Haywards Heath Ride
Haywards Heath Ride
Distances: Black Route 117km - Red Route 67km - Blue Route 35km - Green Route 17km
Major climbs: 0 (all routes)
Entrants: 84 (Wiggins Way Black Route)
Finishers: 73 (Wiggins Way Black Route)
Average times: 5:03 (Wiggins Way Black Route)
Best: What goes up must come down - every big climb was met with a rewarding descent
Worst: Getting lost. Not fun when working against the clock
What the side-burned one has brought to cycling since he clinched his first Tour de France general classification, twinned with his Olympic success, has inspired a whole new influx of cyclists to look at a bike as more than a mode of transport.
This was evident as the Greater Haywards Heath Bike Ride launched its inaugural sportive-length course, the Wiggins Way Black Route.
Aiming to bridge the gap between family fun ride and long-distance challenge against the clock, the Black Route was no pushover and incorporated some of the harshest climbs in Mid Sussex.
While the more experienced riders huffed and puffed their way through the rolling landscape, 662 fun riders were left to enjoy the shorter rides that all served as great introductions to group riding.
Chased off course
With the smaller pack of 84 Black Route entrants dotted around the head of the course, it was easier to ride alongside the competent riders in a smaller-than-usual bunch - a definite advantage this ride has over a dedicated sportive.
However, the group soon split and just over 10 miles in, the chasers soon found themselves off course. Whether this was due to poor signage or a notoriously hapless sense of direction on this rider's behalf, the event organisers get the benefit of the doubt.
As helpful as the marshals were, signs were typically only on junction turnings and perhaps next year the event could be improved with more visible reminders along the way to let riders know that they're (still) on the right track.
Back on course, Ashdown Forest presented itself in all its sprawling glory and the route included the best and the worst of it to make for a worthy detour out of Mid Sussex. The worst for non-climbers was Kidd's Hill, a 121-metre elevation drawn out over 1.5km. This deceptive ascent with its varying gradient made the riders work hard on its steep first step, which then eases off before ramping skyward again towards the summit.
Turning left at the summit of Kidd's Hill is just reward, and no trip to the forest is complete without it - that reward being the long and gradual descent through Chuck Hatch. It gives muscles breathing space over a few kilometres before being presented with another series of the climbs that the area is notorious for.
After turning off the main road, the handful of technical descents littered along narrow back roads offered participants a welcome break from the tough climbs.
The route was split roughly into two loops: the first packed full of steep hills going anti-clockwise through the forest, while the second dipped back towards the starting point before it took riders north to Handcross and then due south to the foot of Devil's Dyke, near Brighton.
Most hills in the second loop were more of a long, drawn-out slog as the route wound its way back into Haywards Heath where the town centre had been closed off for the riders' medal presentation. The town band welcomed all the finishers and the atmosphere was one of fun and camaraderie.
Wiggins Way riders were given a free bag packed full of energy supplements upon entry, and the event organisers made sure the inauguration of this new long route was both taken seriously and enjoyed by all who rode it.
Missed it? Try this...
The Haywards Heath Howler offers another chance to test yourself on the roads of East Sussex, although the route heads further north. Go to www.ukcyclingevents.co.uk for more information.
This article was first published in the May 30 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!