May was a packed month for us, We are paying for it now as Mrs Notinthepeloton keeps finding jobs for us to do whether it be gardening or painting, its payback for all the weekends we spent with the mistress! First up, we had a weekend away taking on the London Revolution which included a night camping over at Windsor Racecourse. Next up was a weekend MTBing in the New Forest with 2 of the original notinthepeloton crew Tom and Dave (with the latter chickening out on a bit of splash!) and just inside the month of June, an epic and long adventure to Northern Ireland with another notinthepeloton original Ali to take on the Gran Fondo NI (this blog is to come!). Sandwiched in between all this was a ride which has now formed part of a series which is known in these parts as The One.
The One was made as a joke, we got bored on strava one day and decided to see if we could make a really hilly ride taking in the Surrey Hills. Version 1 had 13 hills and a small group of us including Dirty Wknd and UKCycleChat, who had never met before had a great day out, probably one of the most enjoyable rides we've had over in the years. Version 2 upped the ante to 15 hills and it turned out to run as an unofficial sportive with a group of 25 turning up to smash the hills. Mainly through Nick but there was a call for version 3. Our first draft looked ridiculous, just spikes of elevation so grouped together you wasn't too sure if the hills just merged into one mountain! After a little editing, the route was finalised. 80 miles, 9000ft and 17 hills. This is the story of The One v3.0....
#1 Staple Lane
Track: Easy Like (Saturday) Morning / Lionel Richie
(We should explain at this point that due Richard and myself singing up a few climbs to take our mind off the pain, we thought we would give each hill a song which is relevant to its profile or what we felt like at the time as we were riding!).
The meet for this beast of a ride was the Queens Head at the bottom of Staple which would also be the rendezvous for a (spoiler alert!) well deserved burger and beer later on. It was a smaller group this time round, maybe the profile put many off but we were there and so was David with his A-Team from DirtyWknd. He was also sporting his new kit which looked stealth with his bike, think he's got a soft spot for The Dark Knight! David is an original Onesie and so is Chris Gregory who defies age and is currently training for next year's Giro (you might as well mate with the way you ride!). A few original Onesies had to unfortunately pull out including Nick who had an important TT the next day which was completely understandable. Also in the group was the notinthepeloton groupies Sam and Chris who are allergic to the word slow (hopefully this shows how quick these guys are!). Mark had travelled all the way up from Sussex after graduating from v2.0 so he was looking for another notch on his palmares. Richard T was also back and on a personal mission. Unfortunately Rich had to duck out after Whitedown in v2.0 as he knee played up but after a bike fit, he had been flying in his training and had v3.0 as his personal aim this year. Along for a ride also was Catherine and Stephen who thought it would be a good challenge to try out especially for Catherine's summer mountain challenge. There's someone missing....some guy who rocked up on a Pinarello but looked like he only just found out what stabilisers were...Ali something.....sounded posh but think he was an extra on Jeremy Kyle once???
After a quick debrief, David's lot shot off. Literally. I was having problems with my K-mount still so I decided not to use the GoPro at the last minute which made me play catch up with the others. Rich held back and he became my riding partner for most of the hills. Didn't mind this at all, top lad and our joint aim was to complete the ride at our pace. Hats off to the guys upfront, one day we hope to be at that level but we know our place in the cycling world which is why we are notinthepeloton! Now something I hadn't mentioned but myself and Chris had chose to ride to the start so we already had roughly 20 miles on the clock so the legs weren't as fresh as the others. Chris is a bloody machine, he would of cycled to his own birth if he had been given the choice! Staple was a nice warm up and nothing to write home about. It was a little damp as we climbed but it was all about pacing. Cresting over the top, the descent down Combe was a bit twitchy and we rode past a couple of guys huddling around someone on the corner who obviously had come off.
#2 Houndhouse Rd
Track: Long and Winding Road / The Beatles
I got worried about Sam as we descended down Combe because he held back when we flew down. His aero wheels and tyres didn't like the slippery surface and like many of our steeds, his Giant is his pride and joy so took extra care rolling down Combe. We climbed Houndhouse together which is a long drag without any real kicks so another climb which allowed our legs to find their rhythm. We knew what was coming next so we were careful not to push any more resistance than we needed to. Houndhouse in some parts turns into a medieval climb with the trees' roots laid bare paving the way up into Winterfold (not Winterfell!). We had all regrouped in the village of Peaslake which is becoming more and more popular each time we cycle through with a big mix of MTBers and roadies all getting along despite the differences in disciplines.
