Ashdown Forest Spring Ride

It’s a less than Spring-like morning that greets the 30 or so Club Peloton riders who gather at Hever Hotel in Kent on Friday morning, for Club Peloton’s fully supported Spring Ride. As well as past riders of Cycle to MIPIM, pedElle and Cycle to MAPIC, a big contingent of this year’s pedElle riders are out in force: with less than a month to go, it’s a good time to get in some training miles. And for the first time in Club Peloton’s history, the number of women outnumber the number of men – a fact which, in the male-dominated worlds of property and cycling, raises a big cheer from both men and women.

After bacon sandwiches and a briefing from Event Director Rhian, the riders set off into the picturesque Kent countryside, guided by the lead car in front and followed by another vehicle containing mechanic and medic to attend to any bike or rider ailments.

The group makes its way in two-by-two formation though Chiddingstone, a beautiful example of a Tudor one-street village, Fordcombe and then descending into Groombridge. A number of punchy climbs take us past Five Hundred Acre Wood, on which Winnie the Pooh’s One Hundred Acre Wood was based. It’s a good test of legs and fitness and a great opportunity for the riders to chat, catch up, and exchange stories and advice on kit, technique and more in preparation for pedElle.

From Coleman’s Hatch, a ford to the right signifies the start of Kidds Hill or The Wall as it is known, one of the Top 100 Climbs in the UK, so named because there are no twists or turns, just a straight strip of tarmac rising above. It’s a daunting sight, and the riders approach it with varying degrees of enthusiasm but bucketloads of determination and everyone makes it to the top – taking on an average 9% gradient with a little 15% kicker two-thirds of the way up – to be rewarded with absolutely spectacular views over Ashdown Forest all the way over to the Surrey Hills.

After a slight delay to attend to the mechanic/medic van which has had an awkward but harmless run-in with a ditch, we ride to our coffee break at the aptly named Heaven Farm Shop – the cake and tea is indeed heavenly. From there, more climbs and descents await the riders, taking the group through bluebell carpeted woodland, views across the beautiful countryside and through typical high-hedged Kent lanes. Ride Captains help those in need of a little push, or provide moral support or words of advice as the day’s efforts start to take their toll.

It’s not been an easy day: 84 kms and 1221m of climbing has been a good test for everyone’s legs – and for the ladies of pedElle, it’s provided a taster of what they can look forward to in a month’s time, as they take on the sunnier climes and climbs of Portugal.

AUTHOR

Kate Gordon

All stories by: Kate Gordon

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