Now in it's 4th edition, The One series has started to become a bit of a cult ride for those who are looking to tackle hill upon hill upon hill. Surrey we felt has been drained of it's climbs (there is still a few that have not made an appearance) but we thought we would take the series on the road whilst trying to keep it close to London. An obvious choice was the Chilterns, a glorious area of English countryside full of short sharp climbs and stunning scenery. We put it out there as an open event and 18 top guys and 1 top gal turned up just to see if they had what it took to become a Onesie!
The route was originally created by a good Twitter pal, Mike le Renard, and although we had explored most of the Chilterns, there was a few climbs we hadn't ascended before so we did a bit of recon via Veloviewer and safe to say the route was going to be far from easy. A punchy climb near the end looked a bit edgy not to mention the infamous Whiteleaf which would be one of the early climbs. Meeting point was to be Amersham, straight train out of London would make it easy for the city cyclists and for those who chose to drive, an easy town to get to off the m25. Will have to point out one rider did decide to ride from West London, he who shall not be named, is a bit of a mileage hunter and we had to decline his offer of joining him as we wanted the chance to actually feel our legs at the end of the ride! You're a bit mental Chris Detsicas! We had a few familiar faces sign up along with some newbies but that's what these rides are about, either to test yourself against some faster riders, network with others or just come along for the fun...if you find climbing 13 hills fun! We decided 70miles was a perfect distance for this type of ride, not too short or too long so boredom didn't set in, v3.0 was hard work not just because of the 17 Surrey hills, but also because it turned out to be a 90mile slog in the end!
To add a bit of spice to the ride, Lexham Insurance had kindly donated a prize in the form of a £100 Kalas kit voucher which we were very grateful for. We were undecided how this would be won but we've been in rides/sportives where there has been KOM/QOM prizes and although that's a great addition to an event, it is a bit elitist as only a select few will ever have a good crack at winning it. Seeing this is a group ride and open to all abilities, we thought we would go down the humanistic approach and leave it to the others to vote for their Rider of the Day. They could give any reasons of someone who made the day great for everyone and that could of been from helping with punctures/ mechanical, encouraging others on a climb or just being an all round good person. First time we had ever done something like this but we like to approach with a good heart and good mindset, everyone who signed up for this we feel reflected that too.
Because the group was agreed to be too big to ride together, I encouraged those who were looking for a faster group to ride with to go ahead which worked out perfectly for both groups as the pace matched the riders, for those who were looking to chill or smash themselves could with the group they were riding with. Either way, everyone was up for a good ride and tackling the climbs of the Chilterns so with the GoPro rolling, Garmin beeping, it was time to roll out...
Polka Dot Challenge #1: Hotley Bottom, Prestwood, 1.2km
After a quiet start getting out of Amersham and a short descent into Great Missenden, first climb of the day was a relatively easy passage of Hotley Bottom. The dry weather had thankfully done enough to make sure the back roads weren't just full of mud but where drivers had come through, there was the trail of stones and muck in the middle so choosing the smoothest side for this climb was key. I chose to become the unofficial 'broomwagon' in case anyone got lost, dropped back or just needed a shoulder to cry on.
That's not to say I'm any good at climbing, bang average probably but as it's our route, we wanted to make sure everyone was feeling good throughout the whole day. I dropped back to chat to Guy on this climb who was taking on his own challenge later in the week, a 400 mile ride across the South coast of Britain (unfortunately due to a mechanical, Miles had to pull out on day 2 of his quest but he will return and conquer!). As you may see from the Strava leaderboard (couple of riders missing - apologies, could not find your ride on Strava), we topped this climb but doubt the others were actually trying! We didn't have it in mind to hit any PBs today because we wanted to make sure like the rest of our rides, we can actually finish it! The whippets upfront though we assumed would adopt a different gameplan!
Polka Dot Challenge #2: Whiteleaf, Princes Risborough, 1.4km
You could say that this was the Queen climb of the day, Whiteleaf is one of the original 100climbs chosen by Simon Warren and it is a pain in the ass. For those who don't know, the gradient kicks in the high teens from the right hand bend and stays there until the top. We hated this climb when we first ascended it but we didn't feel too bad on here even having a chat with Mark as we went up. Poor Miles chain had come off at the bottom, he wasn't having much early luck. The whippets at this point were probably already over the third climb but we gathered together for the fast descent down Kop, a near enough straight road where most of the group gunned it down.
