Cyclo-Sportive: Evans Ride It Woking
Where: Woking, Surrey
When: March 22, 2009
Distance: 24-145km (15-90 miles)
Evans cycles' sportives are designed to appeal to anyone who enjoys riding their bike. With a range of waymarked distances, novices, families even hardened roadies can enjoy a day in the saddle
Evans Cycles have invested a great deal of time and money to create a series of events that while promoting their brand image, nonetheless offers serious value for money. To be able to turn up, select from the Gore range of clothing, ride the event then hand back the dirty laundry free of charge is just one of the initiatives on offer.
To test ride a top road bike for the day costs £25 and should you be unlucky enough to have a mechanical anywhere en route there's a free pick-up service. Everything is designed to encourage people from kids to oldies out onto two wheels.
The Woking weekend saw the start of a packed schedule of two-day Ride It events that will take place throughout the UK from now till the end of October. All events will follow the same format with Saturday for off-roaders, and Sunday for those who enjoy the tarmac.
Sunday's venue at Woking was split into four distances from 15 to 84 miles, all enjoying the same roads with a drinks station denoting the ride splits. Both the short and fun route had minimal climbing and had been designed to cater for families and recreational cyclists.
On the whole the roads were relatively safe, but being Mothering Sunday traffic did pick up around lunchtime. The medium and long routes tackled the climbs and rougher surfaced road sections but enjoyed quieter more scenic roads. The weather was perfect, warm and sunny with enough breeze to keep cool.
Turnout was perhaps on the low side with 172 entrants for the Sunday and 319 for Saturday, but if you take the numbers for an entire year's Ride Its this figure runs into the thousands.
Certainly the formula seems to be working because Dean Stacey heads up a seven strong team that travels around the country with the sole task of organising Ride It events. Each event is given a Climb Rating, Woking's being the lowest at one, which gives you some idea of the terrain, but there's more to a ride than hills and Sunday was a perfect example.
The Organiser - Dean Stacey
Organiser Dean Stacey is a busy man; as one event finishes, work starts on the next: "A lot of time goes into planning routes and making sure all abilities are catered for."
A new addition this year is the Super Sportive King of the Downs: "it's going to be hard, very hard!"
Sportive Sound Bites
Time trial secretary for Team Velo Sportive
"The course was a good one, not too hard, certainly the lanes we use for our training."
Kevin and his mates ride regularly twice a week.
"I'm trying to rack up the miles with the aim of doing the London to Paris, so this was a good day. Shame about the punctures though!"
Keen sportsman and ex canoe instructor.
"I'm training up for the Dragon Ride so this course was good, but the markers were hard to see."
My Cyclo-Sportive - Andy Kay
Sunday dawned bright but with a sharp wind. This lulled me into thinking that I needed thermal tights and three top layers which meant I was comfortable for the first half mile and too hot for the next eighty-nine and a half. Likewise, my judgement was called into question when a cheery face asked me which distance was I attempting, puffing out my chest I said "the long one".
The ride started on the ‘fun route' which was easy going but lots of junctions meant you needed to keep a sharp look out for the directional arrows. Then it was onto the ‘short ride' and a whole load more junctions.
By now I'd managed to rack up some extra miles simply by not seeing the arrows and having to retrace my route. At one point I felt this constant scanning of every signpost was spoiling my enjoyment - maybe they needed to be bigger and brighter.
By the time I'd cleared the outskirts of Woking all was harmony, the countryside had opened up, and from then on the entire ride was a joy. By the time I'd reached Puttenham there wasn't a soul in sight, the road was mine. From here to the split at Rushmore was a combination of gentle forested climbs interspersed with classical English villages.
At the check some other riders appeared and we talked over bananas and cake. Back on the road and alone again, the next section to Bordon was my favourite. Twisting country lanes urged me on with every corner revealing a constant variety of landscape. At Lindford, just as the signs ran out I was swept up by a couple of tidy looking roadmen only to be spat out again five miles further on. Oh well, solo again.
From Binstead back to the banana stop the lack of training miles and the ever-changing gradients were beginning to take effect. Accordingly my pace for the last leg was a controlled one! Everyone knows that when the tank gets near empty a ride can become something of a task and the enjoyment factor wanes.
Well today that didn't happen because the course threaded through some of Surrey's prettiest villages and countryside so my visual senses won over the physical pain.
For more information go to Evans Cycles official website