Inspired by Aplecin's tie-up with Giant in pro cycling, its great to see Alberto Balsam sponsoring grass roots (or should that be hair roots - ha ha!) cycling.
Many of us (not all!) have fond memories of this event as it was the first sportive we did as a "club" in 2011. Back then, it was called the V02, probably due to lack of sponsorship. Despite a couple of last minute withdrawals, we had a good half a dozen racers taking part. The weather turned out to be much better than predicted, cloudy and cool, with mostly warm sunshine. Most riders were over dressed, with base layers being stuffed into back pockets as the rode progressed.
The route starting in Hildenborough, was certainly testing with six major hills. Probably not as hard or technically challenging as the Kentish Killer but a reasonable challenge none the less.
Out of Hildenborough and straight up the Shipbourne Road after only a few miles before skirting Knole Park, blasting down Morleys roundabout (aka Merritts peril), then heading out for the second big climb, Ide Hill. There followed a lovely relaxed descent to Brasted, then back up the long drag to Toys Hill, before a heart racing plunge back to the flat lands.
The long route took us through Edenbridge, past "Annie's Bar" at Cowden, eventually dragging us up the long climb to the top of Ashdown Forest...lovely views if you could bring yourself to look over to the right - assuming your eyeballs had stopped bleeding of course...
Then it was downhill all the way to Groombridge before another testing climb back towards Langton Green, where there was, fortunately, a food stop and the chance to stretch those weary limbs before the final stretch...
...given how close Hildenborough now was, it took some planning ingenuity to stretch the journey out for a further 20 miles! A meandering wander through Fordecombe, Penshurst, Chiddingstone Causeway and Weald before the sting in the tail, Hubbards Hill (more fond memories from 2011, when most walked or fell up it). Then downhill all the way back for some lovely soup and most excellent brownies!
Personally, I found it tougher than last year, with a slower than average speed, (but also less stopping). Not so may long training rides made the effect felt after 55 or so miles.