Think the actual climb up Kop need to be featured in a future version though, some argue it's harder than it's sibling of Whiteleaf. Not surprising but still impressive given he already had 25 odd miles in his legs before anyone started, lil Chris (we also had big Chris!) posted the quickest time up, a mighty 2 minutes faster than our time for the day.
Polka Dot Challenge # 3: Pink Hill, Great and Little Hampden, 1.3km
Pink Hill came straight after the descent of Kop and thanks to openness of this part of the Chilterns, you could see the top of the ridge from afar which you were about to crest. The climb itself hides itself within the trees and includes a steep turn at a junction to turn into. Not a particularly long climb but if you take this climb on with heavy legs, it can turn into a slog . The whippets must of been cruising up because I've taken another top time, either that, or the TUE I had smuggled in at the start was starting to show it's benefits! On a side note, the weather at this point was gorgeous, couldn't ask for a better morning even slapping a layer of sun lotion on before the ride (he says wearing a thick hoodie and socks!!!). There were calls for an early April ride but I knew the later in the month we could make it, the better chance we would get for decent weather and so it proved especially as I sit here anticipating a 4C commute in the morning with 100% chance of rain and a 15mph+ headwind to work!
Polka Dot Challenge #4: Wigan's Lane, Chinnor, 2.2km
There's a few ways up to Bledlow Ridge and this was one of the more milder ones. I dropped back again to catch up with big Nick (there was lil Nick too in the front group!). Nick was one of the originals like big Chris who had overcome v1.0 and is always a great guy to chat to. Interesting to hear about his journey through cycling, he is now an established local Time Trialist putting in some stunning times on his new Aspire and he is definitely someone who makes a good impression on people, always a pleasure riding with this fella! At one point, we were taking it so easy, we looked up and our group had broken away and left us!
Not saying this was the reason why our time was slow in comparison to others but we thought this was a social paced group...it was turning out it wasn't! Unfortunately, Guy early bad luck continued as he punctured just before descending into Chinnor so some of the group remembered about the prize and stayed for moral support! Like your thinking there guys! Nearly had a crash though as a MTBer pulled out from a side lane just as we were descending and was about to cross our path but decided not to at the last minute, really not sure what he was thinking was there especially seeing a train of us coming down...
Polka Dot Challenge #5: Kingston Hill, Kingston Blount, 2.5km
After a stop at the Co-Op in Chinnor which I think our only female rider Sarah appreciated as it had a toilet, the potholes and diverts started to appear more frequently. It became quite clear that Winter wasn't very kind to the Chilterns and it turned out to be a competition who could spot more holes than actual climbing. Luckily, the scenery now and then showed itself and the cons was balanced with the pros. Up next was Kingston Blount, one of the longer climbs of the day but does turn into a slight drag at the end. Again no excuse for the slow time but we remember stopping off at the time to take some photos of some of the group showing their grimacing faces! We were all rewarded though with a cracking descent back down to the b4009 which crests the top of the Chilterns.
Polka Dot Challenge #6: Hill Road, Watlington, 1.9km
Our little social group must of had an element of telepathy because no one called for it but we all naturally formed a chaingang 2 abreast on our journey to our next climb in Watlington. A good pace was also kept and I think people realised there wasn't many chances for a flat run so took the opportunity to stretch the legs out a bit. Turning into Hill Road, we had joined part of a sportive which gave everyone motivation to beat a few sportive riders up this climb. We had pictured the whippets loving the element of overtaking hence the quick times you can see on the leaderboard. We took the opportunity to chat to Sarah who came with some of the Dirty Wknd crew on the train.
She had an interesting jobs importing vegetables and told us because of floods in Kenya at the moment, their exports were difficult to get hold of. The range of conversation you can have on a Onesie ride hey?! It wasn't far from our main refreshment stop of the day at The Barn at Turville Heath and the road surface aside, it turned out to be a long flowing descent to our final climb before our big feed which led to a few trying to burst clear. Hearing Darren's Cervelo go past was a highlight, think he won bikeporn award of the day! *below is the leaderboards for the climbs 1-6.
