Way back in January my good friend Jo Burt, over at road.cc, posted a challenge for 2013: The Tourist Trophy, to ride in a different county, not including your home county, each month. There are some additional rules that you can find at http://road.cc/content/forum/72631-2013-roadcc-tourist-trophy
Turns out the first weekend after reading about the Tourist Trophy (TT) I was meeting some old friends up in Surrey for lunch and a couple of ales. So the decision was made to ride up. However the meeting place was only a few miles over the border from Sussex which seemed like cheating, hence plans were hatched to fit in a quick lap of the Surrey hills before lunch. My friend Ferg in Newdigate, which is where lunch was to be had, had recently acquired a ‘cross bike and was interested in coming along too. In the spirit of the TT I used Ferg’s local knowledge to add a couple of roads I’d not ridden before.
So at 8am on the Sunday morning I left Brighton and headed north, in the almost light and what seemed to be reasonable weather. However as soon as I ascended Devil’s Dyke, in the South Downs, I climbed into cold, damp mist. Dropped back down out of it for a few miles across the Sussex Weald. However, as soon as I started the long uphill slog to Horsham it was back into mist and fog.
This pattern of up and down, in and out of fog, would continue for the rest of the morning. A couple of hours after leaving Brighton I crossed into Surrey just south of Newdigate. After dropping my bag of pub clothes at Ferg’s we headed for the hills…
First up, Leith Hill via Anstie Lane to the junction with Coldharbour Lane. Only ridden this road once, in the 2012 King of the Downs sportive, and remembered it as a fairly unpleasant climb. Turns out all the Sussex hill climbing I’ve done has paid off, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered, but still did make me swear under my breath! After this was the long, fast descent in Dorking down Coldharbour Lane, one of the new roads to me.
Cars and cyclists coming up the hill appeared out of the mist as I flew down the hill (probably way too fast considering visibility and lack of knowledge of the road, but that’s the fun of descending isn’t it?) into Dorking, back out of the fog for a few minutes. Out of Dorking it was up Ranmore Road (back into the fog again) onto Ranmore Common. At this point Ferg and I parted company until the bottom of Box Hill. I headed down Ranmore Common Lane (a tricky descent made trickier by the lack of visibility) to Westhumble and the base of Box Hill, whist Ferg disappeared off along the North Downs Way to get his ‘cross bike dirty.
After joining up again we headed up Box Hill, most famous these days for being “the hill” from the Olympic road race, and for being covered in cyclists at the weekends. This was to be the last climb of the day, and yet again back into fog. This meant we didn’t get the great view that usually make the climb all worth while, but we did get to play ‘spot the most expensive bike’ game at the National Trust cafe at the top. It wasn’t as swarming as I’ve seen it on a sunny summer’s day, but it was still busy for a foggy Sunday in winter, and far busier than the last time I was up there, which was Boxing Day (part of my Rapha Festive 500 attempt).
Then it was a quick blast down the back of Box Hill into Betchworth, and a flat ride back to Newdigate to shower and change for lunch. This was a nice change. Usually on a Surrey Hills ride when I get to Newdigate I know I still have 30 odd miles to get home, and that the escarpment side of the South Downs awaits me just as my legs have had enough. This time I went to the pub, and appropriately the pub served beer from the Surrey Hills Brewery. A pint of Ranmore Ale was supped contentedly.
Postscript: As ale had been consumed, and it was dark and cold, I decided not to ride all the way home, but to ride a few miles to the nearest train station. This turned out to be a mistake. No direct trains to Brighton, replacement buses for part of the journey, and you can’t take bikes on those. Only found this out after starting out my journey, so had to turn around and head back through my starting station to get home the long way. I could have ridden home quicker
Average speed: 14mph (it was cold, and a social ride after all)
Feet climbed: 3900
Local ale drunk: 2 x Ranmore Ale, 1 x something else I can’t remember
Pies eaten: 1
Strava link: http://www.strava.com/activities/36224695