The stars, or rather the Sun aligned to our plans and we had the most amazing cycle down to Brighton and back. ]
Waking up around 6am, there was a fine mist over Guildford. As the day opened the mist cleared and by 9ish in the morning as we rolled out it was full sun light. Our small band of 5 riders headed South East over Newlands Corner and out towards Leith Hill. As the opening climb, it was a nice wake up for the legs. Not taking in the hardest sections of the climb, we were still chatting and in good spirits over the top.
Following Leith it was a collection of gentle rollers down south. The slight headwind was a non-event. Bathed in Sunlight the woodlands and farmlands looked magnificent. It was quiet easy to get lost in the wonder and beauty around you.
Approaching Ditchling though and there was a large obstacle appearing on the horizon… The Ditchling Beacon stood ominous in the distance.
The approach is relatively smooth, you can feel the gradient pick up slightly in the preceding miles, but nothing major, until you are on the climb. Heading round the first bend, it picks up +10%, you keep climbing. Another bend appears, 14% gradient. Legs are working hard. The beautiful weather has brought out some other challengers and a few cars. They are starting to back up and the cyclists are flagging ahead. I spin up the legs and push past a car and around a slower rider. Rounding the last bend and maxing out the 15% gradient, you can see the crest and the relief it offers. Clearing the top, a view of the South opens up in front of you. We make our way down the road and wait for the rest of the group to re-join. Smiles are all around, even after the suffering on the beacon, there is a sense of euphoria.
Downhill to the seafront… sort of… some of the earlier groups pass us heading towards Brighton. They are very chirpy, also out enjoying the weather. A ‘friendly’ nudge leads to an attach heading up Mais mound. Putting the power down we pass the other group. Caught off guard, there is no response. We fly over the top and begin the decent to the beach.
Traffic in Brighton is crazy. We weave our way through and out onto the promenade, stopping for a team selfie in front of Brighton pier. Next stop, lunch and an ice cream! It is the beach after all!
Everyone is still in great spirits as we get back onto the bikes and start the return leg. To keep things interesting, we are making it a loop rather than an out and back. The return journey starts with 20km flat roads taking in the sea front then winding inland through Shoreham by-sea. The road remains gradual through Ashington and we are knocking off the miles. A slight tail wind and great road surface is allowing us to make light work of it.
Outside Ifold and Plaistow, the road picks up again. This time it is a little tougher, in the ‘dead zone’ of the ride everyone is a little quieter. Deep in their own thoughts. Past half way but not quiet at that point where it’s nearly over. We keep a solid pace and keep the group together, falling behind here more be more of a psychological blow than anything. We make a quick stop to refill the water bidons outside Shillinglee. The heat of the day starting to show.
We make the final push up through Hazelmere and are flying downhill towards home. Passing through Godalming into Guildford, I make a ‘brake’ for it. The last little rise into town is a personal favourite to blast through. I push the watts up cresting the double rise and coast into the town centre.
Pulling up to the house, we have hit 160km on the nose. Ride time was 5:50 giving a respectable average. What a fantastic day in the saddle. Riding with the group, we really could have been anywhere. Sitting in the sunshine after having a frosty ‘mineral water’ capped off a prefect day. The best bit, we got to wake up and do it again the next day. A 2 day stay-cation if ever there was one!