Polka Dot Challenge #7: Balhams Lane, Turville Heath, 2.2km
The climb up to Turville Heath itself was a quaint little climb...well it was until my bike started to constantly and consistently creak from the bottom bracket. I used the time to tap into big Chris's maintenance knowledge sharing all my bike issues (there was a couple I was having issues with). Chris reminds me of my mate's Dad Mr B, both self taught in bike maintenance and both a walking encyclopedia of wisdom and problem solving. My other issue was that one of my bolts in my cleats had rusted due to the Winter weather and I couldn't change my cleats.
Big Chris suggested a hack job of pouring Coke into the shoe itself and I assume the idea is that the acid would eat away at the rust to loosen it. Crazy to realise how we still drink fizzy drinks knowing that it has the power to eat metal!? Confession - I literally just had a can of Coke prior to this point being made, think I'm just going to go brush my teeth...
Polka Dot Challenge #8: Shogmoor Lane, Skirmett, 1.9km
Mike had introduced us to The Barn a few years ago and as a summer stop, not sure many places can beat it. Both groups were back together again and it was a chance to mingle with some of the whippets. They were a bit coy as to who was winning the hill climbs but I could tell there was some competition lurking amongst them. Josh had driven all the way up from Southampton to take on v4.0. We know Josh through our good pal Ali and is pursuing his career as a triathlete. He also mentioned about a bnb his girlfriend's family own in Exmoor which is bike friendly. Definitely on the to do list especially hearing about what climbs are hidden down there.
Speaking of distance, a few had travelled afar to join the ride. Geoff, who is training for the LEJOG this year, came down from Northampton (ok, not miles away but he didn't know anyone and gave every hill a cracking go!). Mark had navigated a closure on the m23 to travel up from Shoreham and Nick and Darren had come from the East from TOWIE land. But this route had attracted some locals too, lil Nick and Guy were Chilternites (is that a term?!). James, Shiv and Andy were from the big bad city and even hired a van for the day to be here. Big Chris lives on the tip of the Surrey hills and left he's hunting ground to find new territory. Sarah and the rest of the Dirty Wknd crew were also from the city and got up early to catch the train down to Amersham. Our regular riding crew Sam, Chris and Liam were all West London or there about and not to forget Jamie who could be classed as a neighbour (he gets his milk from the same Tesco as us!). We took a moment to realise how unique this series has become. All these people from different places, different backgrounds, different jobs but all here because they cycling and a hill or two.
The whippets once again sped off to conquer the last remaining climbs whilst we tucked into our egg and bacon bap. Guy had decided at this point to head back home and we all wished him well for his ride in the week. After a quick descent down into Fingest, we turned left into Shogmoor, a climb I haven't accounted before. It started off quite a gentle climb but right in the middle it kicked up. The groans echoed across the countryside as those with heavy legs after the stop were grinding their way up. The groaning wasn't the only noise accompanying this climb, the creaking from our bottom bracket (actually turned out to be the cone in the rear hub which needed tightening - thanks to mechanic Chris at Moores for the help) so I decided to try give everyone a bit of piece and quiet by keeping back at the rear of the group. The weather at this point started to become overcast, the sun had gone in for the day so we were all a little anxious to kick on so not to get soaked in any sudden downpour.
Polka Dot Challenge #9: Fingest Lane, High Wycombe, 1.2km
Looping back into Fingest, climb number 9 was a gradual ascent which closed the bunch back up and it was at this point we decided to ask around for a Rider of the Day. We realised we probably wouldn't be able to get any nominees from the whippets as most would of headed home by the time we got back to Amersham but we will take this opportunity to thank them for their attendance, it sounded like the pace was a great fit and can only imagine what it would be like if you made a team out of them?! There was a name that started to be a prominent nomination (no spoilers yet) but it was nice to hear a range of reasons for different riders, it was probably one of our favourite groups we've ever had the pleasure to ride with.
Polka Dot Challenge #10: Chinnor Road, West Wycombe, 2km
The next climb was a reverse up Bledlow Ridge and it brought back a not so nice memory for me. Last year at the London Revolution, the route was diverted just before this climb because a rider had a heart attack on top of the climb and although an air ambulance was called, he unfortunately passed away. The climb itself wasn't overly difficult, a little ramp at the start then it plateaus whilst keeping a low gradient, I suspect the front group ploughed on but once again, our 'social' paced group had also kicked on. I had dropped back to make sure there was no one behind at this point, last thing I wanted was for someone to get lost or have no one to ride with.
