2015 - Chiltern 100

Courtesy of Andy Flint

Having enjoyed a pleasant Saturday catching up with the gardening, sun shining on my neatly trimmed lawn, I looked at the weather forecast for the big day and decided the early start from Redbourn (06.45) didn’t look like an attractive option!  Tom Tichler and I therefore reviewed our plan and Mrs T came to the rescue – a lift was arranged for 07.30 to drop us at the start.

I awoke to the predicted wet n windy day, downed my porridge and set forth with Tom and Mrs T to Bovingdon.  As we approached the traffic stalled, why does every Sportive have a long queue for the car park?!  Seeing the Mount prison to our right we took the plunge, pulled over and jumped on the saddle, allowing Mrs T to turn abruptly and run – gladly the authorities didn’t ask us to step inside!

We arrived at the start ahead of the Medio Fondo depart, met with Nigel Swift and Paul Hodgeson (who just made it given the queue for the car park) and took to the course with the sound of the hooter... Let’s do this, bring on the hills!

Underway, immediately the main story of the ride was unfolding. Puncture carnage was the order of the day, with cyclists at every turn, wheels off or pumping madly!  Fortunately, we didn’t incur the puncture demon but many, many and I mean many did, including Christine Pout who we were somewhat surprised to overtake at one point later on in the ride.  Turns out she suffered 4 punctures doing the Grand Fondo!

Just out of Bovingdon we hit Ley Hill, a teasing, cheeky warmer ahead of the serious ones to follow. The route then wound its way to Berkhamsted and on past Ashridge Management centre, up Pedley Hill and down Dagnall to take us to the bottom of Bison for our first real test of the day.  Driving our legs hard we summitted at the zoo and with a wave to the penguins pressed on to what felt like a gentle climb up and over Dunstable Downs!  Next came Ivinghoe Beacon and then on down Tom’s Hill, sharp left at Aldbury and across and up (and up!) to Wiggington.

There we got a warm welcome from Bob Bone and the VCC crew who were braving the weather to provide the comforts of home - well, some toilets, food, water and what appeared to be the busiest bike mechanic in the world!

From Wiggington (by the way it’s still raining and blowing a hooly) we set our sites for the, to us, lesser known parts of the route, always with the knowledge of the Whiteleaf and Wardrobes double wammy to come. The route wends its way to Wendover, for once we benefit from the downhill on Aston, through the town and on to the said climbs.  Passing a sign to Whiteleaf on our left and pressing on, thoughts that the climb had been removed from the route abound.  The sense of relief is only momentary however, as at the next left we are signed to Whiteleaf and the road ahead is only one way... up! Whiteleaf cannot be described in any other way than hard!  It goes on and then on, and then on again and always up!  Taking a short stop at the top we turned right and headed straight down in full knowledge that on the Chiltern 100 down means up... Wardrobes duly arrived.  Not as steep, nor as long but with the steepest section at the 90 degree left turn which happens to be a T junction, it’s a case of swing out wide and hope a milk float (or similar electric vehicle) isn’t heading our way as looking up isn’t feasible, so it’s the ears that make the decision to press on!

Safely manoeuvred, we press on and in a short while the green signs of the Medio Fondo course divert us away from more hills (and pain) with a cut through to North Dean and the welcome of our VCC friends lead diligently by Andy Rice.  More water and food on board (and some sausage rolls too, the left-over’s of Mr Rice’s 60th birthday celebrations from the night before!) we set our sights for the finish. 

‘Just’ doing the Medio meant we missed the extra 30 miles and the further serious ups and downs of this challenging ride and meant we also missed meeting with more of our VCC chums, lead by the ever resourceful Andrew Boetius at Chinnor.  I hear this was an equally well run stop, even if it did require one plumber, one builder, one engineer and one (not so handy) accountant to get the pump working for the water!

Our route then headed up through Speen, down and across to Great Missenden – a fast stretch that leads on to another climb, up and then down to Chesham with a final climb out of Chesham that isn’t for the faint hearted!

Finding myself overtaken by a huge guy in bright orange (I thought I had finally seen the sun!) pounding along into Chesham, I had a sneaky feeling I would see him again soon!  Sure enough, as we worked our legs on the climb out of Chesham sunny big fella came back to me!  I can only admire his effort, and some effort it was that he was putting in, given I was feeling it and regretting not losing that half stone I have been seeking to shift since the start of the year!

Topping out, it was heads down for Bovingdon and a ride across the line to collect my medal which is my sole reason for cycling Sportives – can’t beat getting a medal!!

Shaking hands with the members of team Tichler, Nigel and Paul made their way to their cars whilst Tom and I decided the aerodrome was not a place to relax and reminisce, after all, the wind and rain was still hammering down.  So, we made a quick getaway cycling to Hemel where Costa ‘hit the spot’!  From there, we enjoyed the late summer sunshine that finally arrived as we made our way across country home.

The Chiltern 100 remains a true sporting challenge and lives up to its billing as "the toughest sportive close to the capital". Bring on 2016!