#3 Radnor Road
Track: Old Pine / Ben Howard
The reason for this chosen track is twofold: 1. It has Pine in the title and this climb although I can't confirm if there are Pine trees in this area, it's very woody and 2. It's our wedding song and it's our blog so our rules! Dave's A team shot up the road again, swear some of them popped a few pills in Peaslake?! We dropped back as usual and just chatted away with Rich and Ali whilst the others went ahead and played. Radnor is not a particularly difficult climb but the loose gravel can make it tricky in the wet and it's a cow of a climb if you climb from the South, narrow lane with blind bends make this as risky as it is technical.
Track: F*** It (I Don't Want You Back) / Eamon
Think the track says it all....but before we dive into the actual climb, the front derailleur which I had replaced that week started to have a mind of it's own which meant me pulling over with Ali and fiddling about with it. I think this was the moment when the ride just disintegrated into groups scattered all across the Surrey Hills. We feel behind the speedsters up top but I knew if my energy reserves would be lower than most because of Chris' crazy idea of cycling to the start. We have only climbed Barhatch a handful of times, we try to avoid it because it's horrible. But over the past couple of years we have climbed some hills which have really made us squeal so Barhatch is not the menace it once was. Those who know the climb know that when it starts to kick, it doesn't plateau and the steepest section is the last ramp. It's hard not to go into the red here but we scraped through with not much fuss, just a lot of heavy breathing which wouldn't be out of place in a raunchy movie!
#5 Combe Lane
Track: The Climb / Miley Cyrus
Once we all re-found our legs, we all descended the rough road of Houndhouse, it could be doing with some TLC and this was proven on our way back down by Rich's jacket popping out of his back pockets and becoming tangled in his cassette. I had to shout at him to stop and was really worried of the rear wheel jamming then seeing Rich flying into a hedge somewhere. That wasn't the last of Rich's mishaps as just before Shere a pothole threw one of his bottles out which made him spin round. This ride was turning out to be a scene out of Mock The Week: 'Bad Things That Happen When You Cycle'! Combe is another one of those hills where if you're a newbie, it's a tough cookie to crack due to it's hairpin which catch many out. We know it inside out these days so we saved the legs for that section, got out of the seat and stretched the legs so they weren't just accustomed to climbing in the saddle. The other Onesies had bolted on so it was turning out to be a bit of a cycle date with me and Rich, at one point he was talking about dinner but I assumed that was his plans with the wife and not me...I hope so!
Track: Under The Bridge / Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Can I just say before we move on that I'm no fan of RHCP, I can't stand their lyrics because it's like they played a random dictionary game who can create the most nonsensical lyrics and the loser has to drink a shot! Anyway, the song is relevant as Crocknorth has a picturesque bridge which you roll under and it was on this climb that Rich was beginning to show how much progress his knee has made because he started to pull away. Granted we weren't giving 100% but he was setting a strong pace up these climbs so early and he was opening up a good gap on me. Think our dinner date went out the window here!
Track: Numb / Linkin Park
This track title basically sums up our ass at this point! The amount of climbing already in such a short space of time was starting to take it's toll on the southern anatomy. A few miles after Crocknorth underneath Abinger you will find the hidden demon of Tanhurst. I took Rich up here on a recon ride so he knew what to expect but it's ramps are a grind. Again, when wet, you're fighting the wheel slips and avoiding the grime as much as you are climbing. It was on this climb we began to notice Rich's 'cheating' technique of swerving across the road to ease the gradient. We kept on shouting to him 'swerving is cheating' but he kept on plodding along. We prefer to tackle climbs head on and go through the pain barrier, not saying Rich wasn't but we want to get the pain over and done with, not prolong it. Rich's bike fit was definitely showing it's benefits as he wasn't much out of breath and ready for the next ascent whereas I was trying to find a gear which wouldn't give me square legs!