Polka Dot Challenge #11: Smalldean, High Wycombe, 1.9km
We had reconned Smalldean Lane via Veloviewer (love their graphics!) and it showed their was a nasty red section towards the end of the climb. We tried to save the legs for this section, get over this and the last 2 climbs are a doddle in comparison! There was even a group of schoolkids egging us all on to race up...yeah right! According to lil Chris, this hill made him come out of the saddle for the first time in the whole ride so if it was tough for him, this climb had to be respected. The roads at this point were becoming a bit worse for wear, we do hope the councils begin to take care of them for the summer because the Chilterns have some stunning backdrops and is definitely an alternative to Surrey where it can be quite busy especially at weekends.
Polka Dot Challenge #12: Hatches Lane, Prestwood, 1.2km
The penultimate climb took us up a country lane in Prestwood, another back road which had a stones lined down the middle so it was a case of pick a side to ride on. Think big Nick here kicked on a bit looking at his times, we kicked back as usual due to the creaking and just making sure everyone was in front to keep the bunch together (we're nice like that!). I could tell people were starting to become a little anxious to finish, probably due to spots of rain starting to trickle down but we thought the 70miles was about right in terms of distance, people could taste the finish line and the glory of calling yourself a Onesie!
Polka Dot Challenge #13: Hyde Lane, Great Missenden, 1.7km
The final climb and it had character we will give it that. Probably the dodgiest road surface of the lot, it turned out to be more of a cyclocross climb, our road bikes bouncing around the divets and trying to find a smooth riding line, just lucky there was no drivers taking this short cut today because they would of been face to face with a bunch of cyclists playing 'Dodge The Pot Hole!'. The climb itself like Hatches Lane wasn't at all difficult, our legs at this point felt ok. We remember back to v1.0 when we had to climb Newlands Corner from the North to finish the ride, that hurt. This time round, we paced ourselves well on the climbs and had a good group to ride with. At this point, the whippets ahead had finished and whilst some returned home revelling in their achievement for the day, a few had opted to grab a final bite to eat in Amersham.
Anxiety turned to chainganging as our group once again formed a train to carry us all home. The pace kicked up no thanks to big Nick and Darren pulling upfront but think everyone enjoyed the benefits of sucking wheels! We made it back to Amersham all in one piece and as the group thanked each other for what turned out to be a great ride, it was a perfect time to announce the winner of the Rider of the Day. Our sole wonder woman, Sarah, was chosen to win the accolade along with the £100 kit voucher. Very much deserved not just for her climbing, but everyone commented on how involved she was with everyone. To be fair, everyone was very sociable but it seemed Sarah stood out and I couldn't agree more. Well done Sarah, spend it all at once and we take a medium in jersey and a large in bib shorts! Just messing!
Did we have the weather? Tick! Did we have the people? Tick! Did we have the hills? Tick! Did we have the scenery? Tick! Did we have the bike? Nope! Bloody thing, we have enjoyed our Tarmac, it's been everywhere but that bloody creaking did annoy us especially as everyone else's bike was well behaved. It's like having a noisy child in a library and everyone is looking at you to do something about it! Well we have made the decision to join the n+1 group and our new mistress will be here in mid-May so keep your eyes peeled for our new addition. But overall, a great day, a great bunch of people from both groups, as long as they all had a smile on their face in the end, everything else is cannon fodder! So thank you to each and every one of you for taking part in the 4th version of this now infamous series. *below is the leaderboards for climbs 7-13.
So where do we go from here?! Well chatting to Mark and discussing the climbs of the South Downs, that could be a possible destination, some hills he described nearly made me cry! So we will see if Mark can come up with a route packing in as many hills as he can along with some roads which takes in the best of the local area. Road surfacing permitting, the Chilterns may get another crack. It certainly has a lot more hills to offer, Kop is absolute cow of a climb, 3 ramps with high gradients! Wherever we go next with this series, be sure to be part of it, embrace the dark side of climbing and become a Onesie!
Special thanks to Lexham Insurance for their prize donation, Chris Detsicas and Jamie Turney for their video/photo contribution.