Yesterday I completed my series of Brevet Des Grimpeurs Du Sud audax with the AAA Milne. To get the badge you need to complete five 100km or more audax in the south east (Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire) which have AAA points. The AAA points are Audax UK climbing points and rides only qualify if they have a certain distance travelled to climbing ratio per kilometre. The rides aren’t necessary long but you go up and down a lot. The previous rides completed were;
January – Hills and Mills
February – Mad Jack’s
March – The Reliable permanent
April – Hell of the Sussex Coastal Hills
Having completed three of those rides in pretty grotty weather (snow, hail, wind, rain, and that was just Mad Jack’s) it was nice to complete the series on a gloriously sunny day. Despite having a strong headwind for the return leg the breeze did keep the temperature down to bearable. This 100km ride started in Barcombe, near Lewes, so I decided I may as well ride to and from the start and make it up to an imperial century.
Despite waking up to sunshine by the time I left for the ride along the coast before cutting inland a sea fret had rolled in over the cliffs. Once over the South Downs and into the Ouse Valley the sun was cutting through the cloud and I had a sharp edged shadow for company by the time I hit Lewes. I was going to be riding with Dan Rough, who I’d previously chatted with on Twitter and Instagram but not actually met, so as I collected my brevet card in the village shop car park in Barcombe we exchanged hellos.
From Barcombe the route undulated up to the Ashdown Forest via Newick, Horsted Keynes (which will always sound like a 1920’s legal firm to me), past the Bluebell Railway, up Hammingden Lane to Sharpthorne, before skirting the edge of East Grinstead down to Forest Row, Dan and I chatting about riding bikes, Paris-Brest-Paris and Mountain Mayhem all the while. From here it was over to Groombridge through Hartfield (Pooh Corner, hence the name AAA Milne) where we scuffed the edge of Kent, before turning around for the first of three ascents into the Ashdown Forest, this one up through Five Hundred Akre Wood to the top of the Forest. We dropped down back towards Hartfield and at the 65km mark there were hot dogs and ice creams in the car park at Poohsticks Bridge.
After the feed and dropping down Chuck Hatch Lane we turned right over the ford, not left and not up The Wall. the route planning for this audax was fantastic, all the height was gained by long steady climbs and nothing stupid and horrible. The next gentle climb took us back to the top of the Forest at Wych Cross, passing fantastic views all the way to the North Downs to our right. From here we looped around through Chelwood Gate to Nutley and back up into the Forest over cattlegrids and past sheep lazing in the shade under trees at the side of the road. From here it was pretty much downhill all the way back, dropping through Duddleswell and Fairwarp to Piltdown, for the last few kilometres back into Barcombe to the arrivee at The Royal Oak. Once the brevets were validated Dan had to head back to Uckfield, but I decided to stay for a quick pint and pork pie to fuel myself for the ride back into Brighton. Anyway, I needed some change to pay for the badge
With 140km and 2000 metres of hills already in the legs and a headwind I decided a dawdle home in the heat was probably best. I started heading for Ditchling Beacon as it only seemed right to ride home from a AAA event via the hills of the South Downs.
However as I bimbled along in the shadow of the downs I realised it was going to be a slow climb, and I didn’t fancy having to contend with impatient car drivers. I turned up Streat Bostal which seemed like a great idea at the bottom, but as I hit the hairpin and the gradient steepened I very quickly changed my mind…
Back on tarmac at the Beacon it was pretty much downhill all the way home so I got on the drops and pushed the pedals with whatever was left in my legs, which wasn’t a great deal. Nearing Stanmer Park a rider drew up alongside me and asked “Are you Gavin? I recognise your socks, I think I follow you on Instagram”. It turned out to be Oli Wright, riding from London down to the seaside, and who completed his Grimpeurs Du Sud last year by managing a qualifying ride a month. We rolled into Brighton together and had ice lollies on the beach before he headed to the station for a train home. I span the couple of hundred metres inland home for a nap before watching the Tour De France highlights with a beer.