Riding the Wiggle CX Century

Riding the Wiggle CX Century

 

The whole of the SDW is sign posted, but there are a few places where, if you’ve got your head down you could miss a turn. Happily I managed to avoid any miss turns and could concentrate on my pace. Groups of riders would form and break as the day passed, but I was pleased to be overtaking people at a steady pace. A ‘benefit’ of starting last, you’ve always got a carrot in front of you to spur you on? But this did mean that for large parts of the ride I was on my own, looking to the horizon for a target to focus on.

 

Sign-posting on the SDW can sometimes be confusing...
Sign-posting on the SDW can sometimes be confusing…

 

As I careered down one after another rutted, chalk trail, I was regretting my decision to buy a traditional cantilever brake bike. Trying to hang on and brake was a nightmare and a couple of times I was simply a passenger, my forearms too pumped to work the brakes any-more. Next time I do this it will be on a disc brake equipped bike!

 

With the sea starting to appear on my right side and the climbs beginning to tell I knew the end was in sight. I could feel my pace slackening and my stomach beginning to rebel at the amount of sugary energy fuel I had been consuming. In all the rush to get ready and despite knowing that I needed some real food to mix in with the gels and bars, I had forgotten to bring any with me.

 

But at other times the trail is clear
But at other times the trail is clear

 

Thankfully a little local knowledge goes a long way and I knew that there was a tea shop in Alfriston. A quick stop for a cup of tea and some nuts had me sorted. Another rider joined me for my unplanned tea break and we continued up the final two climbs of the day, Windover Hill and Eastbourne Lane.

 

Windover Hill starts after crossing the river at Alfriston and climbs, with a brief stop to open and close a gate, for just over two kilometres. It’s a steady, rutted climb that comes just when you don’t want it! Add in the sun baking your back and bouncing off the chalk to fry your front and you’ll be glad to get it over. Pause at the top though, something I hadn’t done often enough on today’s ride and look behind you at the view, it’s glorious.

 

Looking back down Windover Hill
Looking back down Windover Hill

 

Enough of that and put the pedal down, it’s not far now. A quick couple of loose, rooty descents will test what’s left of your brake pads and forearms, then through Jevington – birthplace of Banoffee Pie! – and up the final climb of the day, Eastbourne Lane. It was here that my riding partner suffered a puncture, within smelling distance of the line. Who knows what heinous crime he had committed for the puncture gods to afflict him so close to the finish, I would never find out! There was no way I was stopping so close to the finish, I offer my apologies and I did see him roll over the line safely later on.

 

I was on my own again and as I came up to the finish saw my family cheering and one, last rider to pass! He was unaware, as I wound up for a final sprint for the line. Thank god he never looked around, as there was no way I could have gone any faster. He was probably confused at the puffing, red-faced loon that charged past him before the line, but it made me smile and the kids loved it!

 

Towards the end of the ride, gates start to become annoying
Towards the end of the ride, gates start to become annoying

 

Job done. I finished in 10 hours 29 minutes, that’s 9 hours 12 minutes actual riding. I was 11th on the day, 2 hours 20 minutes behind the fastest rider, Steven Bloor. Amazingly I felt quite good at the finish, certainly a lot better than previous attempts on my Mtb, I put this down to better training and preparation.

 

So to answer the question, yes a ‘cross bike is more than capable of handling the South Downs Way. It isn’t easy, if you want easy get a full suspension Mtb, but if you want a proper, old-fashioned challenge, something that will push you and require some training and preparation, then put your name down for next year’s Wiggle CX Century

 

Continued overleaf

 

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Paul Horta-Hopkins

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