A long week of discussion in the club WhatsApp group about the weather and routes, Sunday dawned wet and windy. The weather made me question slightly my sanity for getting up at 6am given the conditions but I prepared the best I could, picking clothes to keep me dry for as long as possible and then warm when the water finally got in. A classic NMV route had been chosen, 3 hills- taking in Staple Lane, Crocknorth and Box Hill, although a new one for me.
An intrepid 11 set out from the Woodies rendezvous, taking the usual route through Surbiton, Esher and its little lumps and Cobham before things got more rural. We crossed the M25, through Ockham and then started the gentle climb up on the Ripley Road to Staple Lane, sheltered by the trees and hills on either side. Staple Lane on the other hand loomed up exposed as we crossed the A road, we strung out across the hill, climbing at our own pace- it’s a longer climb for the Surrey Hills, about 2.5km and an average of 4% with some sharper ramps up to 10% or so. This was the first new climb of the day for me and I took my usual approach of slow and steady wins the day, and utilised my heart rate monitor to keep the numbers as low as I could so I wasn’t cooked for the rest of the ride. As Surrey Hills go, it wasn’t too bad and I reached the top in my own time feeling quite good.
We collected ourselves again at the top and started the descent down Green Dene, in single file as it was quick and the road wet and uneven. As happens with descents, we lost many of the metres gained all too quickly and found ourselves at the foot of Crocknorth. However you approach, it looms before you, a high wooded ridge above the more gentle gradient of Green Dene and turning into the road the road rears up sharply. It’s a shock to the legs, only 750m long but climbing 70m over that distance at an average of 9%. I went immediately for my lowest gearing 34/30 and started the grind, and very quickly found out that the 9% average contained sections of 15-20% as my front wheel tried to lift off the ground and no chance of controlling my heart rate. I slowly winched myself up, finally glad to reach the bridge as the gradient eased. This was another new climb for me, and a different experience to Staple and I was glad to get it over!
Again, we met at the top of the hill and started the rolling run along the top of the Ranmore Common ridge until the descent down the Ranmore Road into Dorking. I took it easy given the weather and previous experience of the potential for a queue of the traffic waiting at the dump half way down. We flew along the A24 and up to the Box Hill roundabout, where we turned to take the finest piece of tarmac up one of the most commonly cycled roads in the country. I stopped at the turn to take on some fuel, now feeling pretty tired and hungry. Back on the bike, I picked a gear and kept my cadence even and plodded my way up the hill. It’s a fairly even ascent and easy by the local standards, climbing 171m over 4.3km from the roundabout to the highest point which is actually past the NT café.
I met the rest outside the café complex and we continued on, half heading straight home and the rest of us going to Destination Bike for a well deserved coffee and cake.
Having dripped all over the café and eaten a nice fruity flapjack we all got back on our bikes and tried to warm up, which I found difficult as the road drops down from here and doesn’t take much exertion. We made our way through Headley and went towards Epsom, only for Simon to have a front puncture just before the RAC club. Even the otherwise normally reliable Michelin Pro4 Endurance couldn’t withstand all the crud and flints washed into the road. 15 minutes and a tube change later we kept on down through Epsom, along the always miserable Ruxley Lane and then through the backroads of Worcester Park, Malden Manor and Motspur Park. Back finally in New Malden, we split up and made our own ways home. I put the bike away, thinking it probably needs a good wash. Instead I went and had a hot shower and a cup of tea, looking back on the ride as fun after the fact, a proper type 2 fun experience.
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