A closed road sportive is a rare thing in the UK, and something that should be celebrated. The West Sussex downs are a beautiful place to ride a bike, and on Sunday 23rd September 15,000 amateur cyclists will be taking on the 100 mile route. But what is the route actually like? Well, last Sunday, a small group of Dirty Wknd cyclists got the train down to Sussex to find out. Hopefully the below tips will help you to prepare for Velo South:
It's A Bit Bumpy!
With 'just' 1300 metres (4500 ft) of climbing on the route, you'd be forgiven for thinking that it's not that hilly. And it's not, at least most of us will have done hillier rides in the past, and over 100 miles 1.3k isn't too bad a profile. However, the kicker is where the hills fall on the Velo South route. Like most of the Downs, the terrain is rolling, so the climbing isn't confined to a set number of peaks that you can mentally prepare for.
There are 'proper climbs' on the ride, but what is really going to sap your energy is the rolling hills. You know the ones; not very long or even particularly steep, but relentless in their number. They will drain you over the course of 100 miles, which is why fuelling is so important on a ride like this. It's very important to keep fuelling when the terrain is like this, as it's harder to notice your energy drop on the rolling bumps. Eat every 30 mins - 1 hr as a simple rule.
If you want our top tip for riding a rolling course, then don't attack the bumps. Use your gears, stay in the saddle and take your time. You can power over a few of these types of hills, but unless your name is Sagan, you're not going to be able to do loads of them! Save your energy for the proper climbs at the end (see below).
There's A VERY Tricky Descent Early On
Luckily our recce of the course was attended by some locals, who were able to point out a technical and frankly quite scary descent that falls early on in the route. It is also worth pointing out that as soon as you leave Goodwood at the start, you're going uphill. It's not steep, just a long drag. Try and keep your powder dry, you've still got 90 miles to go!
Now, this descent. The picture below highlights where the descent is on the route -coming into Duncton almost exactly 9 miles into the ride. You'll crest the hill, bend round to the right, and start to drop. It's about 15%, and because it's a big wide road you'll pick up speed very fast. It's tempting to let go as, were it straight, it would be a great piece of road. The rub is that it's not straight, it has a very sharp left turn at the bottom. Even with pre warning from Adam, most of our group ended up on the other side of the road as not only are you descending, as you turn you're met by a pretty strong side wind, that blows you across the road. It's very tricky, so look out for it on the ride and take the descent really easy. Also stay well clear of other riders here, ad as anyone who isn't aware of it might come into bother. We just hope there are signs!
And Mountains (Points) At The End
As we found out on Sunday, there are three hills in the last 45km of the ride, and they are all pretty tough. With 115km in your legs, they're going to really sting. The first of which creeps up unexpectedly - when you see the mountain bike course on your right you know you're on it. It bends round to the left and then levels off. Number 2 is pretty straight and steady and is the easiest of the three.
The last of the three is the KOM competition - Harting Hill. Make sure you keep something in the locker, it pitches up to 18%. It's a long climb, that bends round to the right, hits its steepest section, and then bends round to the left before levelling off. The good news is that once you're up and over this it is flat and fast all the way to the finish!
The Flat Fast Finish
That's right, it is 'almost' entirely downhill or flat. Anyone who has been on one of our rides will tell you that there is no such thing as totally flat! However, it is pretty open and fast, but like all open areas near the coast, it's pretty windy! This is the point where the smart rider looks around and says 'I've just ridden 80 miles, it's pretty windy, I should look around for some mates'. This section will be a very fast finish if you can get into a good group. So look around for a train over the last climb and try and ride it all the way home!
On a serious note, with severe weather warnings and high wind forecast for the weekend, it's imperative that everyone is really careful on the ride. Getting into a group to help shelter from the wind will really help, but make sure you're communication well, and don't get into a position where you're crossing wheels. If the group feels unsafe, then drop back or push on. Read our blog on how to cycle in the wind for tips
If you are taking part in Velo South on Sunday then good luck. Ride hard, stay safe and have fun. We hope the tips above help you on the day. Plenty of club members are taking part, so if you see anyone in black and white jerseys say hello. We're also going for lunch after the ride at The Anglsey Arms near the finish so if you fancy joining please email us. You can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram for updates on the day.