papiyas and mine to play with. Starting off as a snakey and technical descent turns out to be a fast open plain scramble with a fantastic view into the southern parts of Surrey and beyond. When the fields open up, its quite easy to hit 40mph if you're confident enough although the odd bump here and there might give you a fright.
It was after this fun section that Papiya had realised we were a rider down. Jeimy our Columbian rider (she was to be known as Mrs Quintana!) was not with the group. As we were the last of the bunch which was now split all over the place because of the different pace settings, we realised we had somehow misplaced her after Box. So after we grinded our way up Leith Hill Road (no.6) the Ride100 way, a quick phone call to David was made which thankfully resulted in knowing Jeimy was safe but a hill behind. Another bit of bad news drifted our way as Papiya's knee was playing up which was a massive shame as her effort on the hills was inspiring. Her light frame and effortless spinning style was a great combination for a climber but unfortunately and it sounded like an overuse injury from her running, this would be the last time I had the pleasure of her riding company for the day. A small group waited at the junction of a25 for us and it claimed another victim. Our BMC ambassador Steven had also picked up an injury but was also keen to get to the pub so he had also called it a day. It could of also been at this point Howard's shoulder injury made its impact too which again was unfortunate as it would of been good to find out the history and the plans of UKCycleChat now a dominant but friendly force in the cycling community. I started to wonder if this route I had created was the injury devil in disguise?!!!
'Where, where, where's Ali?!' If found please contact wlondoncycling on 01234 567 8910 (calls cost £1.50 per minute and will be charged to Ali who will happily to cover the cost and treat everyone to a brand new Garmin as a little token of his appreciation for even being invited on this ride!). Whilst I lead the way for the my little band of riders, Ali was busy mixing it up with the big boys which by the sound of it, was getting competitive. I knew Ali was decent on the steeper climbs but he was in some strong company so I understood why he wanted to keep with them. Too good for me now mate?! That's fine, I'll remember today vividly! This was also the last time I saw Sam and Allyson as I kept pace with Richard who's knee started to give him a bit of grief too. His personal target was Whitedown because its a hill he hasn't conquered yet. I admired his commitment but didn't want him to anymore damage to an injury which has hindered him before. Overall Sheephouse (no.7) is not really a tough climb but it's middle section rises out of the ground like some huge spot on your face which has been growing for weeks (can't think of any other adjectives to describe it!). Richard and I found ourselves very alone at this point (not like that, we are both married and I don't play that way!) so I think Richard appreciated the lowdown of Whitedown (no.8) as we descended down to it. Notorious in these parts but I had a different feeling towards it this time. It didn't feel as a challenge to get up it anymore and although at times you're grinding the pedals, I never felt beaten or out of control. Whereas I was actually enjoying this climb, the agonising sounds from Richard meant that his knee started to give way. It also didn't helped by having a stalemate with traffic coming from both directions along the single track road. I luckily had a window to get round them but think Richard had to wait for the stand off to resolve itself.
At the junction where our next climb meets Whitedown, Richard decided to call it a day and I'm glad because I didn't want him to do anymore damage to his knee but I'm there for ya buddy when you finally want to crack Whitedown! So this was a weird period I happen to experience. I was now the rear of the bunch and assumed everyone had climbed Beech Avenue (no.9) and gone on to refreshment stop number 2 and enjoyed a cake or two thanks to Allez Nutrition. Hodgen Lane is pretty much an unused lane in these parts, not many take the detour off Ranmore but its home to a gorgeous dip down into a small valley where you can reach a bit of speed (be cautious as its a single lane track but with a decent surface). Just before the dip down though, I was greeted by a blockage in the road. No it wasn't roadworks, no it wasn't Ali on his knees begging for forgiveness for leaving his closest cycling companion and offering his new Pinarello as a peace offering. A herd of sheep had broken loose out of their field and prevented me from going any further. A Mexican stand off had begun. Me v the sheep. Eyes were locked. They were drooling blood from their lips, I was drooling the essence of a gel I had just consumed. The wind had stopped. Even the birds went quiet as the tension in the air built up like fight night. I was determined to be Anthony Joshua and in my mind these sheep were the offspring of Tyson Fury. These sheep had smelt it too (no, no one had farted!). The fear. The leader of their pack had enough. He didn't like what he saw (could of been the kit I was wearing but I quite liked my Pearl Izumi outfit!). He bolted and just as sheep do, they all bolted! But I think I have a new found respect for sheep in general as they were hitting speed I could only dream about. Although laughable, my humane nature took over and if I had kept rolling down, one of them was bound to trip up and I didn't fancy trying to right one up (sheep can die on their backs, my wife has the farmers background so there's my source!). Turning around though and one of them must of phoned 'Leroy' for backup because his crew turned up and trotted past me. I honestly swear one of them kissed their lips at me and said 'Do you know what ends you're in boy?!'. Who knew Surrey sheep could be so street and hostile?! My third good deed for the day was that I let the next house know of the incident and to call the police immediately!
