It’s a sportive I’ve wanted to ride for a few years as it’s always looked like a good route starting and finishing from the edge of Sevenoaks. It also has a reputation as a good event for beginners as it’s not reknowned for huge climbs or for being too hilly. However it is reknowned for a sting in the tail with a nasty climb at the end … more on that later.
The Wildside guys all wanted to do the 130km loop and I also favoured this over the 80km but I’d not been doing much riding so was a bit nervous about the distance as I’d never ridden that far before and I’m not that fit. I just decided not to hammer it from the beginning and to try to pace myself as much as I could.
This was my second sportive after I rode the Puncheur in Sussex earlier this year (http://girodilento.com/a-punching-by-the-puncheur) and the Circuit of Kent is on a different scale – much larger with two to three times the riders, but it was really well organised.
As I arrived in the car at 8am, there were marshalls directing the traffic into the car park which was right next to sign in and very large – so it made for an easy start for everyone. Sign in was efficient and only took a minute or two.
At the start people queued in a holding area and the group I was in joined right at the back. The even started at 9am and groups of about 20-30 were let go at a time with our timing chips being activated as we rolled over the start line. My group left about 9.25 and one of the things that was really nice on the early stages of the event was all the old boys from the local rotary club who were on most of the intersections and junctions trying to help us negotiate any traffic and make sure we were going in the right direction.
In the first 20-30km our group split as the fastest guys put the hammer down and I ended up riding most of the way with Mike Challen who was excellent company. In the early stages we also spent a lot of time riding through much slower riders – the disadvantage of starting near the back, so on the climbs we had to pick our way around lots of people but it was hardly a hardship. It was amazing how many people had punctures though after heavy rain both the day before and on the morning of the ride.
I had been under the impression that there was only about 700m of climbing for the whole route. By the time we got to 40 or 50km in we’d done about 500m of climbing and I knew it was going to be a bit tougher than planned.
Once we got to the turning between the short and longer toutes the road emptied out and we were only passed by the occasional group of much faster riders and every 10 minutes or so we caught and passed another group in front of us. Mike and I kept riding together and once we were on flatter country we started getting buffeted by strong winds.
Without going on about it – being on an aero bike meant I wasn’t so bothered about the wind and I was also pleased that I was still climbing pretty well all things considered.
Towards the end, I was getting tired and starting to worry about the last hill as its fearsome reputation preceded itself. When we saw a sign saying 5km to go I knew we must be dangerously close to it going vertical and it was indeed obvious once we got to it and it was hard, very hard and about a mile long, which after about 124km was a challenge. I lost my sunglasses on the way up – I’d put them on my bars and knocked them off about 2/3 or the way up (and there was no way I was turning back for them). In the end I think I rode the last hill well. In fact, I was happy about how I rode the whole event – I didn’t bury myself pace wise, I think I got a good balance and a silver time was a nice bonus.
The event was well organised – I really appreciated the marshalling and the people on the feed stations were friendly too and I’d happily recommend the event to anyone for the future.
Oddly the strangest or least satisfying part of the event was the other riders (the Wildside guys were a lot of fun and excellent company though). Very few people seemed to be interested in chatting or being social or even appearing like they were out to have a fun day out – lots of people were very serious about their times and performance – but as I could see it – not many of them were up for taking their turn on the front of a group. So it was quite strange and to me it took something away from the day – perhaps there were more easy going people on the 80km route. Personally if you’re that serious – perhaps you should try racing – there are loads of clubs who would love to have more people actually racing. Sportives for me are an organised leisure ride, something to have fun with but to do the best time you can without trying to be uber competitive. However, I appreciate that I’m obviously in the minority on this one.
My ride details are here (my official time was 4:51:43 including stopping at the feedstops):
Thanks for reading