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The Hell Of The Ashdown - 27 Feb 2022

Report by Ben R

What they said beforehand:

  • 100km... yup. We all agreed this was a more pleasant distance than 100miles.

  • 10 hills – And many more little hills in between. Barely any flat in the course.

  • 60 Marshalls on duty. I didn’t count them, but there were plenty of nice people showing us the way round.

  • 1500m of climbing?... actually, it was 1900m of climbing, but that’s because I read it wrong beforehand. It was 1500 riders rather than metres!

  • 21 Waldys? 11 Waldys? –The charitable nature of the Waldys means we just like to double up on sportive entries as a show of support. 21 entered and 11 were able to make it in the end. Nothing to do with the early season nature of this beastly sportive at all.

  • 1 free beer. The start and finish being located at Westerham Brewery meant a free beer for all finishers.

What they didn’t say...

That 1 Brian Smith (Eurosport commentator and ex-pro cyclist) would be at the start to send everyone off! Whilst he is not Carlton Kirby, it was a nice surprise none the less. Apparently, he lives locally, making me wonder if all Eurosport commentators get side hustles with local cycling teams?

HOTA – The Ride

Hills – I can confirm it is indeed hilly. The stated 10 hills feels about right, but some times it’s the accumulation of little ‘leg snappers’ here and there that start to take their toll on the legs. Right from the off there was no messing about with the climb of Toys Hill (3km long, 5%) coming at only 2km from the start. The other 2 climbs of note were ‘Kids Hill’ aka ‘The Wall’. A funny hill as it is dead straight allowing you to see ALL the way up the 1.5km and 9%. On the one hand, there are no surprise switchbacks and on the other hand, you can see all the pain ahead of you.

Then the final hill ‘Brasted Hill’. Renamed ‘Bastard hill’ by pretty much everyone going up it. A painful, grinding 600m at 12.3% average. Strava states a steepest gradient of 30%, a gradient to which my legs would concur. Coming right near the end of the sportive it was a proper mental battle to not stop and just keep turning the pedals.

Weather – Freezing at the start, hot at the end. Perfect sunny weather for a February sportive. It was good to see 1 motorbike marshall had gone ahead and flagged an icy patch near the start of the course which gave some confidence in the ability of Westerham CC to marshall the course.

Team Waldy– Tom D and Fred really wanted that free pint as soon as was humanly possible. So much so, they razzed it up the first climb of Toys hill and were never to be seen again until the finish! Tom finished with an impressive 3hrs 35mins and Fred a close 3hrs 45mins. Well done guys! A good showing for the Waldys. The rest of the Waldy crew rode en masse for the best part of the ride, putting in some great efforts up the hills. Finishing in just over 4hrs. I will say the black and pink Waldy kit is quite distinctive and gets a fair few comments from other riders. “Where's Waldy?” was a common and genuine question. (Riders: Ben R, Dave B, Dave Ty, Fred, Guy, Mark (plus friend Andrew), Richard, Rob J, Steve & Tom D).

Feed stations: Dragon Ride has salty roast potatoes. Flanders has it’s Waffles. Tour of the Peak has pork pies. Well, HOTA has FREE pizza! Artisan Ham Hock and Burratta pizza no less. Also free Belgian waffles, proper coffees and all the usual energy drink/bar stuff you would expect. 1st feed stop at 40km and the free pizza stop at 80km.

Conclusion – Great riding by all Waldys and well done to the HOTA team for putting on a great event. 100km of HOTA in the spring sunshine was a good way to make that free beer taste even more rewarding !

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