Hampshire Hilly Hundred
Hampshire Hill Hundred Sportive
Major climbs: 7/8
Terrain: Tarmacked country roads (some with fast traffic)
No. of finishers: 601
Total climbing: 945m/ 1,075m
Best: The number of climbs
Worst: The use of some roads with fast traffic
If the name ‘Hampshire Hilly Hundred' leaves any doubt as to what this sportive has in store, it only takes a couple of miles of cycling before riders get the picture.
The route involves many of Hampshire's biggest hills and lots of rolling countryside. However, at times these climbs are linked by roads that experience high-speed traffic. The first 20 miles are an example of this, as the route leaves Winchester and heads along a fast stretch of road in order to get participants to the first of many climbs as quickly as possible.
At the end of this, the roads become quieter and we reach the foot of Old Winchester Hill, one of the bigger climbs of the day.
This is just a warm-up for the most challenging ascent, though, because as soon as the route reaches the bottom of Old Winchester Hill it delivers you straight to the foot of Butser Hill. At just under 1.5 miles long, this climb starts gently but it isn't long before a right-hand bend sees the road suddenly ramp up.
The average gradient of 3.8 per cent, and particularly the steepest section towards the top (where it reaches nearer 20 per cent), meant that some people began to struggle and a few were left to walk the hill when it became too much.
Thirty miles in, this is definitely a first-gear climb and, apart from the sound of riders clicking down through the gears, all one could hear on the climb was the rasping of lungs and the occasional cleat unclipping and hitting the tarmac.
On reaching the top, the reward is a stunning (if breathless) view across the Hampshire countryside and an almost constant descent to the feed station where an abundance of cake awaits.
From there, it's another 37 miles of country roads to the next feed station and more cake. But first there are three further significant climbs between the two.
At the second feed station the route divides, with the ‘short' route of 77 miles heading back to the finish, while the full-length 100-mile route continues for a further 33 miles. The ‘short' route involves seven recognised climbs. The additional section that makes up the 100-mile route is more rolling than the previous sections of the ride but does offer one further ascent and feed station. However, with much of the climbing done in the first 55 miles, the additional 23 miles from the second feed station were a real test, especially when the wind and rain set in from mid-afternoon.
The number of hills means that there are very few sections of flat road to make up some time. When these sections do occur, in the later stages of the route, the legs are already feeling the effects of the earlier climbs.
The route is well signposted, staff at the start and at the feed stations are friendly, and the marshals are well located at points where there may be some confusion over directions.
This sportive is great fun but, with even the ‘short' route covering a distance of almost 80 miles, it is anything but an easy ride. While there will be times during the ride that may make you question why you signed up for the event, completing it will give you a real sense of achievement.
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Wiggle Mega Meon (July 28), three routes, start/finish Purbrook.
This article was first published in the MONTH DAY 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!