On Saturday night I set my alarm for 6.30am – something that doesn’t happen very often. The reason? My first sportive of the year – The Puncheur. You might remember I rode part of the route with Morgan, James and Mark back in November. I wasn’t well and managed 30 miles before I had to give up and go to my parents house for tea. You’ll be pleased to know I managed to finish the whole 65 mile route this time around!

The Puncheur is a challenging ride, but not one designed to inflict as much pain as possible – as seems to be the fashion with sportive events at the moment. (If I want to suffer, I will race.) The route is neither hugely long nor hugely hilly. While it includes some testing short climbs, there are no serious hills until the grand finale that is Ditchling Beacon. It also crosses some beautiful parts of this county – providing stunning views across the Ashdown Forest and from the top of the Beacon.


The route (click for larger image)

Having had a few really mild, sunny days last week, it was tempting to think that the Puncheur might be my first chance to ditch the leg warmers and enjoy a Spring-like ride. As the week went on, and pictures of snowflakes began to appear in the weather forecast, it became obvious that this would not be the case. Sunday arrived and it was seriously cold. And so the usual rigamarole of layers and thick socks and overshoes and hats went on, before chucking myself and Claud into Gill’s car.

Gill and I arrived, with bikes, and made our way to sign up at HQ. We met some familiar faces and chatted to some friends – one of the nice things about taking part in such a local event.

About to set off

We had our timing chips scanned and set off. It took quite some time for my legs to get warmed up in the cold. My brain seemed to take some time to warm up too (I don’t think it works before 9am) so I was grateful for the clear signposting at every junction.

I chatted to some friendly folks en route, and was passed by some speedy guys from local clubs, including the blurs of Mark, Marc and Dan who slowed down for 2 minutes to talk to a slow coach.

Despite the freezing cold, I really enjoyed the ride. I wasn’t even *too* nervous about the ever closer Ditchling Beacon. On that subject, somehow I have gone 6 months of writing this blog and cycling around Sussex every week without having yet cycled up that infamous hill. Some may argue I have deliberately avoided it. Either way, there was no getting out of it this time. Being stubborn is both a blessing and a curse: when ascending a massive hill it appears to be the former. I distinctly remember saying out loud to myself half way up the climb: ‘you’re not f****ing giving up now’… and indeed, I did not. I was very slow, but I got up in one go and I’m pretty happy about it.


At the top of the beacon.

Having finished the ride I took a few minutes to rest my somewhat achy legs and enjoy the gorgeous view from the top. I’m usually terrified of fast descents but I was so pleased to have finished that I rode back down the beacon to the event HQ with a big grin on my face. There was hot pasta, yummy cake and some delicious hot chocomalt recovery drinks from Apres (an awesome Brighton company).

All in all, not a bad way to spend a chilly Sunday morning. I’ll be back next year.