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Tour of Britain - Day 7 - South East England

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Hell of the Ashdown. Photo by Dave Barter.

 

Ashdown Forest

Cycling heritage through England’s greenest lanes

Grade: Serious
Distance: 125.3km/77.8miles
Ascent: 2,135m/7,005ft

Stage 7 of this year's ToB heads out of Epsom and does a few loop-the-loops before winding up in Guildford. Sprint finish? Let's hope so! Here's a plum of a ride in Great British Bike Rides from South East England, in Ashdown Forest: 

Ashdown Forest overview mapI’m so glad that I set out to write this book, because if I hadn’t I might not have discovered the ‘Hell of the Ashdown’.

This is a cyclosportive event that grew from the Catford CC annual reliability ride. It’s run early in the season and is not to be sniffed at, covering over sixty miles and taking in a fair few nasty hills along the way.

Looking deeper into the route, like a cycling archaeologist, I discovered mounds of heritage that the rider would cruise over along the way. It’s the scene of the first ever recorded road race – held in 1887 on Yorks Hill and won by Mr S F Edge. The Tour de France used these roads in 1994 during the Dover to Brighton stage, Francisco Cabello taking the win. And the ride incorporates sections of the Pilgrims’ Way, a 120-mile route from Winchester to Canterbury

The latter was a popular place-to-place route, and attempts to record the fastest time along it were popular in the days when these feats were held in great esteem. My cycling hero, Tommy Godwin, rode the Pilgrims’ Way in 1940. He did this on the way to his record-breaking 100,000 miles in under 500 days, and, just to rub it in, he did it at an average speed of over 20 mph.

If you’re picking off classic UK climbs, this loop is a necessary tick. You’ll come home with Yorks, Toys and Star Hills, as well as the legendary ‘Wall’. And, as a special treat, I’ve extended it beyond the Catford CC route so as to include Titsey Hill. This way, you’ll go home with the complete list of Catford CC hill climbs in the bag.

As a result, this is a pretty brutal 70-odd miles. Seven thousand feet of climbing awaits, without too many opportunities for resting unprepared legs. As a consolation, it sticks to minor roads and you’ll be relatively untroubled by drivers. Do make sure you wave politely to them as you ride over the M25.

This area of England is as green as it gets. Heavily forested, with field systems constantly interrupted due to the lumpy terrain. It’s not a ride for those seeking wide-open and expansive views. However, this is a good thing as a large portion of the route is well sheltered and can be ridden in windy conditions.

Ashdown Forest stats pages

For full route information, and details of all 40 of Dave's routes, check out Great British Bike Rides - and save 20% at checkout with offer code TOUR2013

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