The gorgeous leafy smooth climb of Beech Avenue was followed by another gentle but long climb up Green Dene (no.10). A not particularly exciting climb compared to the others but at this stage of the ride, my legs were beginning to run on empty and I needed a carb' top up. Expecting a large group at the mobile cafe stop, it was just David and Jeimy. Had I missed something?! Had someone missed me?! Had everyone gone home?!! So it turned out that someone (can't even point fingers because apparently no one did any direction pointing anyway!) took a left instead of a right after Whitedown which meant Beech Avenue was missed out. No wonder why I was so behind! David and Jeimy had skipped Sheephouse so Jeimy had a chance to catch up with the rest of the group. So not wanting them to wait forever for me, I quickly scoffed down a bacon butty and topped up the fluids. Richard was packing his bike away too and treated himself to a salted caramel chocolate brownie which after his efforts today, was well deserved. Two thirds of the ride left and it was just us three. A good catch up with David about his site and his plans for Dirty Wknd made the drag up Houndhouse (no.11) a bit easier than it should of been but I started to feel that 'hit the wall' emotion especially in the legs. I was worried I hadn't rested up enough during my short break but couldn't do nothing about it now. Mrs Quintana on the other hand could give our very own Polly Pocket a run for her money up these climbs. At not one point, did Jeimy moan or grumble, she stuck through the whole ride but then again, she is Columbian which means she has pedigree on this terrain!
I included the reverse way up Houndhouse in the form of Pitch Hill (no.12) to increase the number of hills for v2.0 and it nearly defeated me. The legs felt like they were spinning in thick porridge. I knuckled down so hard mentally because at the end of the day, if the creator can't even complete the route, what does that say about his reputation?! I don't claim to be a great cyclist, I can hold my own at times but from where I've come from, a lap around Richmond Park used to be enough for me, this route was another step up in achievements. As I was climbing up Pitch, I noticed a flash of light every few seconds from the rear of my bike. I thought it was an impatient driver but spinning up beside me, it was a great pleasure to see a familiar face in Chris. I hope Chris doesn't mind me saying this but he's a veteran when it comes to the bike but he can conquer pretty much any ascent whilst keeping a high pace on the flats. So it was a nice addition to our now elite club battling out these final climbs.
We didn't bother stopping at the store in Peaslake as the neutral feeling was to get this ride out of the way now! Chris by this time had informed me that the breakaway group he had joined with Nick, Ali, Patrick and co. had made another unscheduled detour which meant they had missed out Pitch Hill. They had also missed out on Holmbury St.Mary so their hill count for the day was actually 12 not 15! Sorry guys, this means I can't send out your graduate t-shirts saying 'I became The One'! The week before I had climbed Radnor Rd (no.13) and the weather at the time made it full of grit and gravel but the weather had been kind of us with just a few spots of rain occasionally. It's quite a pretty climb up high in the woods but you do feel at times you're intruding on MTB land as its full of the off-roaders! Holmbury St.Mary (no.14) was the penultimate climb, short but with a steep section just before you hit the school. I had overtaken a couple of cyclists I had passed earlier by Whitedown and seeing one of them struggle, I gave him the encouragement of letting him know where the top was. I was a cycling good deed machine today!
It could of been that we were nearing the end but I started to get a second wind (or it could of been the bacon butty but something smelt funny!). A quick cut back into Shere to get off the a25 before our final climb of Combe Lane (no.15). Ironically, this was our first climb of v1.0 but now our last ascent of the day. David went ahead (technically his legs were fresher as he missed out 2 climbs) and Chris followed. I followed Jeimy up and pushed on a little in the final section which included its horrible hairpin. I got out of the seat for a few revolutions but felt the onset of cramp and there was no way I wanted to finish the ride that way! Sat back in the seat and squeezed every ounce of effort I had left. The top beckoned and as I crested it, I let out a roar (could of been a meow in reality). In your face v2.0!
I came, I saw, I conquered! In a group, on my own, sometimes with Ali (ok once with Ali!), it's now on my palmares. But we havn't finished with 'The One', theres plenty room to step it up another level so whilst you're either waiting for your graduate t-shirt (I've ordered 2 for me and Chris!!!) or wishing to be part of this project, we will be researching the hills, the mileage, the dips, the sheep to avoid all for the glory, the glory of 'The One v3.0'.
'The best rides are the ones where you bite off much more than you can chew, and live through it'.