Those who were early to rise last Sunday morning could be forgiven for thinking we might be in for another day of wet hell for the 2017 edition of the Hills Challenge. Thankfully the early morning rain moved on and the clouds slowly parted to give all riders conditions close to perfect.
For those of you wondering why this event is no longer called the 5 Hills Challenge, it's because...
One by one, small groups of riders were released on to the roads of Beckenham to tackle the Classic or Epic routes, once they had had their customary safety briefing from Siobhan Carroll.
The first challenge for riders was the reasonable Nash Lane before dropping down to the lower part of Biggin Hill and taking on the more challenging Ricketts Hill Road to reach Tatsfield. The rolling highway of Pilgrims Way allowed some time for recovery before the route headed south to Brasted to tackle Chart Lane. 2 miles of climbing at an average gradient of 5%, maxing out at 8% and with sneaky easing off about two-thirds of the way up before ramping up again.
At the bottom of Emmetts Lane, those keeping an eye on their Garmins (other GPS units are available...) had a shock as we turned right and up towards Ide Hill. Surely not another hill so quickly? Thankfully not as riders found the welcome sight of the first rest stop atop the hill before heading back down and rejoining the route. Unless you were doing the Epic route, of course, in which case your day was only really starting to get going...
There was plenty more time to recover as the Classic route wound it's way back northwards joining back up with the B2211 towards Polhill (Hands up anyone who didn't pay attention to the route and assumed that Star Hill would be in it?) but turning off and heading through Shoreham to give everyone the opportunity to tackle Shacklands Road, with the effort of previous hills starting to take effect.
Onwards the riders continued, up through Halstead, up through Knockholt, down through Cudham and down Church (yay!) before tackling Cudham/Christmas Tree Farm and it's 9.5% max gradient (boo!) to reach Downe.
From here on, the riders knew they were in the home stretch and could almost smell the cheese as the route went down another Church before racing along Gates Green Road to the unofficial rest stop. Once again, Chris Ensom and helpers kindly put on the unofficial rest stop featuring Cheese'n'Wine. One of the highlights this year was the inclusion of padded seating which was welcomed by many a sore rear-end!
Once suitably fed and watered, it was a quick dash back to the club via Glebe Way for more drinks and a well deserved BBQ'd burger or hotdog.
Some final thanks to all the riders who took part (over 60 in the end), everyone who donated a raffle prize, everyone who bought raffles tickets, everyone that manned the feed stations and the BBQ, everyone who put up and took down signs and everyone that helped volunteer their time to help make the event run smoothly.
See you in 2018 for more fun on the Hills Challenge!