Woodcote CX Sportive
Date: Sunday January 27
Distances: 40km, 60km, 80km
Average times: 80km 4-20; 60km 3-42; 40km 3-09
The sportive scene has grown massively in recent years while cyclo-cross is enjoying a resurgence. So it was only a matter of time before the two were mixed to form cyclo-cross (or CX) sportives, with the Woodcote Wildwood CX Sportive a prime example.
Now in its third year, this event offered a choice of 40, 50 or 80km and a very wide selection of riding surfaces ranging from main roads, country lanes, rough trails, gravel byways right through to sections of narrow singletrack.
Lining up at the start was an equally mixed range of bikes, everything from full-sus mountain bikes to dedicated cross machines, via hardtails, converted winter hacks and flat-bar hybrids. There were also a lot of cross-commuters - some looking like they were about to see real mud for the first time.
The Woodcote organisers emphasise that the event is open to any kind of bike and even encourage some friendly rivalry between the road and off-road genres. Participants can fly the flag for their tribe by registering their choice of steed on the entry form.
After leaving the start, we were eased in gently, with the first few miles on tarmac roads winding through the wooded hills of the Chilterns. Next came some bumpy concrete farm tracks, (demonstrated by the lights and inner tubes scattered on the ground) but nothing to really test the bigger tyres and suspension of the mtb tribes. Indeed, the cross bikes easily cruised ahead of the off-roaders.
After the rainy winter we've all just enjoyed, the lanes and tracks were covered in mud but not enough to slow down a pair of 32mm knobblies.
But things turned around and soon enough we were onto seriously boggy bridleways and the mountain bikes had the advantage - especially on the rocky downhill stretches.
Next we were back on tarmac roads again and able to team up with some other riders to work our way into the headwind. Then, just as we were getting into a nice roadie rhythm, the arrows indicated a sudden turn onto a byway, and we were back in the realm of the mountain bikers once more.
And that set the pattern for the rest of the ride: an ever-changing mix of roads and tracks that kept us on our toes when it came to bike handling, with the constant short, steep climbs giving the heart and lungs a pretty good workout, too.
In many places the winter rain had diluted the mud so much it was like riding through coffee (rather than toffee), so the cross bikes were able to keep spinning through, while the heavier machines with full suspension seemed to wallow in the mire.
Overall, we reckon it was definitely a day for the cross bikes, but whatever machine riders were on, everyone enjoyed a good, fun day out. Cyclo-cross sportives are still a pretty new phenomenon, but we'd guess we'll see plenty more of them in the future.
Missed it? Try this...
For more fun in the mud, try the Southern Sting CX Sportive at Duncton, in the South Downs, on March 10. Will you choose a cross bike or an mtb? www.cxsportive.com
This article was first published in the February 28 issue of Cycling Weekly. You can also read our magazines on Zinio, download from the Apple store and also through Kindle Fire.