#8 Broomehall Road
Track: Long Hard Times To Come / Gangstagrass
Anyone seen Justified? Great show, Timmy Olyphant plays a sheriff who cycles up hills to catch bad guys...well that's what it felt we were doing! Broomehall is one of those climbs which looks easier than it is. The lane looks too continental European to be in Surrey but it kicks really only once before you hit the trees then it's a mild climb for the rest of the way. Richard continued his swerving which was proving to be an excellent strategy especially. All the groups up ahead were somewhere, would we see them again? Would Richard stop with the swerving? Would Ali realise he's not Chris Froome and drop back where he belonged?! Would Big Chris whip out his super cape and save some more kids?! (True story!).
Track: Hate Me Now / Nas
We used to despise this hill. Even if you don't now, if you know Whitedown, at one point in your cycling life, you saw that hairpin and what came after it and only cursing filled the mind! Richard and I had caught up with some of the newbies on the ride Catherine and Stephen and we all settled into the pain together. It's single lane layout means if you get stuck behind a car here and it has to pull in to let an oncoming car pass, be prepared to clip out or you're going in the ditch! Rich had a personal vendetta as it was this time a few months ago his knee caved in so vengeance was his, he came, he saw, he climbed!
Track: Ziggy Stardust / David Bowie
You may disown us for this but we never really liked Bowie's music. We respect the impact he had on music and culture but just can't get into his music apart from Heroes because it was used in the 2012 Olympics ceremony. But just the word Ziggy says it all about Box. Just over half way into the ride and Box was a lovely respite for the legs. A gradual climb with an average of 5%, it's relaxed gradient allows you to catch your breath and take in the stunning views of the rolling countryside which neighbours it. And who was at the top waiting for us?! Everyone else! They were all ready to get going again but myself and Rich needed some refuelling so we made them wait! Few comments about falling behind was heard but it went through one ear and out the other! It was nice though to have all the group together for a change and begin the next hill together...
Track: Wild Wild West / Will Smith
...well that didn't last long! The Dirty Wknd racing team had skipped away again and maybe the others felt sorry for me but they stuck around to carry my ass up! Westhumble is similar to Broomehall in terms of levels of deceit, it slowly becomes tougher right up until the hairpin when if you've pushed too hard, the rise in gradient might catch you out. We all knew this climb well and took it on at our own pace. I was beginning to feel the tightness in the leg at this point, I was unsure if I had refuelled properly or if the legs were reaching their limit. I was determined to go all the way no matter what, this was our toughest assignment to date and with so many of our riding buddies out with us, we had to push through. The descent down Ranmore gave us an opportunity to shake out the legs but Coldharbour was waiting...
#12 Coldharbour Lane
Track: Cold As Ice / MOP
The others had started to pull away as soon as we entered the actual signage to the road, our legs were beginning to fail. Rich could see I was struggling and dropped back to keep us going. Coldharbour is known for being a right....(you can fill in your own descriptive!), it has a few ramps which hit 20% in places so it was definitely not what we needed at this point of the route, who designed this anyway?! I even began to fall back from Rich who probably had enough of us sucking his wheel! Aerobically, we felt fine but it was the 'hit the wall' feeling you get when your body had ran it's energy stores dry and has nothing left to give. I had a few bars still on me and water was topped up at Box but it's hard to force your body to consume when it's fighting back. After probably the slowest climb we have ever achieved, the mini-group consisting of Mark (who has the ability of not sweating!), Rich and Ali who had probably an episode guilt beset upon him and remembered that we were his original riding buddy, were waiting for my now heavy legs trying to haul my ass up. Only a handful of climbs left lads...
#13 Anstie Lane
Track: It's All So Quiet / Bjork
Welcome Anstie the One series, your introduction has been on the back of a recommendation from Big Chris and we have to say, you are a lovely climb to take on but not without a sting in your tail! We recc'd this a month or so earlier when we realised out of all the hills in Surrey, this one had eluded us. Found just before the a24 cuts through Surrey, it's a hill not many climb and we can't see why because it's quiet, surface is good and it has an ending section which comfortably moves the gradient into the double figures. Our legs were starting to feel a second wind but nowhere near strong enough to climb at the other's pace. Our mental state was just picturing the end an the final climb, it had been a long day and it was getting to the point where we was wondering if 17 climbs was a bit too much?!
#14 Ranmore Common Road
Track: Survivor / Destiny's Child
Ok, it's a song for the females but we were adopting this attitude of survival now because we were now in the money zone, where the game is won or lost, where it's eat or be eaten, get that last seat or stand up on the bus, use that last piece of toilet paper or end up looking for a hand towel....! Urgh! Back to the hill and this side up the common is a grind, it stays in a tough gradient throughout but if you have the energy to do so, take a look to your left to see a great view of Leith. The legs were tiring, we really had to dig deep just to keep the pedals turning but there was a slight comfort knowing that this day was nearly over. But in our opinion and we were kicking ourselves right now, there was one last newbie to commence battle with which although short, packs an almighty punch...
#15 Polesden Lacy
Track: Tubthumping / Chumbawamba
On a casual ride, this little climb would definitely make you wince once or twice. At this stage of the ride, the amount of moans, groans and swearing would of made a Tourette's counselling class look like a regular Sunday church service! We was worried if the legs were going to conk out of gas at one point but think we were all starting to fade to some degree and having a small group of us together really helped morale. Even making a conversation about the most pointless of subjects just allows the mind to rest which meant the pain would subside even for a split second. To us in hindsight, it helped enormously. Polesden Lacy is a short climb but it has a Whitedown start with steep hairpin and then stays in a gritty gradient similar to Tanhurst. Cresting the top is a wonderful moment on this climb because any longer and you're in Barhatch territory of pain. All of the sudden, everyone had a warm relaxed face knowing the last 2 climbs were puppies in comparison...
#16 Beech Avenue
Track: Pure Shores / All Saints
As chilled as the scene where Leo walks out onto the white sand in that famous location of Maya Bay (we have recently seen this and it's epic!), our small group began the climb of Beech Avenue (also known as Critten Lane) and the smooth road surface was a like rolling in melted Galaxy chocolate (just a fantasy of ours!). That feeling of hitting the wall was still there and we were just hoping we wouldn't conk out and be made to walk the last 2 miles back to base camp. Everyone was in good spirits still even after a long day in the saddle, some even looked like they could keep going! The Dirty Wknd team at this point and the rest had smashed the challenge and were putting their feet up at the pub waiting for their burgers to be served! We could smell that beef sizzling even being still a couple of miles away or was our mind just playing tricks on us?!
#17 Green Dene
Track: Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now / Starship
After the sketchy descent down Crocknorth, there was only one climb left for us all to conquer the leafy road of Green Dene. If you keep your eye out, you'll spot some lush forest homes hidden away between the trees. Following the regular theme of the day, we had dropped off at the back and our loyal mate for the day Rich accompanied us to the finish. But even the small rises on this climb slowed our pace down to a trot, it was really difficult to muster any kind of power and we even considered adopting Rich's swerving technique! Times were that bad. But over we went and as we both rolled into HQ where Allez Nutrition is based, Big Chris, Little Chris and Ali welcomed us in. They looked like they were having a siesta with their feet up, we were done! Little Chris pondered the question about riding back, I think my face at the time gave him the answer with 100% conviction...nah mate! Rich had kindly offered to drop us home which we were in his debt for. But we decided first to join the Dirty Wknd guys for their well deserved beer and burger! Our stomach though, believe it or not for those who know us, couldn't hack our favourite comfort food and opted for a tea and a bowl of chips!
The feedback from the riders was overall positive. The Dirty Wknd especially loved the competitiveness on the climbs even though we saw none of it as we were defining our brand of notinthepeloton! Switchbacks and crossovers on the route was difficult to avoid and it did mean descending some roads twice but our goal was to pack as in many different hills as we could in one achievable ride. There is a route out there which packs in the cycling world which covers a few more of the Surrey ascents over a greater distance. We are nowhere near that level and growing The One series is all about making it possible to accomplish. We feel now we have taken The One series as far as we can in Surrey, climbing the same hills again doesn't excite us but expanding the ride into different areas does. So coming soon (and it could be this year or an early Spring challenge for 2018!), we will be taking The One series on the road and where else best to visit than the nearby Chilterns. An area of gorgeous scenery and similar climbs including some devils, the Chilterns was introduced to us by Mike, an popular member of the Twitter cycling community and he has created a route to take on v1.0.
So, if you liked what you have read and you're looking for something different for a challenge, join us for our next journey in The One series and you may one day be worth of a Onesie!
'What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.'